Moscow bookstores have quickly but quietly removed the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus out of fear the swastika on the cover will violate a four-month-old law banning “Nazi propaganda.”
Agence France-Presse reports the move comes as Russian authorities seek to purge the capital of swastikas and other Nazi insignias ahead of May 9, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over German forces in World War II. Raids have already been conducted on toy and antique shops, and bookstore owners are anticipating similar actions.
Of course, Art Spiegelman’s celebrated Maus, released in Russia in 2013, isn’t “Nazi propaganda”; it’s pointedly anti-fascist, telling a story about the horrors of Nazism. However, bookstore owners appear to be erring on the side of caution, figuring the large swastika on the cover is enough to make the title — and retailers — a target.
“There is no Nazi propaganda in it,” Varvara Gornostayeva, chief editor of the book’s Russian publisher Corpus, told AFP. “This is a book that should be on the shelves on Victory Day.”
Three of Moscow’s largest bookstores, Biblio Globus, Moskva and Moskovsky Dom Knigi, had removed Maus from their online catalogs by Monday afternoon, and then denied they’d carried the title when asked about it by AFP. However, the Respublika chain confirmed to The New York Times it had pulled Spiegelman’s graphic novel from stores due to concerns about its legality.
While still underscoring that fascist symbols are unacceptable, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday seemed to suggest a more restrained approach to the law’s enforcement: “I have no exact position on this, but it’s clear that everything needs to be within measure.”
About 10,000 copies of Maus have been sold in Russia.
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