Baltic Writers Council (BWC) General Assembly 23–24 April 2016 Country Reports

Saint Petersburg Writers’ Union

In the beginning of 2015 we had 426 members. Nowadays we have 450 (including foreign members).

The Chairman since 2002 is Valery Popov.

During the year 2016 an annual literary award called The Gogol Award was distributed.

The Gogol Award was established in 2003 by the St Petersburg Writers’ Union with the support of the Press Committee of the St Petersburg Government. The final event is annually held in May, during the book fair – The St.Petersburg International Book Saloon.

The Gogol Award is sponsored by the Government of St Petersburg and is today 20 000 roubles.

There are three nomination categories:

  1. ”Шинель” (The Overcoat) – prose. 2. ”Вий» (Viy) – fantasy. 3. ”Портрет» (The Portrait) – non-fiction prose.

In the 1st category following books were in the short-list:

  • Alexander Melichov– for his novel ”A Brotherhood of Stone” ,nominated by Limbus  Press Publishers, St Petersburg
  • Daniel Orlov – for his novel ”Sasha Can Hear Airplanes”, nominated by the Zinziver Magazine, Moscow-St Petersburg, ;
  • Vladimir Shpakov –  for his prose collection ”Iron Renessaince”,  nominated by the Russkiy Text Foundation, St Petersburg.

In the 2nd category following books were nominated:

  • Olga Anikina – for her novel ”A Body from Nowhere”
  • Jury Arabov –  for his novel ”A Collision with a Butterfly”
  • Yelena Kuzmina – for her collection of prose ”My Little Bells”.

In the 3d category the following books were nominated:

  • Valery Popov –  for his book ”Zoshchenko”,
  • Andrey Baldin, for his essay on Leo Tolstoy in Caucausus
  • Nikita Yeliseev, for his literary critical essays ”Against the Rules” nominated by Gelikon Plus Publishers, St.Petersburg.

The final jury in 2015 consisted of Boris Averin, Yevgeny Vodolazkin and Pavel Krusanov.

The winners in 2016 were Daniel Orlov, Jury Arabov and Valery Popov.

Another notable annual event is the literary festival ”Bridges of Saint Petersburg” arranged by poet Galina Ilyukhina. Nowadays it is held not only in spring but also in autumn. It attracts a lot of poets, prosaists, publishers – and readers.

We do not have any ”metro poetry” in the subway, but in 2015 an interesting event was arranged in the famous street car number 40 (the longest tram route of St Petersburg). Poetry readings were held in a tram 40 during an ordinary day. It was much appreciated by the passengers. One of the poets was Alexander Dzhigit who is also well-known for his song arrangements with guitar, together with other poets.

St Petersburg Writers’ Union arranges regurar workshops for young authors, in its house in Zvenigorodskaya street. The prominent writers hold these workshops and seminars free of charge.

Another popular literary circle which is open for everybody is led by the grand old man Vyacheslav Leikin, a ”baroque”, humorous poet and a mentor of many generations. Some of the participants of such workshops become members of St Petersburg Writers’ Union.

Each section of the Union (prose, poetry, translation, drama etc) hold monthly meetings, where different matters are discussed, future members can meet the old members and so on.

Recently some new interesting prosaists applied for membership. Among them is for example Maria Pankevich, born in 1986, a journalist whose debute novel ”The Hormone of Joy” was nominated for a number of prestigious awards on the national level.

At the same time, the Union lost some of the its authors. Maria Rolnikaite died at the age of 88. A Lithuanian Jewish girl who, at the age of 14, became prisoner of Vilnius Ghetto (1941 – 1943), where her mother and siblings perished. Maria survived two concentration camps— Strassenhoff and Stuthoff. Her Holocaust depiction “I Have to Tell” has been translated into 18 languages. Maria Rolnikaite lived many years in Leningrad/ St Petersburg, she spent her summers in Komarovo, where St Petersburg Writers’ Union has got a summer residence for writers.

The annual membership fee is about 10 euros. The Union supports aged and disabled authors econonomically. There is also a contract with one of the best medical centres of the city, where all the members and even their families can get medical care on a regular basis.

One of the most interesting international projects in 2015 was the bilingual prose anthology ”Свобода и судьба» – «Frihed og skæbne» (”Freedom and Destiny”), published in Russian and Danish. 10 authors of St Petersburg and 10 Danish writers participated with 20 short stories. Presentations of the book were held in Copenhagen, in St Petersburg (”Dom Knigi”- ”House of Books”, The Lermontov Library and in other libraries), these days a presentation is held in the library of Viborg. Both Danish and Russian authors have been present, as well as translator Boris Zharov (former head of the Scandinavian Department of the St Petersburg University), the director of Det Danske Kulturinstitut Finn Andersen. An active part in this project belongs also to Jacob Vedelsby, chairman of the Dansk Forfatterforening/ Danish Writers’ Association. The book has been reviewed both in Denmark and in Russia.

