From the street corners here, a group of activists is waging a
battle against what they say are the pernicious effects of modern
"Democracy doesn't mean the open sale of books with foul
language, indecent thoughts about one's country, or pornography,"
says Vasily Yakimenkov, the founder of the group, called Moving
Together. "True democracy is when a person can bring in a bad book
and exchange it for a good one. That's what we're doing."
While the Kremlin insists it has no connection to the group, Mr.
Yakimenko is a former member of President Vladimir Putin's staff,
and one of the goals of Moving Together, founded last year, has been
to build political support for Mr. Putin among Russia's notoriously
Well-funded and pro-Kremlin, Moving Together claims a membership
of 50,000. The book campaign, launched earlier this month, aims to
persuade people to hand over their books from a list of targeted
authors - and receive in return a volume by approved "patriotic"
Critics say the operation amounts to old-fashioned book-burning,
despite the voluntary facade. "This is fascism lite," says Viktor
Yerofeyev, one of the modern authors under attack. "I'm sure these
are good kids who want to do something useful for their country, but
who gave them the right to impose cultural standards? I'm really
worried about where this is going next."
Yakimenko says the exchange is just an "educational exercise" to
help young people think about the destructive spiritual effects of
dark and pessimistic psychological novels, erotic literature,
Marxism, and detective fiction.
Thousands of people have already turned in their old books at
street posts manned by the group's activists in a dozen Russian
cities, he says.
Among the targeted authors is Viktor Pelevin, a Russian Booker
Prize-winner whose widely acclaimed "Generation P" is a dark,
philosophical exploration of the post-Soviet Russian soul. Mr.
Yerofeyev, whose psychological thrillers have been translated into
30 languages, was slammed as a "pornographer" by Yakimenko during a
recent TV debate - because he often spices his gritty prose with
obscene words. Polina Dashkova, regarded by many as Russia's best
writer of detective mysteries, is also on the list, as is Karl Marx,
the intellectual founder of communism. Presumably because he was a
patriotic Russian, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin is not. …