Russian Publisher Rewrites Books on Vladimir Putin Without Western Authors’ Consent

Vladimir Putin-2

In the original 2012 form of “Expelled: A Journalist’s Descent Into the Russian Mafia State,” the British journalist Luke Harding gives a personal account of the harassment he and his family experienced at the hands of the F.S.B., the chief successor agency to the K.G.B. It covers his time in Russia as he reported on such stories as the radiation poisoning of the former F.S.B. officer Alexander V. Litvinenko and the murder of the human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.

But a new version, published without consultation with Mr. Harding this year by a Russian house, Algoritm Publishers, bears only a fleeting resemblance to the original, the author said by telephone from London.

“They took out Litvinenko, F.S.B. methods, the harassment that my family faced,” Mr. Harding said, as well as the war in Georgia and the murders of Kremlin critics such as Ms. Estemirova. The new version of the book was released as part of a series about President Vladimir V. Putin.

“Crimea is missing,” added Mr. Harding, who was expelled from Russia in 2011. “What is fascinating is that Putin and the money trail are there. It’s almost an indicator about the red lines on publishing in Russia. Ukraine is taboo. Litvinenko is taboo. Putin and money are not taboo.”

Edward Lucas, a former Moscow correspondent for The Economist, and Donald N. Jensen, an American expert on Russia who is a resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, also found their books rewritten and published by Algoritm without consultation or permission.

Mr. Harding was alerted to the Russian book by a BBC Russian Service reporter who spotted it in a Moscow bookstore with the title “No One but Putin.” On closer examination, Mr. Harding said, it was a bowdlerized version of his original publication and was being marketed by the Russian publisher as a sequel.

Sergei Nikolayev, director of Algoritm, told Ekho Moskvy radio that rights to the book had been purchased from Ukraine and that the publishing house had not been able to reach Mr. Harding. “It’s easier for us to publish a book, then a person comes to us and we give explanations and that’s it,” he said.

Mr. Harding said a law firm, Baker & McKenzie, representing his publisher, Guardian Books, had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Algoritm, citing violations of Russian law. On Thursday, “No One but Putin” was not for sale in two central Moscow bookstores, although other books from the Putin series were, in at least one case on a shelf just below laudatory books about Stalin.

Mr. Nikolayev could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Algoritm’s counsel, Yevgeny Imenitov, confirmed that the cease-and-desist letter had been received and was being respected.

He said that Mr. Harding’s book had to be altered for Russian publication because the title “Mafia State” would fall under Russia’s anti-extremism laws, as might other sections.

“The book was redone,” Mr. Imenitov said. “Not all that Harding wrote can be published in Russia.”

Mr. Imenitov complained about what he said was a campaign by liberals to take down the publishing house, known for its patriotic slant. He noted that this week, five of Algoritm’s books had ended up on a list of Russian books banned as hate literature by Ukraine’s government. Two of those were credited to Alexander Dugin, one of Russia’s chief ideologues, including “Ukraine: My War — Geopolitical Diary.”

The official Ukrainian list actually shows six Algoritm books. One is credited to Sergei Dorenko, a Russian former television anchorman and now talk radio host, who has said that he never authorized a book and that it was compiled from open sources. In 2012, Algoritm issued an apology to the performance art group Pussy Riot after a book deal fell through and the publisher went ahead with an unauthorized version.

Mr. Lucas, the Economist journalist, said of the unauthorized version of his book, “After 30 years of dealing with this part of the world, I am hard to surprise.”

The book attributed to Mr. Jensen, titled “Putin and the U.S.A.: Washington Diary,” was compiled from essays on the website of the Institute of Modern Russia, a research organization started by a son of the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and from blog posts on the Voice of America’s Russian-language site.

Mr. Jensen said he had not decided whether to take legal action because he had yet to see a copy of the book.


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Source: The New York Times

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