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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hardliners press union of writers

Members of the Commonwealth of Writers looked on nervously this week as the hardline Russian Writers Union pledged to take over the former U. S. S. R. Union of Writers.

Opening the Ninth Congress of Writers on Tuesday, the hardliners also avowed to bring Litfond, an independent organization which oversees financial aid for writers, under their control.

"If Litfond is in our hands, then all those Yevtushenkos and Chernichenkos will come crawling to us", said Timur Pulatov, head of the organizing committee of the congress. He was referring to Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Yuri Chernichenko, two writers and liberal democrats who have sided with the Commonwealth of Writers.

If the hardliners take over, the progressives warn, not only will they claim all former Writer's Union property, but they will control the direction and content of Russian literature through Litfond grants.

In its heyday, the Writer's Union controlled virtually every aspect of a writer's life, from the stories he wrote to the sausage he ate. Its role diminished in the last years of Soviet power.

Both the Commonwealth of Writers and the Russian Writer's Union view themselves as rightful heirs to the former Writers Union, which dissolved in January. The congress, billed as an all-union event, drew over 500 participants from 34 writer's unions around the former Soviet Union. Entrance to the congress was guarded by members of Pamyat, the extremist nationalist organization, which led an attack on a liberal writers group two years ago.

The Commonwealth of Writers, which represents authors, poets and playwrights from Russia and eight republics, refused to take part in the congress, which is expected to run through the end of this week. Among those boycotting are Bulat Okudzhava; Andrei Dementyev, Andrei Voznesensky, Fazil Iskander and Dmitry Likhachev.

"It is a congress of nomenclature revanchists", said Artyom Anfinogenov, acting chairman of the Commonwealth of Writers. He charged that the Russian Writer's Union was insincere in its promise to represent the interests of writers of non-Russian nationalities.

Insisting that Litfond must remain an independent organization, the Commonwealth of Writers, which currently occupies former Writer's Union property, said this week that they are prepared to appoint a delegation together with the Russian Writer's Union to divide the former Soviet Writer's Union property.

"The creation of a single association of writers as the legal successor of the Union of Writers of the U. S. S. R. is impossible under the present conditions, and division of its property is inevitable", the Commonwealth of Writers said in a telegram sent to the congress opening.