"I would love to translate the whole book myself!" William Milonoff, co-chairman of the St. Petersburg Youth Liberal Club, says of Atlas Shrugged. "But I don't have the time."
With several friends, Milonoff, a former economics student who studied English for 11 years, began translating the works of Ayn Rand into Russian in the fall of 1992—just for the heck of it. Now the Liberal Club—an offshoot of Russia's Free Democratic Party established in January for young business people and students to meet weekly for coffee and discussion of news and economics—oversees the translation and publication arrangements for Rand's works.
We the Living and Anthem are ready to go to press, and eight college students are busy translating Atlas Shrugged. Fluent in English, the students are working for pocket money, earning about a dollar a page.
Milonoff says the Liberal Club also hopes to begin publishing a series of classical-liberal works in Russian, starting with Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson and then maybe Frédéric Bastiat's The Law. He estimates that translation and printing should take about two or three months for each book.
"Distribution is not a problem at all," says Milonoff, because schools, universities, and wholesalers are eager to have the books on their shelves. But money is another matter: The club planned to print 10,000 to 15,000 each of Rand's books. Yet under the agreement with the Ayn Rand Institute in Los Angeles, which owns the copyrights to Rand's writings and has extended those rights to Milonoff's group for three years, the club must print a minimum of 50,000 copies of each book—a much more costly undertaking. A spokeswoman for the institute declined to discuss the arrangement.
Nonetheless, Milonoff is optimistic about the long-term success of his group's publication venture. "In Russia right now people are interested in just one business: trade," he explains, and the business-driven atmosphere is highly receptive to what he calls the club's "free-market attack on Russia."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Rand in Russian".