Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bill last week banning the import of books produced in Russia or printed in the Russian language. The new law is Kiev’s latest escalation in its extensive effort to eliminate Russian culture in Ukraine.
Since taking office, Zelensky has led a campaign of “derussification” within Ukraine. Last year, Kiev’s legislature passed a bill that will heavily restrict books manufactured in Russia or printed in the Russian language. Zelensky announced he signed the bill on Thursday, saying, “I believe the law is right.”
Kiev’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko praised Zelensky for approving the ban. “The adoption of this draft law will protect the Ukrainian book publishing and distribution sector from the destructive influence of the ‘Russian world,’” he said.
The bill signed into law last week will ban all imports of books from Russia and Belarus. Additionally, the state will require a permit to import a Russian book from any third country. Zelenskiy’s office said the law would “strengthen the protection of the Ukrainian cultural and information space from anti-Ukrainian Russian propaganda.”
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Zelensky enacted a series of escalating steps with the goal of erasing, from Ukraine, any and all Russian culture. Kiev has worked to destroy all Russian monuments, rename public spaces that are in the Russian language, erase Russian historical figures, and target a branch of the Christian Orthodox church Kiev believes is too closely tied with Moscow.
Tkachenko has long been an advocate of the culture war in Ukraine. In a 2015 interview, he supported a ban on TV series and movies that are produced in Russia or glorify Russian people. One of Tkachenko’s goals at the time was to replace Russian content on Ukrainian televisions with Western programming.
While Kiev presents Moscow as the target of the culture war, the substantial minority of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers living in Ukraine are subjected to the laws. Zelensky has used the pretext of “derussification” process to consolidate control over Ukraine’s politics and media.