Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Burning in Russian Patriotic Camp Outrages Some Children and Their Parents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 3 – The burning of books is an outrage that recalls one of the horrific features of Hitler’s Third Reich, and consequently, both Russian children at a patriotic camp near Novosibirsk and their parents were upset when camp organizers proposed that they take part in a book burning at the end of their stay in the camp.

            Fortunately, the details of this case may be somewhat less horrific than one might expect from some news reports and opposition to what happened greater, but it is nonetheless a dangerous breaking of a powerful taboo against such actions and thus opens the way to copycat crimes of a similar type elsewhere in the Russian Federation.

            The fullest account so far of what happened has been provided by Novosibirsk television (

            The station reports that at the end of their time in the camp, “it was proposed to the young sportsmen that they take part in the burning of books, including some about the war.”  One young man said the leaders had “decided to organize a farewell fire” in which old books would be burned and asked the children to bring tree branches to make the fire go faster.

            The youngster, raised to have the greatest respect for books, “was in shock at the actions of the adults,” the television station says.  He “decided to save the most valuable things – stories about the war.”

            His mother was upset too: “We make every May 9th with the children [who] are the great grandchildren of those who fought in the war a family holiday.”  Consequently, she said, her son reacted to the burning of such books in a very sharp way.

            This “anti-patriotic action took place where one would least expect it – in a camp which proudly bears the name of the glorious Russian Admiral Nakhimov,” the station continued. Burning “about 60 old books,” many of them about naval explorers, was thus something extremely shocking.

            No one at the camp denies that books were burned, but “they assert that the intention was other” than what some thing. “After a recent small fire in a neighboring camp, the directive came to immediately get rid” of old books that no one needed and whose content supposedly caused “more harm than good.”

            Among the books, however, were some in the series of “Lives of Remarkable People,” including biographies of Gorky and Dobrolyubov, according to the camp nurse.

            The camp director said that her staff had “assembled the books to be backed and carried oaway. But they lost control over the process,” and someone, as yet unidentified, had taken them and burned them. She said that for her, as a philologist and teacher of Russian language and literature, “this was a sacrilege.”

            She pledged to find out “who gave the order to burn the books. Recycling them is fine; burning them is not.”


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