Today, the organizers of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair announced that, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Fair has, "with immediate effect," suspended cooperation with all Russian state institutions in charge of organizing the Russian collective stand for the upcoming fair, which is scheduled for March 21-24. Last week, Bologna officials condemned the Russian attack, but had stopped short of blocking Russian participation in the fair.
In its new announcement, Bologna again condemned the Russian aggression and added that the BCBF and its associated brands "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."
In a conversation with PW, Elena Pasoli, director of programming for the fair, emphasized that the ban was on the Russian state-sponsored collective stand and not on individual, independent publishers. She added that the fair was planning to offer some practical solution to help promote Ukrainian children's books at the fair, though this was still to be determined.
On Monday, the Frankfurt Book Fair announced that it was suspending its cooperation with the Russian state institutions in charge of organizing the Russian collective stand at Frankfurter Buchmesse, and again promised that the fair gives the Ukrainian publishers’ associations its full support.
The action by the two fairs is just part of the condemnation of the Russian attack from the international publishing community, including a strongly written statement from the International Publishers Association president Bodour Al Qasimi: "The IPA stands in solidarity with publishers in peril all around the world and, especially at this moment, with our member in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association. We are following developments and discussing how IPA can be of most assistance to our member."
Today's news also follows a call by the members of the Ukrainian Book Institute, the Lviv International Book Forum, and PEN Ukraine for a global boycott of Russian books and publishers from events around the world and an end to book sales. The three organizations issued an open letter, the full text of which is below.
Dear world literature and publishing community!
We call for a ban on spreading Russian narrative through cultural products in general and books in particular. The very important actions were already taken by stakeholders in different spheres. Among them European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision, YouTube, Facebook
This propaganda misled millions, it intimidated and divided, provoked hostility and promoted the regime of cruel dictatorship.
But now the lie became obvious.
Russian propaganda is woven into many books which indeed turns them into weapons and pretext for the war. And these are the titles published in modern Russia involving state support. They are distributed all over the world, promoted at international book fairs, literary festivals, scientific conferences and geopolitical discussions. Affected by Russian propaganda in the field of literature and book publishing, many authors, literary agents, publishers and distributors from around the world spread the infection among more and more readers in their countries.
Meanwhile the places where Ukrainian literature and publishing were blossoming are under attack.
We are very grateful to our Lithuanian colleagues who have started the initiative to boycott Russian publishers at international book fairs. We are grateful to the team of Frankfurt Book Fair who supported this initiative.
We strongly believe that the boycott should be supported by many more and that new sanctions should be imposed to fully isolate Russia and prevent it from further expansion with the means of cultural instruments.
Our demands are:
1) to stop online and offline distribution of books by Russian authors and publishers through the bookstores in your countries;
2) to stop buying and selling rights to and from Russian publishers;
3) to suspend participation of Russia, its publishing houses, cultural centers and authors in all international book fairs and literary festivals;
4) to terminate grants for translations of contemporary Russian authors into foreign languages;
Russia and its criminal dictator are spreading false narratives and harmful ideology composed of the words and texts of their books.
We believe in the freedom of speech and uncensored creativity, we believe that books shape us and our world. But it also means they might be turned into weapons against democracy.