The Urantia Book Hits St. Petersburg

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Seppo Kanerva

Report from Seppo Kanerva

On 21 June 1999 a number of helpful reader activists assisted the staff of Urantia Foundation's Helsinki office in carrying 900 Russian Urantia Books from the basement storage room up on pallets, which a couple of hours later were picked up by a trailer lorry bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. A week later, on 28 June, the books were, after last minute panicky telephone calls and fax messages, finally cleared out from the Customs House to their lawful recipient and for the Russian book market.

The Russian translation of The Urantia Book was published in March 1997 but it soon became evident that the distribution of the book in Russia would be a very tortuous business. The Foundation participated in the Moscow International Book Fair in September 1997 which gave an opportunity to get 500 copies into Russia and to the avid Russian readers. Before and after that the distribution has happened almost haphazardly from the Helsinki office, with occasional visitors taking five or ten copies and carrying them in their luggage across the border. This kind of an arrangement, of course, is no permanent solution to the distribution problems. The Foundation representative in Moscow, Natalya Shidlovskaya worked very hard on this problem. She had everything ready; the complex paperwork was almost done, a company entitled to import books had been formed, the necessary foreign currency bank account had been opened, and then the Russian bank crisis smashed this prospect altogether and at one stroke in late August 1998. Natalya's bank went bankrupt, she lost all her personal money and the Foundation money along with hers. The focus shifted from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Before the crowning and lucky episode of 28 June, a lot had happened in the course of about a year of concerted efforts by Vitaly G. Kondratyev, the Chicago office, the Foundation lawyers, and the Foundation's Moscow and Helsinki offices. The person who finally, thanks to his persistency and indomitable detennination, made all this happen is Vitaly Gennadevich Kondratyev of St. Petersburg. He knew which Russian authorities to accost and where to go for advice and information. He drafted and translated the many indispensable, but long and complex, documents and contracts, and he put almost all of his time into this project. He founded a separate limited company for book imports and distribution, had the company registered with the Russian authorities, applied for and was granted a tax-free status for the books, and took good care of every minute detail. One of the Foundation Trustees said that this exploit would entitle us to toast a glass of champagne with Vitaly. Concurrently with the Russian books arriving in St. Petersburg, Vitaly and his helpers were involved in another related event: The new distribution company attended, for the first time, the book fair in St. Petersburg-the St. Petersburg Book Salon, 23 through 25 June. Vitaly reports that this event too was a great success!

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