A Penguin Classics poster campaign featuring a quote from Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons has been accused of stirring up "ethnic hatred".
The adverts, which ran in London undergound stations for two weeks from the 23rd May, featured the quote “Aristocracy, liberalism, progress, principles … Useless words! A Russian doesn’t need them!”, drawing angry responses on social media and prompting an online petition calling for the "anti-Russian" posters to be removed.
The petition on change.org addressed to Markus Dohle said the posters had "disgracefully twisted" the meaning of the quote, pointing to a longer version of it: "Aristocracy, liberalism, progress, principles ... what a lot of foreign ... and useless words. A Russian would not want them as a gift."
It further branded the campaign "an absolute disgrace", protesting that PRH had intentionally chosen to take the quote's "true meaning out of context", also by not attributing the quote, and accused PRH of "resorting to these nasty tricks" to add "shock value" to its marketing.
A Penguin spokesperson said: “The Pocket Penguins series features 20 great works of literature which we believe are true classics and should be read the world over. Alongside Turgenev, there are books by Tolstoy, Gorky, Bulgakov, and it is testimony to the quality of Russian writers that they make up such a large proportion of the series. Our poster campaign is designed to intrigue people to find out more and introduce them to books we believe they will treasure. The campaign is intended as a celebration of these wonderful books.”
The poster campaign has now ended.