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Newspaper Fights Drug Authority?s Crackdown on Books Anna Arutunyan MosNews
The Russian Book Review (the newspaper Knizhnoye Obozreniye) published an open letter Monday addressed to Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov, as the recently created Federal Service for Drug control cracked down on what the government has called drug propaganda, confiscating dozens of books across the country.
The letter calls for the creation of a committee to determine what books can be deemed propaganda, and to determine ?the harm of each book?.
Last month, authorities confiscated the books Verkhny Pilotazh by Bayan Shiryanov, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, and LSD: Hallucinogens, Psychedelia and the Phenomenon of Dependence, among others. Book stores in a number of Russian cities, including Yekaterinburg and Samara, were raided, and booksellers that had books confiscated were also fined up to 40,000 rubles (over $1,400).
The letter called these moves ?unofficial censorship,? and added that if all books mentioning drug use were confiscated, banned books would include Leo Tostoy?s Anna Karenina and even Lewis Carrol?s Alice in Wonderland.
Alexander Gavrilov, editor in chief of the book review, told MosNews that he was hopeful the Culture Ministry would give a positive response. ?This is an official letter, and I can?t imagine how they would not respond to it,? Gavrilov said. ?An ideal response would be to just create the commission.? Gavrilov said that he felt this was very likely, because the drug control service is ?in need of professional help. So that no one calls them biased or selective.?
He said that the authorities charged with upholding the law were just unsure of how exactly to apply it.
President Vladimir Putin spoke out last week against what he called the ?Russian drug mafia? and called upon the recently created Federal Service for Drug Control to curb drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, a separate Moscow city court hearing is to be held on Wednesday on the case of writer Bayan Shiranov, charged with illegally distributing pornography through his controversial novel Sredny Pilotazh.
The lawsuit against the writer, whose real name is Kirill Vorobyev, was brought in 2002 by a self-styled pro-government youth group, Marching Together. The group filed another lawsuit against the writer Vladimir Sorokin in 2002, after it called the literature written by both authors as ?harmful?.
Vorobyev has pleaded not guilty to charges of distributing pornography. His lawyer, Alexander Glushenkov, has said that the charges, brought under Article 242 of the criminal code, are unfounded, because the article in the criminal code under which he is being charged gives no definition of ?pornography?.
The moves by the federal service and the lawsuit are based on Russian legislation that bans distribution of pornography and drug propaganda; however, the bills have been called equivocal and vague by several lawyers. In particular, lawyers say, it is unclear what exactly constitutes pornography and drug propaganda in literary works.