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Russia establishes advisory body to evaluate books' compliance with national legislation

by Kateryna Hodunova and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 24, 2024 11:23 PM 2 min read
A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a page of a new schoolbook for high school students on general world history and Russian history, mentioning the country's ongoing military action in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014, during its presentation in Moscow on Aug. 7, 2023. (Yuri Kadobnov /AFP via Getty Images)
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Russia's book union has created an advisory body to check books' compliance with national legislation, namely recent laws targeting the LGBT community in Russia, the Russian state-controlled media outlet Vedomosti reported on April 23.

The advisory body includes representatives from Roskomnadzor, Russia's internet services and mass media regulator, the Russian Historical Society, and the Russian Orthodox Church, among others.

If any discrepancies with national legislation for publishing are identified in individual books, the body will recommend it be pulled from shelves. The final decision is up to the publisher, according to Vedomosti.

The body's recommendations have pushed one of the leading Russian publishers, AST, to suspend sales of three books by U.S. authors James Baldwin and Michael Cunningham, as well as Russian Vladimir Sorokin, for allegedly containing "LGBT propaganda."

The AST also withdrew "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara and "The Song of Achilles" by Madeleine Miller, as they contained "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships," Russian independent media outlet Meduza reported on April 23, citing Russian book critic Maxim Mamlyga.

Mamlyga published a letter he received from AST in which the publisher said it had decided to withdraw the books due to the "risks related to (their) further distribution."

Russia passed a law in late December 2022 banning "LGBT propaganda," under which any activity that can be considered as promoting homosexuality was effectively outlawed.

Russia's Supreme Court further tightened the crackdown on LGBT rights in November 2023, officially declaring that the "international LGBT movement" was an "extremist organization" and prohibiting its activities.

In January, Roskomnadzor issued 50 million rubles ($566,000) in fines to television providers and streaming services for violating government restrictions on showing LGBT content.

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