Russians turn their backs on Dostoevsky

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The Independent Online

"Literacy is the path to Communism", proclaimed a striking agitprop poster from 1920 depicting a vivacious figure on a winged red horse with book in hand.

But new surveys commissioned by Russia's National Library show that ordinary Russians have turned their backs on literature and that those who do read prefer Danielle Steel to Fyodor Dostoevsky. The surveys found that 37 per cent of Russians never read books, that 52 per cent never bought them, and that only 23 per cent considered themselves active readers.

The surveys showed that people preferred detective novels and romance to the classics penned by such greats as Leo Tolstoy or Anton Chekhov.

The Russian National Library said the rot had set in during the 1990s in the anarchic post-Soviet period when people needed light relief as opposed to harrowing psychological reads.

However, the literary outlook is not all gloomy. New Russian literature which captures people's imaginations is still being crafted. One example is the author Boris Akunin, whose Sherlock Holmes-style tales of a Tsarist-era sleuth called Erast Fandorin have become cult reading material.