Russian Authorities Target Publisher for Selling 'Extremist' Author's Books

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.20 - 2023 12:40 PM CET


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The Russian publishing landscape faced a significant challenge on Tuesday as investigators raided the Zakharov publishing house for its continued sale of books by Russian-Georgian writer Boris Akunin, The Moscow Time reports.

Akunin, a renowned author, was recently added to Russia’s "extremists and terrorists" registry.

Irina Bogat, director of Zakharov, reported that Russian Investigative Committee agents demanded all documents related to Akunin, including contracts and payments.

This move comes as a response to the publishing house's decision not to remove Akunin’s works from its catalog, despite the writer’s new status on the controversial list.

Akunin, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, resides in the United Kingdom and has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine. He is also a co-founder of the TrueRussia Foundation, an organization aimed at aiding those affected by the invasion.

The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against Akunin, accusing him of "justifying terrorism" and spreading "fake news" about the Russian military. This has led to a split in the Russian publishing industry, with major players like AST and popular booksellers ceasing the sale of Akunin’s books.

Despite the heightened risks, Zakharov chose to stand its ground, with Bogat explaining the legal nuance: Akunin’s books do not contain elements of extremism or terrorism and thus are legally permissible for sale.

However, the swift action taken by authorities against the publishing house signals a tightening grip on dissent and freedom of expression in Russia.

Akunin, celebrated for his series set in imperial Russia, expressed concerns about the escalating state pressure. He anticipates similar actions against other publishing houses, theaters, bookstores, and libraries associated with his works.

Akunin also ironically noted the potential impact on pro-government actors and public figures who have been involved in adaptations of his books.

This incident highlights the ongoing conflict between artistic expression and state control in Russia, raising critical questions about the future of literary freedom in the country.

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