NEWS: “The Radio and Television State Committee in Ukraine has banned the import of certain Russian literary works, including Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, “The Master and Margarita”. […] The Ukrainian agency has discovered in preface to the book, propaganda statements by certain representatives of Russian cinema, Yuri Kara, Nikolai Burlyayev and Valentin Gaft, who’ve been added to a list of people who pose a threat to national security”.
NARRATIVES: 1. Ukrainian authorities are displaying their Russophobia even when it comes to literature. 2. Ukraine is intolerant of other cultures. 3. Ukraine is restricting freedom of speech.
BACKGROUND: Reports on social media have revealed Ukraine has banned the import of certain books from Russia, particularly “The Master and Margarita” by the well-known Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov. The book is known as a classic piece of world literature and is very popular even today across post-Soviet space, including Ukraine. Bulgakov actually lived in Kiev part of his life. Russia launched a far-reaching disinformation campaign during the Euromaidan street protests, which built up after the conflict broke out with Ukraine, when Russia also invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula and offered political and military support to separatists in the Donbass region. These narratives sought to demonize the Ukrainian camp by associating it with fascist, ultra-nationalist and xenophobic attitudes. The occupation and annexation of Crimea were depicted as an act of liberation and return to the motherland. The insurrection in Donbass was also presented to the public as a self-defense campaign carried out by the Russian-speaking population in response to Ukrainian aggression and persecution. In this broader context, various online publications in Russia and a number of pro-Russian ones in Ukraine have been focusing on an information according to which “The Master and Margarita” was banned because Russian literature allegedly fosters positive associations with the Russian Federation. The focus on banning the book is an indirect reference to fascism, as the Nazis were well-known for banning literary works and burning books.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The Committee’s decision doesn’t refer to the novel itself, but to the edition published by Azbuka-Atticus, the preface of which promotes people who have been denied access on Ukrainian territory because they overtly supported Russia’s aggressions against Ukraine. Other editions of the novel are still available in bookstores across Ukraine and can be ordered online.
PURPOSE: To discredit Ukraine by describing the authorities in this country as Russophobic. This implicitly justifies the insurrection in Donbass and legitimizes Russia’s response to an alleged act of aggression.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The edition of “The Master and Margarita” published by “Azbuka-Atticus” is banned in Ukraine.