On February 12, the State Duma held a round table on the topic “Social status and forms of state support for Russian writers.” Since the event, albeit with the broad participation of deputies of all factions, was still held by a specific party, the event should not be considered as something cementing the situation. Everything that was voiced in four hours became just a “consolidated position” that will now be conveyed to Vyacheslav Volodin.
Why exactly to the chairman of parliament? Because he has the right to convene large parliamentary hearings. And they will actually decide whether to transfer the literary sphere to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture (now it is handled by the Ministry of Digital Development), they will figure out what to do with writers’ pensions and, in general, with the social protection of prose writers and poets. This will happen after the election of a president and the creation of a new government.
The essence of the roundtable boils down to one thing - writers support the transfer of self-care from ministry to ministry. Whether there is a different opinion or not, or those who hold it were not invited to the Duma.
It is not entirely clear why the Ministry of Digital Development is bad, and another department is good, but the 80-year-old “people’s poet of the Komi Republic” Nadezhda Miroshnichenko said that “digital is coming with an open mouth on humanity.”
Elena Pietiläinen, editor-in-chief of the Sever magazine, who came from Petrozavodsk, tried to argue that state policy should be supra-departmental, that it does not matter which ministry supervises the writers if Russia is behind any of them.
But Anatoly Salutsky abruptly interrupted Pietiläinen, since, apparently, polemics were not intended.
For this purpose, representatives from the regions were brought to the building on Okhotny Ryad, who frightened listeners with the horrors of digitalization, asked for benefits and subsidies for the publication of almanacs with a circulation of one hundred copies, demanded that the houses of writers that had been taken away from them be returned to them, and said that prizes should be given not only to Moscow and St. Petersburg authors, but also them, or they simply grabbed their friend “librarian Svetlana Ivanovna” for holding literary evenings.
The scale, to put it mildly, is not national. But at the meeting the idea was voiced that what was preventing the writer’s problems from being “settled” was that the country’s leadership had allegedly heard rumors about a showdown between them over property and hypothetical funding. For this reason, two years cannot legalize the existence of the “writer” profession, determine pensions, and so on.
Interesting thoughts were also heard - such as, for example, the idea of reviving the Literary Fund, where, as in the USSR, a percentage of published books would go and with this money social protection of writers would be provided.
It seems like a great initiative - but among domestic writers, in addition to the classics, our bestsellers are new ones, say, from Sergei Lukyanenko or Tatyana Ustinova (and other commercially successful authors), who earn their own pension. Taking a percentage from their books and giving it to someone else is not entirely logical.
And what percentage? Let's imagine that a book costs 500 rubles - the Soviet 7% is 35 rubles, the increase in price is unprincipled, but will all readers want to pay the “literature tax”?
And why pay? The writers admit that there are 50 thousand of them “together with the graphomaniac masses” in various unions. Okay, even 20 thousand, if you count members of exclusively professional creative associations. If everyone is recognized as having the profession of “writer” and they are paid at least the minimum wage (19,242 rubles) - you will need 238 million budget rubles per month, 4.6 billion rubles per year.
Yes, there is an idea to get money by imposing a markup on printed products of foreign origin that are popular - books from the Lord of the Rings series or about Harry Potter. But you can earn millions, and not billions, from the book “excise tax”. And why should a British wizard feed a poet from Perm? So, the budget will do it.
“There is money in the budget, we will redistribute it,” one of the deputies assured.
Then what was discussed? Cultural figures are supported by the Ministry of Culture, writers should be there too - these are links in the same chain, and, I quote, this is the “unanimous position of deputies.”
And if the issue is resolved, then why rituals in the form of listening to “popular opinion”? Writers, especially in the provinces, are in such a dire situation that they are ready to follow any institution that will provide them with at least modest payments and fees.