St Petersburg Writers’ Accociation is really interested in keeping the contact with the Baltic Council. During the latest years they were prevented from participating, due to financial difficulties (currency changes) and to unsufficient knowledge of English. For many writers of St Petersburg who were once active in the establishing of the Council and were authors-in-residence in Visby in the 90-s the Baltic Centre was of extreme importance as ”The  window to Europe”. The Baltic Region does not exist without the city of St Petersburg and its culture. It is vital to have writers from St Petersburg both on the Council’s meetings and as writers-in-residence, to keep the dialogue going. We hope we can find some solutions for supporting this idea together.

The Activity Report of the Union of Belarusian Writers

Perhaps I will start with the good news. On the 8th of October the member of our Union Sviatlana Aleksievich was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s a great event for us! And another one great event that in the beginning of the April there was meeting with Sviatlana in Minsk in the Palace of Republic organized by our Union together with Radio Liberty. It was first Sviatlana’s public meeting with readers in Belarus after awarding the Nobel Prize.

You know – according to the old Soviet tradition, culture in Belarus is perceived by power only as a tool aimed at attending upon state ideology. If culture does not perform this function, the authorities ignore it or think it is hostile. So, Sviatlana’s Nobel is also ignored by the government, our president didn’t congratulate her and there were no official meetings at the state level in Belarus. Her first press-conference right away after getting a Nobel took place in a small room of the editorial place of the independent newspaper and there were no free space for all journalists. As for the central governmental TV – they mentioned Nobel only once tell some words in the end of news-program.

We also still have political prisoners in Belarus and although none of them is a writer or our Union member, you know, separate authors and journalists are being prosecuted. There is censorship. We still have problems with book distribution with a governmental monopolist distributor in Belarus. Also the black lists of writers are still in use.

Of course we try to support independent literature and writers in Belarus. We organized literary meetings and book presentations, literary awards and competitions. Our Union goes on working in cooperation with independent publishing house “Belaruski Knihasbor”, we also work

in the frames of the book net distribution around Belarus at the basis of the publishing house “Galiafy” and “Lohvinau”. Although it’s very difficult for independent publishing houses and book shops to survive now two little bookstores “Galiyafy” and “Kniznaya Shafa” (“Bookcase”) was opened and now we have more places for holding literary presentations now.

We also went on publishing books in the book series “Writer’s bookstore”. Overall we have about 35 editions published, among them regional branches almanacs, Belarusian-Ukrainian almanac “Sprava”, children’s almanac “Garbuzik” (“Little Pumpkin”), dedute books, children’s’ books. For example, translations of the Swedish children books into Belarusian language like stories about Petson and Findus are very popular in Belarus now.

Since this year the project Books from Belarus is under control to Our Union. The main aim of the project is to present the best contemporary Belarusian literature abroad at different international bookfairs:  in Frankfurt. Leipzig, Warsaw, Vilnius, Lviv and other places. The Nobel Prize awarded to Sviatlana Aleksijevich drew attention to other women’s voices in Belarusian prose and poetry. That’s why this year with the help of the project we want to show the women’s face of Belarusian Literature.

We also organized literary meetings and discussions, books presentations, workshops for writers,

Literary awarded and competitions. As we have a small number of literary critics in Belarus this year and that’s why a competition for young writers “ExLibris” is named in honor of critic Anton Luckevich. Authors under 35 can send their literary rewies for the prize. The name of the winner will be announced in the beginning of September.

International literary events also took place with our help. On February together with Belarusian PEN-centre we organized the International Mihas Stralcou Poetry Festival “Poems on the pavement” for the 5th time. During four days we had poetry readings, book presentations, a poetry jam and slam, discussions dedicated to Mikhas Stralcou, a festival within the festival – “Magnus Ducatus Poesis” and other events. Poets from Belarus, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine took part in the festival. We were looking forward to visit of Swedish poet Cecilia Hanson but she became ill and couldn’t come. But we suppose she’ll come next time.

The union also tries to improve very difficult situation with copyrights in Belarus, at least among members of the union. Now the union’s web-site has a section dedicated to copyrights; we have a lawyer who works for the union and who renders consultations to members of the union and its partners. We plan to organize seminars concerning copyrights for regional branches of the union and we will invite publishing houses to attend them.

