No print propaganda: How ban on the import of anti-Ukrainian literature works

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

State Committee for Radio and Television states, in 2017 not a single book from Russia would be imported into Ukraine. However, the mechanism itself does not yet work due to the lack of by-laws
18:35, 7 April 2017

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After the entry into force of the law on quotas on radio and television, which resulted into ban of more than half a thousand films and serials of Russian production, a wave of restrictions reached print production. Towards the end of 2016, Poroshenko signed a law, which prohibits the import of books of anti-state content to Ukraine. Earlier, with the votes of 237 deputies, the document was supported by the Verkhovna Rada.

However, it is still a mystery, which Russian authors and works are being discussed.

It is only known that books should include chanting of the totalitarian regime and glorification of communist symbols, propaganda of war, violence, popularization or propaganda of the aggressor country, its authorities and power structures that justify or legitimately recognize the occupation of the territory of Ukraine.

Specific by-laws, instructions, and verification mechanisms have not been officially announced yet.

Nevertheless, the protracted silence on the part of officials does not prevent us from actively discussing this issue. Traditionally, opinions were divided into two camps. Part of the people under the "forbidden books" means works by contemporary writers such as Sergei Lukyanenko, who actively speaks on Russian television in support of the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Donbas. The books of such authors who earn money in a country hated by them should be banned, accordingly, the law will positively affect the Ukrainians. Another part of society sees a threat of a ban in Ukraine of works of Bulgakov and Gogol. The reason for this may be that the screen versions of the "White Guard" and "Taras Bulba" have already fallen under the ban.

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In this case, people's opinion tends to the fact that the law will bring negative consequences if Bulgakov, Gogol, and Kuprin are removed from the school curriculum.

If we analyze in detail each mention of Ukraine in the books of Russian writers, then one can come to disappointing conclusions.

Another question is whether these books, glorifications of the Soviet regime and its symbols, the propaganda of war, and the controversial depiction of Ukrainian realities can something "spoil" the minds of modern Ukrainians.

A separate place in this discussion is given to the uneasy fate of bookstores in Ukraine. The number of Ukrainian products is slowly growing, but it is not yet able to fill all the shelves in stores.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko stated that the importation of books from Russia for the last three years has decreased by almost 10 times.

"Official statistics show a very interesting drop in imports of Russian books to Ukraine: in 2012 it was imported by $ 33 million, in 2013 - by 23 million, in 2014, the beginning of Russian aggression - by $ 12 million, in 2015 - already 3.7 million dollars," said Kyrylenko. The vice-premier also noted the problem of import of gray products.

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Every Ukrainian, if desired, can watch, listen and read everything that he considers necessary, including what has been done in Russia. There is no special mass hype around the new Russian movies or books about the "terrible and cruel" Ukraine on the part of our citizens today. Nevertheless, the list of prohibitions, the end of which is no longer visible, is be causing considerable irritation in the society. If a modern, thinking person, having read an excerpt from a book, sharply changes his views or becomes suspicious about them, then perhaps it is not in the book at all.

Position of the State Committee for Radio and Television: Now everything depends on the Cabinet of Ministers

State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine is one of the main initiators of the adoption of the law on the limitation of import Russian propaganda books. The deputy head of the department Bogdan Chervak said that the document adopted by the parliament primarily concerns the sphere of information security, its main goal is to stop the entry of anti-state book products manufactured in Russia to the territory of Ukraine. As you can see, we are not talking about all the book production, but only about its separate part.

Today, the main problem of the full-fledged action of the law in Ukraine is the absence of by-laws. They have already been developed, but not accepted by the government.

"At present, we have developed two procedures: the first is the procedure for granting permission for the importation of such book products. The second order concerns the seizure of books of anti-Ukrainian content. These two orders are now in the Cabinet of Ministers," said the first deputy head of the State Committee.

Chervak predicts that the government will not delay with the adoption of documents. "And then the permissive procedure for the import of book products from the Russian Federation will begin to operate," he said.

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Also the State Committee for Radio and Television states that in 2017 not a single book from Russia would be imported into Ukraine.

"Actually, this is the effect of the law," said Bogdan Chervak.

The State Border Service supports the ban: During three years, there were lots of attempts to import anti-Ukrainian books

State Border Service supported the adoption of the law by the Parliament, noting that since the beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine there have been enough attempts of illegal import of anti-state literature. Most of these cases were recorded on the Russian-Ukrainian border. However, the implementation of the document in practice is more in the competence of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine, said Oleg Slobodyan, an assistant to the head of the border department.

"The competence of the State Border Service comes when citizens, and in this case malefactors, try to covertly move literature, for example extremist content, or to move literature that could harm Ukraine's public interests. There were a lot of such cases during 2014-2016. 10 times we have identified literature that was secretly tried to be brought to the territory of Ukraine. This literature was directed against the interests of our state," said Slobodyan.

In addition to the books proper, according to the speaker of the department, separatist leaflets, St. George ribbons, and flags of Donbas terrorist groups were regularly sent to Ukraine. One of the most egregious cases, Slobodyan notes, was the discovery of separatist attributes and literature from Russian officers - representatives of the Russian Federation at the Joint Center for Monitoring and Coordination of the ceasefire in Donbas.

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Recently, there have been fewer attempts to import prohibited books and symbols.

At the same time, due to the absence of by-laws, as discussed above, the Ukrainian border guards do not have a specific list of literature that is banned for entry into our country.

State Tax Service: Here is a list and no comments

The State Tax Service refused to disclose information on the number of attempts of smuggling literature from Russia, recorded since the introduction of the law beganHowever, we were provided with a copy of the letter of the State Committee for Radio and Television, signed by the Deputy Head of the Department Bogdan Chervak, which contains a list of books banned for importation into Ukraine. This list totals 74 items, all these are works that have been published during the last three years. 

Expert: The procedure for implementing the law is blocked by state bodies

Implementation of a clear procedure for the implementation of the law is blocked by the state bodies,  said the expert of the book industry Danylo Vakhovsky. According to him, due to the fact that the State Committee for Radio and Television did not cope with the tasks assigned to it, from January 1, not a single book from Russia was legally imported to Ukraine. We underline, legally. The growth of smuggling and the gradual desolation of shelves with profile literature could be observed.

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"As far as I am familiar with the situation, a number of state bodies simply block the introduction of the procedure, referring to the delays. 20-30 days. The rational approach already exists - a list of cultural figures who are banned from entering. There are also a number of writers and public figures , whose books the sellers themselves removed from the sale, despite any legislative restrictions," said Vakhovsky, setting an example of scandalous Zahar Prilepin.

In turn, the chairman of the Ukrainian Association of Publishers and Book exposters Alexander Afonin confirmed that today because of unapproved by-laws, the law does not work as it should.


Thus, we see that the law passed by the parliament is designed to protect Ukrainians from the propaganda influence of Russian authors because of inconsistencies in the actions of the competent authorities and, as a consequence, the lack of mechanisms for implementing the normative act, entailed a complete ban on the import of literature published in Russia From its content. First of all, it is about the parties of books that were supposed to get on the shelves of Ukrainian second-hand booksellers, those that do not even fall under the ban according to the articles of the law. The solution of the problem might be found this month already, when the Cabinet will finally consider and adopt the necessary by-laws.

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Yuri Godovan
Daria Vakhovskaya

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