Over 200 writers from across the globe have joined PEN in calling for the repeal of punitive new laws that severely restrict freedom of expression in Russia. In an open letter to the Russian authorities published in The Guardian today, writers, artists, Nobel laureates, and leading figures from around the world urge Russia to fully respect freedom of expression and create an environment in which all citizens are free to express their views.

President Vladimir Putin
23, Ilyinka Street
Moscow, 1031132

Dear President Putin,

The story of modern Russia is the story of dramatic, almost seismic change. Russian voices, both literary and journalistic, have always striven to make themselves heard above the clamour of their nation’s unfolding story – commenting on it, shaping it and, in doing so, contributing to the political and intellectual shape of the world far beyond their country’s borders.

But during the last 18 months, Russian lawmakers have passed a number of laws that place a choke hold on the right to express oneself freely in Russia. As writers and artists, we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts.

Three of these laws specifically put writers at risk: the so-called gay ‘propaganda’ and ‘blasphemy’ laws, prohibiting the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and ‘religious insult’ respectively, and the re-criminalisation of defamation.

A healthy democracy must hear the independent voices of all its citizens; the global community needs to hear, and be enriched by, the diversity of Russian opinion.

We therefore urge the Russian authorities to repeal these laws that strangle free speech, to recognise Russia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect freedom of opinion, expression and belief—including the right not to believe—and to commit itself to creating an environment in which all citizens can experience the benefit of the free exchange of opinion.


