Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$500,000 Suit Filed Over Yeltsin Memoirs

A well-known hardline politician announced Thursday that he has filed suit for over $500,000 against President Boris Yeltsin and three Western publishing houses over what may turn out to be one of the costliest translation mistakes in history.


Iona Andronov told a press conference that he has sued Yeltsin, the U.S. publisher Random House, British publisher Harper Collins and the New York-based Belka Publishing Co. because the foreign-language versions of the president's memoirs published this spring calls Andronov a "fascist." The Russian version merely describes him as "militant."


Judge Anatoly Arefyev said he will begin hearing the case next Thursday. Andronov filed the suit at the Kuntsevo court, which hears cases involving residents of the Krylatskoye area where Yeltsin now lives.


Both Yeltsin's spokesman Anatoly Krasikov and the president's lawyers in the State Law Directorate said they were unaware of Andronov's claim.


The British publisher has apologized to Andronov in writing but the politician said he will press the suit nonetheless.


The former legislator, who says he is himself now writing a memoir about the October 1993 events, seeks $300,000 and 500 million rubles (almost $250,000) in damages from Yeltsin and the publishers of his book describing the October riots.


The book, known in Russia as "The President's Notes," was first published in the West -- in Britain by Harper Collins as "The View From the Kremlin" and in North America by Random House in association with Belka as "The Struggle for Russia."


The British and American editions, using a translation by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, refer to Andronov as a fascist on page 251.


However, the Russian edition only calls the intractable legislator ***voinstvuyushi***, or "militant."


Judge Arefyev said Thursday his goal was to establish whether it was just a translation mistake, in which case only the publishers would be answerable, or whether Yeltsin's original text said "fascist" and was then toned down for the Russian edition, in which case the president as author of the book would take the blame.


"It's clear that someone will have to answer for it," the judge said in a telephone interview.


Andronov, a well-known journalist and foreign affairs expert, was a deputy of the disbanded Supreme Soviet who left the burning, blackened parliament building only after Yeltsin's troops overran it last October, crushing the insurrection led by the parliament leaders.


Andronov said there is no worse insult for him than being called a fascist and that he could not allow Yeltsin to get away with it.


"I was in Leningrad during the German siege when I was seven years old," Andronov said. "I watched my stepfather, my grandmother, then the whole apartment, then the whole building starve to death. Who is he to call me a fascist?"


Judge Arefyev said he had summoned a representative of Belka, which served as Yeltsin's agent in North America, to meet with Andronov next Thursday to discuss the claim.


However, it is unlikely that a Belka representative will show up in the courtroom. Though Andronov is under the impression that the publishing company has a Moscow office, it is based entirely in New York. The Belka office that is due to receive the court summons is merely a trading company related to the New York firm, according to the head of the Moscow office.


Harper Collins has not succeeded in getting Andronov to drop the suit, despite its apology.


"Our clients apologize for this error which arose for a mixture of reasons including the rush to achieve early publication," said a letter to Andronov's lawyers from Goodman Derrick, the law firm retained by the publisher.


The letter also said that the publishers were prepared to correct the mistake in future editions and to include an erratum slip in every copy of the book sold.


But Andronov said he would press charges, anyway.


"The damage has already been done," he said. "They're still selling the book and they haven't said anything about compensation."


Besides, Andronov said he does not believe the insulting description was a mistranslation. He said the French edition of the Yeltsin book, entitled "On the Razor's Edge," which he obtained after filing the suit, also calls him a fascist.


"Obviously, a different translator rendered it into French, and two translators cannot have made the same mistake," he said.


Andronov said he has little hope of getting compensation, but he has pledged to donate any reimbursement to the families of the people killed during the October riots.


in the West -- in Britain by Harper Collins as "The View From the Kremlin" and in North America by Random House in association with Belka as "The Struggle for Russia."


The British and American editions, using a translation by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, refer to Andronov as a fascist on page 251.


However, the Russian edition only calls the intractable legislator voinstvuyushi, or "militant."


Judge Arefyev said Thursday his goal was to establish whether it was just a translation mistake, in which case only the publishers would be answerable, or whether Yeltsin's original text said "fascist" and was then toned down for the Russian edition, in which case the president as author of the book would take the blame.


"It's clear that someone will have to answer for it," the judge said in a telephone interview.


Andronov, a well-known journalist and foreign affairs expert, was a deputy of the disbanded Supreme Soviet who left the burning, blackened parliament building only after Yeltsin's troops overran it last October, crushing the insurrection led by the parliament leaders.


Andronov said there is no worse insult for him than being called a fascist and that he could not allow Yeltsin to get away with it.


"I was in Leningrad during the German siege when I was seven years old," Andronov said. "I watched my stepfather, my grandmother, then the whole apartment, then the whole building starve to death. Who is he to call me a fascist?"


Judge Arefyev said he had summoned a representative of Belka, which served as Yeltsin's agent in North America, to meet with Andronov next Thursday to discuss the claim.


However, it is unlikely that a Belka representative will show up in the courtroom. Though Andronov is under the impression that the publishing company has a Moscow office, it is based entirely in New York. The Belka office that is due to receive the court summons is merely a trading company related to the New York firm, according to the head of the Moscow office.


Harper Collins has not succeeded in getting Andronov to drop the suit, despite its apology.


"Our clients apologize for this error which arose for a mixture of reasons including the rush to achieve early publication," said a letter to Andronov's lawyers from Goodman Derrick, the law firm retained by the publisher.


The letter also said that the publishers were prepared to correct the mistake in future editions and to include an erratum slip in every copy of the book sold.


But Andronov said he would press charges, anyway.


"The damage has already been done," he said. "They're still selling the book and they haven't said anything about compensation."


Andronov said he has little hope of getting compensation, but he has pledged to donate any reimbursement to the families of the people killed during the October riots.