Putin, president of Russia, will follow in the footsteps of fellow mononyms Oprah and Zuckerberg by selecting books for his nation’s reading public. But the owners of Russia’s bookstores are pointing to the government’s new plan as an act of censorship by other means.
According to the U.K.’s Publishing Perspectives, a news release by the Russian Ministry of Science and Education has publicized a new plan by the Russian government to offer rent and tax breaks to booksellers “in exchange for an ‘opportunity’ to provide a selection of titles chosen by the government.” The official goal of the program, as cited by ministry head Dmitry Livanov, is “to increase sales of high-quality literature, as well as books on culture, art, history and education.”
More to the point, Livanov explains that the government tax breaks may “help promote sales of those books which have historical value” and “can contribute to patriotic education of local population.” If this sounds like another example of what Georgetown professor Harley Balzer, writing in the New York Times, calls “Putin’s campaign to stifle civil society in Russia” — well, it might be just that.
. . . .
This month’s move to subsidize what amounts to a national Vladimir Putin Book Club comes with characteristically ingenious timing on the part of the Kremlin. Many Russian bookstores, for example, are now shuttering on account of escalating rents. Paradoxically (this is Russia, after all), the rest of the country is in the midst of a nationwide Year of Literature celebration. In other words, Putin’s tax break comes at a time when Russia’s commercial literary culture is in need of a helping hand. Putin, tough man of culture, is more than happy to provide it — with strings attached.
Link to the rest at Flavorwire