for ISKCON News on Nov. 4, 2010
“The Moscow International Book Fair (MIBF) is by right considered to be one of the major events in the cultural and business life of Russia. From year to year the leading publishers and major book-selling companies from various world countries display here their best achievements…” This is the opinion of Vladimir Putin quoted by the Catalogue of Book Exhibition at All-Russia Exhibition Centre in Moscow.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has been one of the first partners of the MIBF. In 1979, more than 30 years ago, BBT has given Soviet people the chance to aquiant themselves with the glorious knowledge of the Vedas.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Everything has changed: people, leaders and political systems. But almost nothing has changed in how people appreciate books. The slogan of the first fair in 1977 was “Books serve peace and progress”. Mr. Putin, too, emphasized that the Book Fair would strengthen international human relationships.
Spiritual books, undoubtedly, can serve international human relationships very well. It is a pity that so few people listen to the message of books of wisdom nowadays. The Vaishnavas of Moscow yatra, however, decided to give voice to the ancient wisdom of the Vedas and took part of the Exhibition, presenting Srila Prabhupada’s books to the general public.
Nearly 40 Vaishnavas participated in the Exhibition. Brahmacharis from the Yurlovo ashram preached near the BBT booth, and in a tent outside, beautiful girls in sari distributed leaflets with Srila Prabhupada's image with the ship "Jaladuta" and an inscription "the Philosopher and the scientist, who presented the wisdom of ancient India to the world". Thanks to the efforts of two Vaishnavas, hot dinners were regularly being served at the stand. And it was not even necessary to distribute sweet balls from cafe “Ganga” - visitors snatched them from the box, without hesitation.
One hundred books from Srila Prabhupada and his disciples were sold in many languages (such as Italian, German, English, Hindi and even Indonesian), along with more than a hundred cookbooks.
As to my personal impressions of the Fair, I must confess that I couldn't see a “place of pilgrimage for crows” in it, though I really tried. What I actually saw was a very developed book market consisiting of not only publishers and printers, but also of book-selling firms and book networks engaged in delivering printed wisdom to the people. I realized that cooperation with such organizations would give ISKCON devotees a chance to present Prabhupada's books not only in big shops of Moscow and other cities, but also in those places where Vaishnavas have never set foot.
Besides, I was amazed with expositions of some publishing houses. It is surprising how much is being invested into advertizing of new books and best sellers. I have seen extraordinary prospects in representation of Vedic culture. Should we have a big stand we could then sing, dance, distribute prasadam, we could even place armchairs where visitors would be able to sit and study Srila Prabhupada's books in a peaceful atmosphere... and the list can be continued. I also understood that the publishing house "Bhaktivedanta Book Trust" with its serious circulations is an important participant of this powerful professional market and deserves a serious promotion.