Raficq Abdulla (Acting President, English PEN), United Kingdom
Edward Albee, United States
Max Alhau, France
Gabrielle Alioth, Switzerland
Jon Lee Anderson, United States
René Appel (President, Netherlands PEN), Netherlands
Anthony Appiah, Ghana/United States
Carme Arenas (President, PEN Catalan), Spain
John Ashbery, United States
Margaret Atwood (Vice-President, PEN International), Canada
Paul Auster, United States
Vladislav Bajac, Serbia
Tomica Bajsić , Croatia
Russell Banks, United States
Linwood Barclay, Canada
Neetha Barclay, Canada
Niels Barfoed (Vice-President, PEN International), Denmark
Julian Barnes, United Kingdom
Ulrich Beck, Germany
Helaine Becker, Canada
Bei Ling (President, Independent Chinese PEN Center), China
Gioconda Belli (President , Nicaragua PEN), Nicaragua
Eugene Benson, Ireland/Canada
David Bezmozgis, Canada
Neil Bissoondath, Canada
Marian Botsford Fraser (Chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee), Canada
Nadezda Cacinovic (President, Croatian PEN), Croatia
Magda Carneci (President, Romania PEN ), Romania
Robert Chang, Taiwan/United States
Chen Maiping, China
Daniel Cil Brecher, Netherlands
Sylvestre Clancier, France
Jennifer Clement, United States/Mexico
Tony Cohan, United States
Karen Connelly, Canada
Miriam Cosic, Australia
Françoise Coulmin, France
Susan Coyne, Canada
Laurel Croza, Canada
Lorna Crozier, Canada
Angel Cuadra, Cuba
Bei Dao, China
Michelle de Kretser, Australia
Ron Deibert, Canada
Antonio Della Rocca  (President, Trieste PEN ), Italy
Louise Dennys, Canada
Jean-Luc Despax (President, French PEN Centre), France
E.L. Doctorow, United States
Veronika Dolina, Russia
Ariel Dorfman, Chile/USA
Daša Drndić, Croatia
Carol Ann Duffy, Scotland
Jennifer Egan, United States
Elisabeth Eide, Norway
Jeffrey Eugenides, United States
Cary Fagan, Canada
Terry Fallis, Canada
Sheree Fitch, Canada
Charles Foran, Canada
Jonathan Franzen, United States
Jostein Gaarder, Norway
Bigeldy Gabdullin (President, Kazakhstan PEN ), Kazakhstan
Neil Gaiman, United Kingdom
Steven Galloway, Canada
Sergey Gandlevskiy, Russia
Gao Yu, China
Helen Garner, Australia
Masha Gessen, Russia/United States
Ralph Giordano, Germany
Jo Glanville (Director, English PEN), United Kingdom
Peter Godwin (President, PEN American Center), United States
Alexander Gorodnitskiy, Russia
Katherine Govier, Canada
Günter Grass, Germany
Charlotte Gray, Canada
Arnon Grunberg, Netherlands
Gloria Guardia (Vice-President, PEN International), Panama
Michael Guggenheimer (President, Swiss-German PEN ), Switzerland
Kirsty Gunn , New Zealand/Scotland
Mark Harris, United States
Josef Haslinger (President, German PEN ), Germany
Anders Heger, Norway
Gert Heidenreich, Germany
Christoph Hein, Germany
Markéta Hejkalová, Czech Republic
Aleksandar Hemon, Bosnia
Jo Hermann, Denmark
Sheila Heti, Canada
Lawrence Hill, Canada
Srećko Horvat, Croatia
Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Finland
Siri Hustvedt, United States
Igor Irteniev, Russia
Elfriede Jelinek, Austria
Anders Jerichow (President, Danish PEN), Denmark
Evelyn Juers, Australia
Sirpa Kähkönen, Finland
Kätlin Kaldmaa (President, Estonia PEN ), Estonia
Entela Kasi (President, Albanian PEN), Albania
Lucina Kathmann (Vice-President, PEN International), United States/Mexico
Aki Kaurismäki, Finland
Thomas Keneally, Australia
Oleg Khlebnikov, Russia
Freya Klier, Germany
Indrek Koff, Estonia
Jukka Koskelainen, Finland
Myrna Kostash, Canada
Michael Krueger, Germany
Olga Kuchkina, Russia
Herkus Kuncius (President, Lithuaninan PEN), Lithuania
Günter Kunert (President, German Speaking Writers Abroad PEN), Germany
Tony Kushner, United States
Jukka Laajarinne, Finland
Vincent Lam, Canada
Patrick Lane, Canada
Jennifer Lanthier, Canada
Ola Larsmo (President, Swedish PEN ), Sweden
Eric Lax, United States
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman (Vice-President, PEN International), United States
Jonathan Lethem, United States
Daniel Leuwers, France
Liu Di, China
Raymond Louw, South Arica
Annabel Lyon, Canada
Ma Jian, China
Kyo Maclear, Canada
Michael MacLennan, Canada
David Malouf, Australia
Emile Martel (President, PEN Quebec), Canada
Yann Martel, Canada
Tienchi Martin-Liao, Taiwan/Germany
John Massey, Canada
Ian McEwan, United Kingdom
Christine McKenzie (President, Melbourne PEN), Australia
George Melnyk, Canada
Rohinton Mistry, India/Canada
Carl Morten Iversen, Norway
Erwin Mortier, Belgium
Andrei Nekrasov, Russia
Susin Nielsen, Canada
Andrej Nikolaidis, Bosnia
Valery Nikolayev, Russia
Peter Normann Waage, Norway
Suzanne Nossel (Executive Director, PEN American Center), United States
Markus Nummi, Finland
Abdizhamil Nurpeisov, Kazakhstan
William Nygaard (President, Norwegian PEN ), Norway
Vida Ognjenovic (Vice-President, PEN International), Serbia
Debbie Ohi, Canada
Alix Ohlin, Canada
Sofi Oksanen, Finland
Michael Ondaatje, Sri Lanka/Canada
Margie Orford (Executive Vice-President, South African PEN), South Africa
Lauri Otonkoski, Finland
Orhan Pamuk, Turkey
Eeva Park, Estonia
Leena Parkkinen, Finland
Laurence Paton, France
Nelofer Pazira, Afghanistan/Canada
Riikka Pelo, Finland
Ching-His Perng (President, Tapei Chinese PEN ), Taiwan
Tone Peršak, Slovenia
DBC Pierre, Ireland
Alek Popov, Bulgaria
Francine Prose, United States
Philippe Pujas, France
Qi Jiazhen, China/Australia
Simon Racioppa, Canada
John Ralston Saul (President, PEN International), Canada
Rein Raud, Estonia
Andrea Reiter, United Kingdom
Nino Ricci, Canada
Tanis Rideout, Canada
Clayton Ruby, Canada
Salman Rushdie, United Kingdom/United States
Yuri Ryashentsev, Russia
Alejandro Sánchez-Aizcorbe, Peru
Peter Schneider, Germany
Eugene Schoulgin (Vice-President, PEN International), Norway/Turkey
Ingo Schulze, Germany
William Schwalbe, United States
Ellen Seligman, United States/Canada
Elif Shafak, Turkey
Haroon Siddiqui , Canada
Larry Siems, United States
Alexey Simonov, Russia
Sjón  (President, Iceland PEN ), Iceland
Marsha Skrypuch, Ukraine/Canada
Philip Slayton (President, PEN Canada ), Canada
Sarah Slean, Canada
Ali Smith, Scotland
Wole Soyinka, Nigeria
Klaus Staeck, Germany
Peter Stamm, Switzerand
Guy Stern, Germany
Patricia Storms, Canada
Irina Surat, Russia
Hori Takeaki (International Secretary, PEN International), Japan
Janne Teller, Denmark
Ma Thida (President, Myanmar PEN), Myanmar
Francois Thisdale, Canada
Uwe Timm, Germany
Jarkko Tontti (President, Finnish PEN Centre), Finland
Ilija Trojanow, Bulgaria/Germany
Ludmila Ulitskaya, Russia
Jane Urquhart, Canada
Joke van Leeuwen, Netherlands
David Van Reybrouck (President, Belgium PEN ), Belgium
Fred Viebahn, Germany/United States
Peter von Bagh, Finland
Per Wästberg, Sweden
Kjell Westö, Finland
Janice Williamson, Canada
Yang Lian, China
Smagul Yelubay, Kazakhstan
Zhang Yu, China
Zhao Shiying, China