Belarus has double standards on religious hostility issue

While Zgoda editor Zdvizhkov gets three years in a high-security prison for “instigating religious hostility” (he reprinted Mohammed cartoons), anti-Semitic literature is widely available at book stores in Minsk. You can also borrow Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses from the National Library of Belarus as the author is sentenced to death penalty in Iran.

There is plenty of the similar literature at book fairs and stores. Vendors say there is a huge demand. “This author is banned in Russia; that one is imprisoned in England”, tell they readily about the books on the shelves.

It is also possible to buy Mein Kampf or the film Russia Stabbed in the Back (Jewish Fascism and the Genocide of the Russian People) and many other things that could be easily interpreted as the instigation of religious hostility.

In the Orthodox Book store, such literature is kept at a separate shelf in surprising variety.

Sales attendant: “Please take a book from this series. Have you read The Secret of Zion’s Protocols? All these books are on the similar topic: masons. People also buy The Jewish Revolution by Zhivakhov. Out of all this stuff, one can read Platonov and Zhivakhov. He could offer the right assessment. Here is another topic: The Jewish Yoke, The Verdict to Those Who Kill Russia”.

At the Palace of the Arts which hosts a book fair, vendors figured out very fast what I was looking for. By the way, the books they offered were not only against Jews but also against the Orthodox Church, the Russians and others.

“Take Platonov’s Generalissimos or Stalin’s Cult or Hitler’s Cult… You can also read The Russian Gods’ Strike. People keep asking it a lot. It is definitely banned in Moscow (laughing)”.

- Is it banned here?
- Not yet.
- Will I be punished for reading it?
- No. Perhaps, they would punish me for selling it.
- Do people buy it a lot?
- Enough. We order it all the time.
- Why is it so interesting?
- The Russians are the best, but Christianity is crap. I totally agree with the author. There is a lot of paganism here. You can also take Jewish Nazism, Russian and Non-Russian Scientists, The Jewish Yoke…
- (another vendor) Do you have Mein Kampf?
- No.

The European Radio for Belarus called the Ministry of Information to find out if there was a list of banned books in Belarus and whether officials were aware of what is sold in Minsk.

ERB: There is a list of banned movies in Belarus. What about books?
ERB: Minsk City Hall issues licenses for retail sales. Do they check what vendors bring?
No. They could react if they receive information.

The Ministry of Information is aware that anti-Semitic literature is widely on sale in Belarus. They say that even higher authorities are aware, too. But those books are not sold at the outlets owned by the Ministry of Information. Therefore, they are not responsible for that.

ERB: There are a lot of books against Jews on sale…
Yes. We used to receive many complaints. The Administration of the President is also aware. When they happened to be found in our stores, we would react immediately to confiscate!

ERB: The Orthodox Book store, for instance…
It does not belong to us. There is no agency that oversees all the books…

There are less than 30 book stores controlled by the Ministry of Information in Minsk and the Minsk region. You can find anything you want in the rest of the outlets.

Vendors are issued licenses for retail sales. The license doesn’t specify what exactly has to be sold. Basically, the state doesn’t care if you sell books or socks.

In Iran, Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death penalty for his The Satanic Verses. In Belarus, it is available at the National Library.

It remains unclear why the government has no problem with the instigation of religious hostility by anti-Semitic books and others. Why, then, was journalist Zdvizhkov sentenced to three years in prison in a non-Muslim country allegedly for instigating religious hostility.