Russian literature threatened with ban in Ukraine, bibliophiles divided

Ukraine plans to ban many books in Russian as part of a battle against wartime propaganda, but the new law has divided both literature lovers and booksellers.

“We should not confuse Russian fascism with Russian culture,” said Olexander Drobin, bookseller at the massive Petrivka book market in the capital, Kyiv.

“They made this law but no one knows how to apply it. Should we take these books, pile them up in the street and burn them?”

Anatoly Gounko, another bookseller in the market, whose wares are almost all in Ukrainian, said the law was “necessary”.

However, he said that even he found it “a little hard to say that you should speak Ukrainian and not Russian”.

“Why should Russian belong only to Russia? Three hundred million people in the world speak Russian.”

The Ukrainian parliament approved several bills on June 19 aimed at “protecting culture from Russian propaganda”.

The new laws will come into force once signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

They ban all books published in Russia and Belarus, Moscow’s close ally in the war against Ukraine – regardless of the author.

Anyone who breaks the law faces a fine.

The use on television and in public places of Russian music composed after 1991 is also prohibited.

But enforcing the laws could be tricky.

Books printed in Russian but published in Ukraine or countries other than Russia and Belarus would theoretically still be allowed – as long as they were originally written in Russian and the author is not considered ” hostile” to Ukraine.

The great classics of Russian literature, such as the works of Pushkin and Tolstoy, would also be spared.

“Concentrate on defending the country”

Four months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, the new texts reinforce the legislative arsenal built up in recent years to “decommunize” and “de-Russify” the former Soviet republic and promote the Ukrainian language. .

But Drobin is not convinced.

“These (latest) laws go too far. Some people probably wanted to show that they were real patriots but it’s not the right way to do it.

“Half the population is Russian-speaking, and Russian culture is important. There are many good things in Russian history,” he said.

He said the government should “focus on defending the country”.

Gounko begged to disagree.

“To quote the Romans: ‘The law may be harsh but still the law,'” he said.

Nadia, a bookseller who declined to give her last name, also defended the new laws.

“When the war started, people started reading books in Ukrainian. We have a lot of great writers,” she said.

“It (the ban) is more about people selling recently published books,” she said.

‘Dead for me’

Book lovers also seem divided.

“There are more pressing issues. It’s infantile,” sniffed Natasha Sikorska, a customer at the market.

“I completely disagree with the banning of Russian literature. It’s not Russian propaganda. It’s history. It’s education,” he said. she declared.

Her friend, who declined to be identified, disagreed.

“I read a lot of Russian literature. I liked it then and I like it now. But honestly, since February 24, it’s dead for me,” she said. -AFP

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