The School for young writers still works at our Union. About 27 students who prefer prose writing attend the practical classes and master-classes from established Belarusian authors, literary critics and translators, among them Svetlana Alexievich, Uladzimir Niakliaeu, Ales Razanau and others.

We also have close connection and cooperation with Lithuanian, Ukranian, Swedish Unions of writers.

The State and Activity of the Lithuanian Writers Union for 2015

I’ll begin, as this report has always begun, with statistics: The Lithuanian Writers Union has at this time 374 members (375 last year), 238 men and 136 women. As is apparent, women only make up slightly more than a third. Over the last two years, seven members have died and three new ones have been accepted. So, for the time being, the trend remains largely negative – a decreasing number of members because the average age in the LWU is quite high. There is, though, a trend towards renewal as well – more and more young authors want to join.

Hope also comes in the form of the fact that the formerly conservative LWU began to renovate its internet website from the ground up. It is now a site with news about literary events. Work on a complete internet biography and bibliography of all the members has begun, thereby renewing the database.

Last year, the LWU was involved with a youth project, “Ką šeštadienį” [What’s on Saturday], that was very successful. Once a month, young, beginning writers, schoolchildren and students, met with LWU members and other writers, discussed creative work, writing, possibilities for publication, and participated in readings of poetry. This seems to be beneficial for all concerned: beginning writers learn about the creative kitchen from the inside, gain experience and encouragement, while established authors get to share their experience.

As can be seen, the general state of the Lithuanian Writers Union as an organization is not bad, but it is not terribly happy either. The most dire situation is for the writers union periodicals. The weekly Literatūra ir menas [Literature and Art], and the Kaunas chapter’s biweekly Nemunas are supported by funds from the Ministry of Culture and the Press, Radio, and Television Fund. In other words, they are financed out of the state budget. The problem is that that financing diminishes every year because the state, unfortunately, does not consider the cultural press to be a priority. Sometimes promised funds arrive 3-4 months late, and the cultural publications are left to vegetate, sinking into debt, failing to pay authors, lowering standards of quality, decreasing volume. The situation of the literary monthly, Metai [Years], is better, but the trend is clear – publications are forced to vegetate. One drastic solution would be to close them up and publish only one rather than three, or simply allow them to vegetate until they slip away on their own. Either way, Lithuania is in danger of not having a quality literary publication in the near future. Unfortunately, no steps are being taken to remedy the situation, either by the state or the writers union. The situation remains precarious and uncertain.

The publishing house of the Lithuanian Writers Union is doing better. It remains the primary publisher of Lithuanian poetry, and has the greatest number of Lithuanian authors to its credit. One pleasant change – last year the publisher took up a greater interest in foreign literature and began publishing more European novels, and soon an anthology of Icelandic poetry and several collections of particular foreign poets will appear.

2015 saw quite a lot of international cooperation within the region. Relations were strengthened with Eastern European countries: Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and the Kaliningrad district. International connections were strengthened through various projects in these countries: literary translation workshops, international forums, festivals and other events.

However, currently, participation in international events is problematic because writers have trouble getting financial compensation for travel expenses if they do not get an invitation to an event six months ahead of time or more (in order to ask for an educational stipend). So it was suggested to LWU members that they participate in a general application to the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture to help LWU members go to international events by compensating them for travel expenses.

In 2016, Lithuanian Writers Union members are slated to participate in international events in Poland, USA, Ireland, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Germany, Czechia and Russia.

As happens every year, there were two large and fundamental poetry festivals organized in Lithuania: Poetry Spring and Druskininkai Poetic Fall. The international Poetry Spring festival occurred, as always, during the last two weeks of May. Last year, it saw it’s 51st incarnation, one of the oldest continuous poetry festivals in Europe. And during those 51 years the festival has hardly changed – it is still gigantic in terms of participants, events and places travelled. The festival occurs not only throughout Lithuania but also outside its borders, in Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, France, Russia.

There are some problems with the festival. The number of genuinely strong Lithuanian poets who participate is rather small, probably because many have become tired of the rather official events and don’t want to be part of a two week long marathon. There are problems also in relation to the foreign guests, primarily the same eternal problem – a lack of funds. Often only second or third rate poets are invited, which depreciates the festival’s meaning and scale. The festival should be reformed – with fewer events; it should become more of a chamber festival rather than a sprawling symphony, but that will be hard to accomplish at the present time.

