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Leonid Levin's Printing Press
Leonid Levin's Printing Press

With its regular exposures of corruption, Leonid Levin, founder of the independent daily Yakutsk Vecherny (YV) in the Republic of Sakha, near the Arctic Circle in the far east of Russia, has won plenty of friends. But the paperís unflinching support for the rights of ordinary citizens against the authorities has also made many enemies.

When Leonid first began publishing the paper in 1994, the authorities used the state monopoly on the local printing house to try to force YV out of business. They charged inflated prices and missed deadlines so it was late on the streets. Then they refused to print issues of the paper they found too critical and, finally, in 2000 told YV that they would not print the newspaper at all.

With the next printing house more than 1,000km away, Leonid decided that there was only one solution. He took the bold step of borrowing money from friends, flying to Moscow and buying an old printing press. He put the press on a cargo plane, built an improvised printing house and within two weeks was printing his own newspaper.

But an old printing press has only a limited lifespan, and with YV wanting to launch new publications, by 2005 Leonid knew he had to replace the press. Unable to borrow funds locally and with the threat of a return to the state printing house looming, Leonid obtained a low-cost loan from MDLF and bought two presses.

After a hair-raising delivery across the cityís frozen river, YVís presses now outperform the state printing house and may even put it out of business. They have provided the extra income and stability YV needs to pursue its next goal: building its own distribution system, including a network of kiosks and a small fleet of trucks to deliver newspapers across this Arctic landscape.

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