In Soviet-era Russia, publishers had dedicated censors responsible for approving printed material. Many things were prohibited, and the rules were clear. In modern Russia, ostensibly censorship is banned, but complex laws and ambiguous threats have made contemporary publishers far more conservative. Over at The Intercept, Masha Gessen takes a look at how Putin has successfully censored publishing houses without outright bans:
The fear of the censor has been replaced, to a great extent, by the fear of losing money. If a publishing house puts out a book that stores will not sell, it will face losses. Like when Danishevsky was readying an edition of the Russian emigre classic Romance with Cocaine, from the 1930s, and could secure no pre-orders. None. Booksellers were worried about the ban on the propaganda of drug use, which has been used to confiscate even harm-reduction booklets put out by AIDS organizations.