October saw its 25th annual, international Druskininkai Poetic Fall festival. Unlike Poetry Spring, it has a span of only a few days, is more closed, focused more on writers, publishers and translators. Last year’s theme was “Fear: To Write or Not to Write?”. The conference included in the festival hosted a discussion of writer’s block – looking into the psychological and other causes that interfere with a writer’s ability to create.

Last year, the festival began to work with the European poetry project “Versopolis” that currently includes 15 countries and their poetry festivals. Versopolis is a Creative Europe project as part of the European Commission program. The aim is to introduce young poets who are known in their own countries to the wider audience of other European countries. The project’s goal is to promote poetry and create a tight-knit web of poetic communities throughout Europe.

Last year, five poets from Poland, Sweden, Slovakia, Belgium and Great Britain participated in the Druskininkai Poetic Fall. Five young Lithuanian poets similarly participated in literary festivals in Slovenia, France, Austria, Sweden and elsewhere.

This year, the Lithuanian Writers Union has taken up two interesting initiatives having to do with the promotion of Lithuanian literature. One is the soon to be reborn Lithuanian literature journal focused on readers abroad (and that used to be published in Russian and English). The Vilnius Review will now be an internet website, regularly publishing Lithuanian fiction, poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction in translation, as well as polemical essays about Lithuanian literature, book reviews, and audiovisual material. The website is still under construction, but is expected to be up and running by the middle of May. I will let this center know when the Vilnius Review is fully functional, for I think it will be of interest to all of you.

The other initiative mentioned above that should also see concrete fruition this year is the publication of an anthology of poetry in translation. This anthology will be published once a year and will include translations of poetry from various countries around the world, reviews of translated poetry published in Lithuania, theoretical essays on poetry and translation written by the world’s poets, and a bibliography of poetry translations in Lithuania. Such an anthology was greatly needed because most of the translations published in the literary press are quickly forgotten and fall into oblivion.

The Lithuanian Writers Union decided to vary the yearly gathering of members this year by organizing an open conference on contemporary Lithuanian literature to take place after the member’s meeting. This is a genuinely useful and welcome initiative that will bring writers together with those who have an interest in literature. I think that such an initiative could be welcomed also by the Baltic countries council because we all have points of agreement, similar problems and need to share and consider them together.

THE YEAR 2015 marked an important milestone for the Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters (SKTL) as
the Association celebrated its 60th anniversary. The main focus of the year was to increase the visibility of translators
and interpreters.
The anniversary was celebrated in a banquet held in April 2015 in Helsinki. In the banquet, the annual awards for
literary translations were handed out by Finland’s first lady, the President’s spouse, poet Jenni Haukio. The Mikael
Agricola award for best fiction translation published in 2014 was given to Juhani Lindholm for the Finnish translation
of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and the J. A. Hollo award for best non-fiction translation was handed out to
Jyrki Kallio for the Finnish translation of the Analects of Confucius. In addition to these awards, the awards for nonliterary
translators, audiovisual translators and interpreters were also handed out.
In November (6th to 26th), SKTL held an anniversary exhibition in Culture Center Caisa in Helsinki, celebrating and
introducing the work of translators and interpreters in all its variety. The exhibition included both visual art, texts,
videos and literature as well as a photo collage of 60 translators and interpreters. In addition to this, numerous public
lectures and workshops describing the work of translators and interpreters were held.
The Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters has 1789 members (31/12/2015). The Association consists of
five divisions: the literary (I), non-literary (II) and audiovisual translators (III), the interpreters (IV), and the teachers
and researchers (V), and three local branches in Turku, Tampere and Vaasa. The divisions and branches have arranged
several meetings, trainings, and other activities related to their specific area of interest. The focus of this report is on the
first division, that is, the literary translators’ division, which has 392 members.
The main activities of the literary division in 2015 were:
 Participating in the Culture Minister’s annual question hour in February and the annual budget hearing of the
Ministry of Culture in October, and otherwise working to promote the position and working conditions of
literary translators in Finland.
 Participating in the annual Book Fair both in Turku and Helsinki.
 Monthly meetings that included both lectures and discussions about matters that are important for translators.
For example, in our November meeting, Morten Visby, the President of the Danish Literary Translators,
visited us and told us about the e-book contracts they have accomplished in Denmark.
 The division also participated in setting up a lecture series concerning literary translation with the University
of Helsinki. The lectures were held by experienced literary translators and researchers and were open for both
students and professional translators. The lecture series was praised and the co-operation with the University of
Helsinki will continue in 2016, as well.
As a conclusion: in 2015, SKTL celebrated its 60th anniversary with a banquet, exhibition and lecture series, focused in
defending the rights and developing the working conditions of translators and interpreters, aimed to increase the
visibility of translators and interpreters, offered guidance, training and several social events to members and worked
together with several other associations and organizations both nationally and internationally.
Written by Oona Timonen, Chair of the literary division in 2016

Jukka-Pekka Pietiäinen

The Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers

Last year, 2015, was the most successful one in the history of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers; this applies to both finances and activities. More events than ever before were held all round Finland and the number of Association members is over 3,100.

