Trade Shows on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Frankfurt, London, Bologna

In News by Porter Anderson

In response to an appeal led by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, Frankfurter Buchmesse, London Book Fair, and Bologna Children’s Book Fair issue statements.

At Frankfurter Buchmesse 2021, an audience in Messe Frankfurt’s Festhalle. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Also today: Ukrainian Publisher Julia Orlova in Interview: A Reading Nation’ Under Attack

Three Shows’ Statements on Russia’s Assault on Ukraine
This morning (March 1), we have responses from three of world publishing’s biggest and most influential trade shows.

Their statements are made in response to an appeal led by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, which on Sunday (February 27) called on Frankfurter Buchmesse, London Book Fair, and Bologna Children’s Book Fair “to sever all contacts with the institutions of the Russian Federation and remove Russian Federation national stands from the book fairs in Frankfurt, London, and Bologna.”

That appeal, while led by the Culture Institute, represents a dozen industry organizations including:

  • The Latvian Literature / International Writers and Translators House
  • The Estonian Literature Centre
  • The Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian chapters of IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People)
  • The publishers’ associations and writers’ unions of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia

Aušrinė Žilinskienė . Image: Lithuanian Culture Institute, Monika Požerskytė

In the text of the appeal, Aušrinė Žilinskienė, director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute, says, “Ukraine is fighting an unprovoked attack, and the entire European cultural community must also fight back with all the means at its disposal. We call on all cultural organizations, artists, and curators to follow our example: Support Ukraine in the international arena, condemn Russian military terror, and demand respect for democratic values.”

The appeal has been made not only to these three major trade shows but also to the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC).

As the trade shows respond, what is in question here, of course, is cooperation with the Kremlin’s state agencies, those that act at the direction of the Vladimir Putin regime, rather than independent publishers, authors, and others who are not aligned with or acting as part of the Russian Federation’s government apparatus. You can see this reflected in parts of these statements that recognize the stress caused to Russian colleagues and friends working outside the government.

Frankfurter Buchmesse

In his response to the Lithuanian request, Frankfurter Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos rejects any cooperative efforts with Russian state institutions, including those that might organize a collective stand. Publishing Perspectives understands that no such registration had been put into place for the 2022 iteration of the fair (October 19 to 23), and here is our coverage of Boos’ and Frankfurt’s statement of “great dismay” issued on Thursday (February 24), as Vladimir Putin ordered his military assault on Ukraine.

Frankfurt’s Boos responds:

“The organizers of the Frankfurter Buchmesse strongly condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine ordered by President Putin.

“Against the backdrop of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, a violation of international law, Frankfurter Buchmesse is suspending cooperation with the Russian state institutions in charge of organizing the Russian collective stand at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

“Frankfurter Buchmesse assures the Ukrainian publishers’ associations of its full support.”

London Book Fair

As Publishing Perspectives readers know from our interview, Andy Ventris is in the run-up to his first in-person staging of London Book Fair (April 5 to 7).

You’ll read “RX” in Ventris’ statement, provided to us this morning. RX is a trademark of Reed Exhibitions Ltd., which produces London Book Fair.

“RX strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“RX stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, particularly with our employees around the world who have family and friends in the Ukraine. We also stand in solidarity with our Russian employees working in challenging conditions.

“In a rapidly changing environment, RX is following government sanctions and policies in each territory where we operate.

“By mutual agreement, there is no Russian Pavilion at The London Book Fair 2022.”

Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Bologna Children’s Book Fair (March 21 to 24), having been the first of the trade shows to mount a digital evocation of itself in 2020, is now working to return this month to its fully physical format at BolognaFiere. Our interview with the show’s director, Elena Pasoli, is here.

Bologna’s statement in response to the Lithuanian Culture Institute:

“The Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) and its associated brands wish to express their condemnation of Russian aggressions in Ukraine. BCBF can confirm that, with immediate effect, the cooperation with all the Russian state institutions in charge of the organization of the Russian collective stand in the forthcoming fair is suspended.

“BCBF, Bologna Book Plus. and Bologna Licensing Trade Fair have been, and continue to support, the Ukrainian Publishers’ Association and will continue to promote their books, illustrators, and writers in their absence at this year’s event.

“Books across all ages remain a bridge between cultures and never before has the publishing industry, for children and everyone, been more important.”

Update: Quick support for Bologna’s position has come today from the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE).

In a statement released to the news media shortly after this article was published, AIE president Ricardo Franco Levi says, “It’s a painful but necessary decision as a concrete gesture of support to Ukrainian citizenship and to the world of culture in particular which today is suffering from Russian military aggression.

“At the same time,” Levi adds, “we support and applaud the courage of Russian publishers, booksellers, distributors, authors, librarians, and translators, more than 1,000 of whom have signed an appeal” with the Russian Alliance of Independent Publishers and Book Distributors “in favor of peace and for the end of military operations in Ukraine, thus demonstrating their dissent with respect to the choices of president Vladimir Putin.

“We all know how dangerous in conditions like these manifesting and communicating one’s dissent can be. We are aware of, and admiring, so much courage. We are close to them.”

Catch up with all our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Ukrainian market and Russian’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is here, more on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here. More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here. More on London Book Fair is here. More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.