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For Moscow Officials, Even Book Fairs Are Too Dangerous

A book fair planned for this weekend was supposed to liven up Moscow’s Taganski neighborhood with a bit of poetry and music. City authorities saw a threat to public order.

They just want to read! (kurmanka)
They just want to read! (kurmanka)

MOSCOW – After several weeks of meetings with neighborhood authorities in Moscow, the Independent Publishers' Guild has had to cancel a planned book fair after its permit was unexpectedly denied. Organizers say politics are behind the cancelation, even though the event – which was supposed to take place this weekend – had no political aspirations whatsoever.

The book fair, planned to coincide with Slavic Literature and Culture Day, was to be held in Moscow's southeastern Taganski neighborhood and include stands with booksellers, concerts and poetry readings. And yet as benign as the program was, local authorities apparently deemed the event too dangerous. Organizers say they were told that in light of recent protests, no street events of any kind would be allowed.

Literature has a long history of political opposition in Russia, from Dostoyevsky to Solzhenitsyn. And prominent writers and poets were behind a ‘test walk" on May 13 that attracted nearly 10,000 participants. Although it was not officially an opposition event, it was clearly a response to the police crackdowns on protest marches.

Still, organizers of the Publishers' Guild book fair are adamant that they have no political motives. "We had hoped to make the area a small cultural center," a Guild representative said. "Before the May holidays our permit application was looked at and confirmed at the neighborhood council."

The representative went on to say that the Guild had already met with the council to work out technical details, such as how to provide electricity and collect garbage. "The civil servants said they liked the fair," he said.

This week, however, the organizers – who had already spent around 4,700 dollars on the fair – were suddenly told that the festival would be forbidden because police were concerned that politics would become involved. Attempts to explain that the event was purely cultural fell on deaf ears.

Municipal deputies have tried to help the publishers, but to no avail. One of the neighborhood council members went so far as to say she'd never even heard of the fair. Organizers say that's simply not true. They claim they discussed the event with the woman –Lydia Chuvakova – in person. During the meeting, Chuvakova warned them that the permission would be denied due to political concerns, the organizers claim.

Another festival planned for central Moscow in May was similarly cancelled when deputies from United Russia and the Communist Party intervened to block permission. It appears that the city's civil servants are afraid of any potential festival or event, no matter how far removed from politics.

Read the full story in Russian by Aleksandr Chernikh

Photo - kurmanka

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

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