Putin’s Plan for ‘Patriotic’ Books Concerns Russian Booksellers
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Although 2015 was declared “The Year of Literature” in Russia, bookstores are closing around the nation due to unreasonably high rent. The sad irony of this turn of events is, somehow, unsurprising. Admittedly, many Americans do enjoy a good Russian punchline.
Putin came to the rescue — but not without his own political agenda. According to the UK’s Publishing Perspectives, Russia’s Minister of Science and Education, Dmitry Livanov, plans to implement a new Putin-approved program awarding rent and tax breaks to booksellers who “contribute to patriotic education of [the] local population.” In other words, the government will specify which books must be sold in bookstores, and reward them for following the rules. Fearing censorship, booksellers have been understandably concerned by this plan.
However, censorship attempts are still occurring in countries other than Russia. We recently reported on college student Tara Schultz’s attempt to remove certain offensive graphic novels from her syllabus. Her request was thankfully denied, but it definitely won’t be the last time someone attempts to ban all access to a book simply because they’ve been personally offended. Even in Australia, bookstores are still required to sell copies of American Psycho in a “sealed wrapper,” and only to legal adults. Police recently raided an Adelaide bookstore that unknowingly broke this law (it must have been a slow day at the station!).
Jonathon Sturgeon in Flavorwire reports that Putin’s favorite books imply a “tough guy” persona, evidenced by a preference for “macho literature” by Dostoevsky or Hemingway. Sturgeon also references an article from The New Yorker, in which Putin reportedly “places his sentiment with the somber and wounded” men in Hemingway’s work.
When (and if) the Ministry of Science and Education’s plan is implemented, Putin’s reading list will soon become all of Russia’s reading list, too.