Staunton, June 8 – In 2021 and 2022, the American horror writer Stephen King was the most widely published author in Russia; but with the bans on translations of his work, Metropolitan Tikhon, Vladimir Putin’s favorite among the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, has replaced him.
That shift in publishing is only one of several major developments in that branch. Book sales are down 10 percent so far this year compared to a year ago, and total print runs in the first quarter are down 23 percent compared to those in 2022 (transsibinfo.com/news/2023-06-07/zhertvy-sovetskogo-obrazovaniya-ne-chitayut-knig-2949329).
Some of these developments reflect the impact of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the tightening of Moscow’s restrictions on the publication of works written by foreigners. But experts on the Russian book trade point to several deeper trends which have transformed Russia from the “most reading” nation in the world to one less interested in various kinds of books.
Raisa Neyaglova-Kolosova of the Paulsen publishing house in Moscow, says that in Soviet times, Russians turned to reading because it was one of the few available kinds of recreation they had. But now there are far more and many of them, via the Internet, are even cheaper than reading.
She notes as well that Russians are especially frequently turning away from fiction and reading instead non-fiction works which provide them with information rather than entertainment. They look for their entertainment elsewhere, and publishers are adjusting their lists accordingly, Neyaglova-Kolosova says.
Alena Korolyeva, an entrepreneur in the book business, agrees with her but notes that bookstores are increasing in number in many parts of the country because profit can be made selling non-fiction authors.