“The translation of the book of the Fuhrer “Mein Kampf” tops the readers’ choice in Latvia”, “Latvians are more interested in the book of Adolf Hitler than books about Harry Potter”, “What Latvians ask for”.
These headlines were featured in many Russian language news sites on 2 April, bringing “sensational” news to their readers. Namely that, for the first week of April, the Latvian online book trading platform ibook.lv listed Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf as number one, followed by Saplēstās mežģīnes (Torn Lacework) by Karīna Kopmane Račko as number two, while the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, ranked lower!
baltnews.lv was one of the first publishers of the news on the craving of Latvians for the programmatically philosophical book written in 1924 by German National Socialist leader Hitler. They were followed by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation mouthpiece Zvezda, the website komprava.eu of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda and many other Russian language resources. The news then spread to social networks, where a harsh battle of words broke out on Twitter between the propagandist Armen Gasparyan, who is popular in Russia, and the Ambassador of Latvia to Moscow Māris Riekstiņš.
This news, about the position of books on ibook.lv, lacked the required drive, therefore the portals elaborated on it using their own interpretations. kompravad.eu gave in to indulging in this wild fantasy: “You should not be too surprised about the popularity of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Latvia. On 16 March this year, a traditional shameful “brown” march was held in Old Riga, with, presumably, a record number of foreign journalists arriving to observe it.” It is only in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, where you can observe how “with the support of the official power, parliament deputies and ministers, Nazism is being reborn” and how neither the police, nor other institutions notice the “swastikas on the sleeves or Nazi salutes”...
Other websites also connected the alleged popularity of Mein Kampf with 16 March, i.e. “the revival of Nazism” in Latvia. “It would be wrong to expect anything else in a state, where the veterans of the local SS legion are honoured,” Gasparyan writes.
Some websites added that the respective conclusion on the active reading of the book has been made based on “analysis of demand in Latvian book stores.”
The book trading platform ibook.lv, which the exposers of Latvian Nazis so zealously referred to, is not a portal where books are read. It is a site where books are bought, sold and exchanged. Mein Kampf indeed, for some reason, topped the list of the most sought after books in early April; however, it is difficult to judge how such a result occurred (the administration of the website failed to react to requests asking for them to comment on this result).
Artificial demand could have also be created deliberately; by using computer software to imitate requests and consequently raising demand.
However, clicking on the respective link for the “top” book on the site demonstrates that the Latvian translation published in 1995, which has already become a bibliographical rarity, has only been offered for sale four times, but no buyers wished to purchase it.
"Statistics from the National Library of Latvia (LNB) show that demand for Mein Kampf at the library in 2017 was negligible; the number of requests for this book placed by readers amounted to 10 requests in Latvian and three in Russian. The book has not been requested either in German or in English over the last year. The results were similar or even lower than in previous years.
"The motivation to order such a book, as with any other book, may, naturally, be diverse – research, studies, idle interest, although the collection of LNB is usually used by people pursuing academic objectives”, comments Augusts Zilberts, the Public Relations Manager of LNB.
"From personal experience, it must be noted that one would have a hard time finding a person, even among historians of Latvia, who have read this book as a historical source of its time. Not to mention the average Latvian reader! The people who have attempted to read it, have said that Hitler’s creation is boring and delirious.
"Furthermore, ibook.lv can hardly be believed to represent an objective demonstration of the situation in the book sales business or the characterisation of reading habits. As Ambassador Māris Reikstiņš replied on his Twitter account to the triumphant tweet of Gasparyan – “everyone, who wishes to know what books are actually bought and read in Latvia, are advised to address the largest book stores @JanisRoze; @valtersunrapa; @zvaigzneabc". Of course, none of them have ever traded or are currently trading Hitler’s book, therefore, there is no way it can appear in any of the most read book lists.”
It must be added that Mein Kampf has only been published in Latvia once. In Russia this book has had at least four publications, excluding the early 30s translation in the USSR, when it was published in limited edition for top party officials. Currently the book is included in the list of prohibited extremist literature in Russia; however, the text of the book is easily accessible on the internet.
The preparation of this report was supported by the Latvian Ministry of Culture