Elokuussa 2015 vietettiin Tietokirjaviikkoa. Viikon jokaisena päivänä oli tarjolla tietokirjaohjelmaa ja -sisältöä. Helsingissä järjestettiin the two-day non-fiction festival (TIETOKIRJA.FI), nyt viidennen kerran. The speakers was? again over a hundred writers and lovers of non-fiction.

Lähetimme lasten ja nuorten tietokirjailijoita kirjastoihin kertomaan kirjoistaan ja lukemaan niitä. Julkaisimme videon, jossa koululaiset kertovat millainen on hyvä oppikirja. Tulokset olivat yllättäviä. Koululaiset pitävät enemmän perinteisistä painetuista kirjoista kuin sähköisistä oppimateriaaleista.

The Association awarded a record total of EUR 2.3 million in grants. These grants are financed out of copying fees collected by the Kopiosto Copyright Society. Tämä tulee jäämään ennätykseksi, koska valokopiointi vähenee nopeasti, eikä digitaalinen kopiointi korvaa sitä. Lisäksi digitaalisessa maailmassa kopioidaan enemmän kuvaa ja lehteä kuin tietokirjaa.

A course for writers of non-fiction is held now four times. The topics of the six-day training were non-fiction culture in general, non-fiction writing skills, copyrights and publishing agreements, being a non-fiction writer, publishing skills, and digital publication. Training in other subjects was also arranged. Suosittuja ovat olleet muun muassa Tietokirja ja kuva –koulutus ja sosiaalista mediaa käsittelevä koulutus

The Association published an article collection “QUALITY! Teaching materials in the changing information environment”.

Parliament doubled the sum set aside for fees payable on loans from libraries, to become effective in 2015. It now stands at over EUR 8 million. Promises have been made that it will be raised to the level of the other Nordic countries in the next few years; this would require an increase of at least EUR 6 million. Remuneration is at present paid only on loans from public libraries. It is our hope that the scheme will in future be expanded to include loans from teaching and research libraries, too.

Writers earn little. Royalties are small. Hence the need for library lending fees, copying fees and grants. Luckily quite a few non-fiction writers have a second occupation, as teachers, university lecturers, researchers, journalists, coaches and consultants. The number of freelancers, i.e. self-employed persons, has risen rapidly due to, among other things, the sweeping changes taking place in the media.

Society of Swedish Authors in Finland

The Society of Swedish Authors in Finland (Finlands svenska forfattareförening) is the central organisation of Swedish-language writers in Finland. It was founded in 1919.

The aim of the Society

From the start the Society was described as “purely a professional union of fiction writers, critics and essayists”. The main aim was, and still is, to safeguard the general and economic interests of the Swedish-language writers in Finland and to promote Swedish-language literature in Finland. Problems confronting us at that time, as well as at present, are mostly economical, in addition to questions concerning copyright.


The Society can be joined by a Swedish-language writer in Finland who has published at least two original works of fiction in Swedish.

At present the Society has 192 members; 89 men (47%) and 103 women (53%).

Areas of special interest

Areas of special interest are contracts between authors and publishers, exercising proper influence on copyright legislation, defending the free lending of books in public libraries and the compensation therefore to the authors (the Public Lending Right-system, PLR), working for more government scholarships to authors and more artists’ state pensions, social security for authors and a lower VAT on e-books as well as books printed on paper.

The secondary use of literature such as copying on paper and digital copying, broadcasting and use in television etc. are handled through collecting societies, mainly Kopiosto, founded in 1980 and Sanasto, founded in 2005.


It is of great importance to the writers to have representatives in committees and boards dealing with the topics mentioned above – this refers to governmental committees as well as private ones. The Society is represented in all vital committees.

Co-operation with other organisations, national and international

The Society closely co-operates with other similar organisations, such as the Union of Finnish Writers, translators’ and dramatists’ unions and many more.

International co-operation is channelled mainly through the Nordic Writers´ and Translators’ Council, the European Writers’ Council, the Baltic Writers’ Council and the International Writers’ and Translators’ Center of Rhodes.