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“It won’t be possible to eradicate all LGBT-related literature in Russia, but there will be censorship” — critic Galina Yusefovich

It will not be possible to eradicate all literature with LGBT characters in Russia, but some writers will resort to self-censorship and Russians will denounce authors, said literary critic Galina Yusefovich in an interview with The Insider. Commenting on the disappearance from bookstore shelves of certain titles after the new law banning “LGBT propaganda” was signed by Vladimir Putin, the critic said that a lot of literature is being published online, and the Russians already have sufficient skills to bypass Roskomnadzor blocks.

“LGBT literature is not a homogenous concept, because it includes both fan fiction that is published online and high literature that has elements of LGBT themes. And, of course, the hardest blow will be dealt to high-concept and serious literature which uses these themes, because this literature has always been published by publishers who need legal distribution channels. It will be much more difficult for it to reach the Russian reader. Much of this literature is translated from other languages, so it will no longer be purchased in large quantities, translated, edited or published.
As for all sorts of fan fiction, online novels - literature that lives bypassing the standard channels of sales, promotion, etc. - almost nothing will happen to it, because it’s well below the radar. Our government doesn't yet know how to fight the Ficbook website, and other similar networks. Even if they start blocking these sites, the Russian readers already have necessary skills to bypass the blocks, so they won't be able to totally eradicate [that kind of literature]. I think that the main problem will be with what we call 'normal' literature that is sold in bookstores. It will be really hard for it to survive.
I know that many major publishers are simply starting to include experts’ reviews into the book's publishing costs, such reviews saying that there’s no propaganda in the book punishable under the law. But this way the costs will be higher, since the experts’ review is not free. Besides, it will only work until the first show trial.
Writers who only have a few scenes with LGBT characters will also be affected by the law. I don't think it will affect absolutely everyone, but writers will have a special motor running in their heads that will generate thoughts like, “Do I really need this? How much will my book suffer from this? How much will it degrade the quality of the story?” The writer will start thinking about things he or she would never have started thinking about in the first place. But that won't be the case for everyone. It's not that we'll hear about self-censorship from writers themselves, but it will be an important factor.
If you compare it with the USSR, there was a much stricter censorship system, where no book could be released before it was checked by censorship. There was also very strict censorship prior to release. In our country nobody will introduce such strict censorship because it is very expensive and the state cannot afford it. There will be post-facto censorship, when someone finds something in a book and writes a denunciation, after which the person who released the book was punished. There could be no such thing in the Soviet Union, because it had a different censorship scheme.
There must have been underground literature on such topics, samizdat was an important cultural phenomenon, but its coverage was negligible. Perhaps 3-5% of the population was aware of it, and most likely even less. The bulk of samizdat did not deal with controversial topics of identity or sexual orientation, because the full liberalization and legalization of LGBT, even in the West, is a relatively recent development. There was no LGBT samizdat in the Soviet Union in the 50s because there wasn't one in the US or anywhere else. So, samizdat mostly dealt with socio-political issues or authors who were banned in the USSR for one reason or another.

Earlier it was reported that the Respublika and Chitay-Gorod bookstores withdrew some books describing “non-traditional relationships” from sale due to the new law banning “LGBT propaganda” signed by Vladimir Putin. A Novaya Gazeta Europe correspondent was told by store employees that they themselves were unclear about the criteria according to which works of literature could be recognized as propaganda of “non-traditional relationships”. The LitRes service will not only be withdrawing books from sale but will be also asking the authors to rewrite the texts so that they could be offered for sale again, RBC was told by Evgeny Selivanov, director of the LitRes group’s Content Development Department. Currently the service is offering for sale no more than 1% of the books whose authors were requested to rewrite them to exclude potential “propaganda”.

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