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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chamber Calls for Ban on Some Books

Responding to a recent attack in a Moscow synagogue and an overall increase in hate crimes, the Public Chamber is calling for a ban on books that promote extremism and racial intolerance.

No books have been banned since the Soviet collapse in 1991, but a human rights activist praised the move as much needed.

"After the attack at the synagogue and Putin's recent statement saying that little has been done to stop nationalist and xenophobic propaganda, we decided that it was necessary to analyze what kind of nationalist books are being sold in Moscow underpasses," Sergei Markov, a member of the Public Chamber and a Kremlin-connected analyst, said Monday.

President Vladimir Putin named countering ethnic hatred as a priority for the Public Chamber at its first full session on Jan. 22. Putin ordered the creation of the chamber after the Beslan school attack in 2004 as a way to promote civil society.

The father of the young man charged in the stabbing of several men at a Moscow synagogue on Jan. 11 has said his son was reading a book that portrayed Jews as traitors to Russia.

The Public Chamber will review books and compile a list of titles that it believes incite hatred, Markov said. A court would decide whether any of the books should be banned, he said.

Such a list should already exist under a law against the incitement of ethnic and religious hatred, said Alexander Brod, the head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and a participant in a State Duma round table on Friday where the Public Chamber's list was first mentioned.

The list would be a great help to police and prosecutors, who are notoriously reluctant to take action against such literature, Brod said. Authorities currently have to go through the time-consuming process of sending questionable books to experts for analysis.

"Russia has an awful lot of this kind of literature," Brod said.

He said up to 20 new titles were published every year, adding to 500,000 copies of books in circulation. He said seven publishers printed the books.

Markov said the initiative was not aimed at introducing censorship but restricting nationalist books. "Nationalist literature is everywhere in our country," he said. "If only 20 percent of it were banned from the market, that would be a great achievement."

But Tankred Golenpolsky, the founder of Jewish International Paper, a Moscow publication that has campaigned against anti-Semitic books, said society should protest books, not ban them. He said a ban on certain books could be the start of a creeping process that resulted in the creation of a state censorship committee.

The Public Chamber, meanwhile, met Monday to discuss its agenda for the next few months.