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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Russian satirist sued over 'gay Stalin'
Walking Together on the march
Walking Together destroys Sorokin's books
Local prosecutors in Moscow have begun a criminal action against a Russian author who wrote about a fictional homosexual relationship between Stalin and Khrushchev.

Vladimir Sorokin
Sorokin's novels frequently feature elements of the grotesque
Vladimir Sorokin, a surreal novelist who is one of Russia's rising literary stars, is accused of spreading pornography with his novel Blue Bacon Fat.

The charges were brought after a youth group loyal to President Vladimir Putin protested about the book, publicly destroying copies in the centre of Moscow.

Mr Sorokin denies being a pornographer and accuses his detractors of being "post-Communists".

Difference of opinion

The Moscow Prosecutor's Office said it had taken the action after concluding that Blue Bacon Fat - which puns on the word "blue", a common Russian slang word for homosexual - contained pornographic material.

Interviewed earlier by the BBC, Mr Sorokin said he was prepared to fight any court case.

"There's a big difference between pornographers and writers," he said.

"The pornographer aims to help the reader achieve an erection but the writer's task is to provide the writer with aesthetic pleasure."

'Censorship'

A deputy head of administration in the government, Alexei Volin, expressed regret at the Moscow prosecutors' decision on Wednesday.

"History has taught us that persistent attempts on the part of law enforcement agencies and the progressive public to make writers stop writing wrongly never do any good," he said.

Mr Sorokin's book enraged members of Walking Together, a youth group which wears tee-shirts bearing President Putin's portrait.

In June, they publicly ripped up copies of Blue Bacon Fat in central Moscow and threw them down a mock-up of a toilet bowl.

Josef Stalin
Stalin, never punished for his crimes, is still revered by many in Russia
Alexei Simonov, head of the Glasnost Defense Fund which monitors freedom of speech in Russia, said the criminal case amounted to censorship.

"The problem is not whether or not Sorokin's books contain foul language," he said, "but that the criminal prosecution of any writer is very dangerous from the point of view of freedom of the press."

Before eventually succeeding Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev served as an official under the Soviet dictator, who had millions of people murdered over his three decades in power.

Since coming to power in 2000, Mr Putin has been accused of seeking to rehabilitate Stalin, at one point unveiling a bust to him as a war leader.

See also:

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