"These books may undermine the patriotism of those already stupid. They are inappropriate during the special operation," user Dmitry Smirnov said on vk.com. This was his reaction to a post about the distribution of books by George Orwell, Evgeny Zamyatin, and Leo Tolstoy in Ivanovo. In April and May, information technology businessman Dmitry Silin and lawyer Anastasia Rudenko gave the works "1984", "We", "Animal Farm", and "Hadji Murad" away to passers-by. Read 7x7’s material to learn why they had been doing it, but stopped.
Acquaintance in a paddy wagon
The best books are those that tell you what you know already.
George Orwell. 1984
Dmitry Silin and his wife were at a health resort on February 21, when the Security Council of the Russian Federation’s meeting on the recognition of the DPR’s and LPR’s independence was held. Having watched the meeting’s recording, the businessman realized that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was inevitable. He was not surprised by the news on February 24, when Vladimir Putin announced the special operation.
A week after the start of the Russian Federation’s hostilities in Ukraine, Dmitry began holding one-person pickets. The police of Ivanovo detained him several times. Silin stated in the protocols that pickets were not prohibited. He was detained again during a one-person picket on March 6, when he was standing with a photo of his grandfather (he fought and was wounded in Ukraine in 1943).
Dmitry Silin met lawyer Anastasia Rudenko in a paddy wagon. She approached the detainees that day to find out whether they needed legal assistance. The police detained her as well.
Silin was sick and tired of the fact that, like other residents of Ivanovo, he would hold pickets and be brought to the police station every time. He wanted to come up with a street rally, the participants of which would not be detained. And he decided to distribute George Orwell's 1984 in the streets of Ivanovo. Dmitry believes that the dystopia’s plot is aligned with the news agenda, so reading the book will help people look at the events critically. Anastasia supported the idea.
Hack the system
The clever thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the same.
George Orwell. 1984
Early in April, when it became warm outside, Dmitry and Anastasia held the first book distribution at the site of three Ivanovo universities. The businessman bought 30 copies of 1984 in an online store.
“I immediately realized that this was an awesome and, most importantly, absolutely legal idea. No one might be made liable for giving books away. And the books are very relevant. Orwell's expression, ‘War is peace’ is really time-sensitive,” says the lawyer.
Silin held the first event with more skepticism than Rudenko. As he was holding pickets, car drivers that passed by would honk and show him a middle finger. But the distribution, to Dmitry's surprise, went well: the students were surprised that they could take the books for free and thankful.
"We did not really count on anything, we planned to hold it once or twice. But the impact was so pleasant that we decided to do it again," Rudenko said.
Mission: re-educating young people
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
George Orwell. 1984
Dmitry Silin bought books in an online store throughout April. One paperback copy of 1984 cost 100 rubles; collection of dystopias by Orwell and Evgeny Zamyatin, 200 rubles. The businessman spent more than 100 thousand rubles within one month and did not regret it. In his opinion, everyone should read the works by Orwell, Zamyatin, Leo Tolstoy's novel "Hadji Murad" and find parallels between the plots and reality.
Dmitry and Anastasia went out with books to the playground at three universities during a lunch period. They unfolded a table, put up speakers, and switched on anti-war songs by Igor Talkov and the Nogu Swelo! (‘a leg cramp’) Band.
“I have one hope, to re-educate young people,” said Dmitry. “It is very difficult to re-educate those whom the TV has been telling the same things for decades. Students are often afraid to demonstrate their opinion under the threat of expulsion, but I see that they are interested. Many people read the books we gave away, which surprised me very much. I thought young people did not read books anymore.”
Adults would walk past the table with the books without stopping. Silin thinks that the reason is the fear that life will get worse: "People have problems with salaries. They try not to think about what is happening, not to remember, to forget."
Anastasia noticed that there was more gratitude for the books than negative responses. Including in the city’s public communities in social networks. Only once, a user "threatened to shove a book down their throats" — he wrote in the comments that he had not read Orwell.
The police did not approach the activists in the street and did not detain them. "Therefore, the distribution of books is a brilliant format," Rudenko believes.
“I do not remember any recent actions in Russia for which people would not be punished. They are being punished for blue and yellow clothes, for a poster, ‘Peace to the world!’. How can the word ‘peace’ be attributed to discrediting the army?” she wonders. “It is like a novel by Orwell in real life. Freedom of speech is dead.”
The last rally
The consequences of every act are included in the act itself.
George Orwell. 1984
Early in the morning of April 26, the police came to search the apartment where Dmitry Silin was registered. He learned about it from his son. Neighbors told the security forces that the businessman did not live at the registration address, and they left.
"I specified my residential address in the protocols. And I am not afraid of someone coming there: I do not possess any terrorist materials, weapons, or drugs," the businessman says.
Anastasia Rudenko linked the search to a criminal case on vandalism in Shuya: in March, unknown people wrote the phrase, "No [Roskomnadzor]" on the local administration’s wall. An activist became the suspect in the case, and police officers seized his phone. They read all the messages and selected six contacts for the search. Dmitry Silin became one of them.
After the failed search, Dmitry and Anastasia continued the events. They had distributed 500 books by May and another 50 copies during the holidays on May 1, May 9, and on the pioneer movement’s 100th anniversary, on May 19, each.
For the event in honor of the pioneer movement’s anniversary, the lawyer bought a red fabric and gave it to a sewing workshop to sew 15 "pioneer" ties. The activists gave ties away to passers-by along with books to remind one of the slogans of the pioneers, "Peace to the world!". After that, Silin and Rudenko decided to finish the book events.
“Any beginning must have an end. The idea must be finished in order not to lose its relevance,” Anastasia explained. “Our events are over, but the idea lives on. I saw a young woman in the clinic with our book the other day: a friend gave her Orwell from the rally. Then I saw our book in a basket with humanitarian aid for Donbass refugees in a supermarket.”
Dmitry Silin considers his mission accomplished: "People have found out about the book — let them look for it and read it themselves now." His new project is the Website for Patriotic Upbringing of the Youth of Ivanovo Oblast.
Anything could be true.
George Orwell. 1984
When Dmitry Silin was giving the books away, he noticed that young people were interested in the events in Russia. To give students more information about what is happening in the country, the businessman has launched a website "for patriotic upbringing of youth".
At first glance, the website looks like a resource of the official press relations service or state media outlet: selections of news about the special operation, patriotic movies, materials of the Ministry of Defense, videos with military equipment. There is a tab "Enemies of the People" — it has the names of those who support the anti-war position. Journalist Alexander Nevzorov, writer Viktor Shenderovich, blogger Ilya Varlamov, investigative journalist Christo Grozev, and other media personalities are among the "enemies". Silin is sure that official materials collected in one place will make people think about how propaganda works.
“All the sources of information are official. But we publish casualty lists and data on missile launches, rather than information about awards,” the activist said. “It will not harm those who are incurable, but help those who can still be cured.
I want those who want to know about the special military operation to get a lot of impressions. If at least someone starts thinking about it, it is already good.”