By Eugene Gerden
Some Russian booksellers and others are criticizing a new government plan which many believe is a precursor to state censorship.
According to an announcement by the Russian Ministry of Science and Education, the government plans to begin offering rent and tax breaks to booksellers in exchange for an “opportunity” to provide a selection of titles chosen by the government.
Dmitry Livanov, Russia’s Minister of Science and Education said this this new program “help promote sales of those books which have historical value” and “can contribute to patriotic education of local population.” The aim, says the Ministry, is “to increase sales of high-quality literature, as well as books on culture, art, history and education.”
In recent months, many bookstores throughout the country have closed after losing government tenders and as a result of skyrocketing rents, which now account for an average of 34% of booksellers overhead, and the government says that cooperation between the state and booksellers will help boost the number of book stores in Russia.
The government is also debating a new bill will enable bookstores to add cafes and coffee shops, without changing their retail status, in the hope it will bring more customers into stores.
According to Russian Ministry of Culture, bookstores should be positioned as a cultural and educational institutions, and should not consider commerce as a core sphere of their activities.