Booksellers in Russia are being forced to pull history books from the shelves following new legislation banning Nazi symbols from front covers.
The new rules appeared alongside amendments which forbid writers from drawing an equivalence between Nazi and Stalinist crimes.
In new recommendations sent out by the Russian Book Union, bookstores were asked to withdraw books that risked breaking the new legislation. When booksellers requested more details, they were referred to a statement by the spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov.
“If there are some large, large images on the cover, then it is clear that such popularisation, of course, is absolutely unnecessary and unacceptable by law,” Peskov said in quotes carried by Kommersant. “If we are talking about reference information, some images that are only on the inside of the book, and not on the cover, then this is another matter.” The Ministries of Justice, Finance, and Culture are reportedly now working together to clarify the new amendments.
The law is already generating changes in the Russian publishing industry. One star illustrator, Andrey Bondarenko, told newspaper Novaya Gazeta that his cover for Stephen Fry’s book How To Make History was rejected because it depicted a rat with a Hitler moustache in a Nazi cap. The story itself, meanwhile, follows a man who wants to rid the world of Nazism, travelling back in time to stop Hitler’s birth by damaging the water supply on the street that homes the would-be dictator’s parents. Bondarenko was reportedly told by his publishers: “these are Nazi symbols, according to the law, nothing like this can be depicted.”