Sunday, November 1, 2015

Purging of Russian Libraries Spreads to Scholarly Works

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – Following the attack on the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, Russian officials have begun to call on the directors of other libraries to remove from their shelves books that the authorities find objectionable for one reason or another, according to a report in “Vedomosti.”

            Lena Mukhametshina, a journalist for that Moscow paper, reports that the librarians are calling this “’a purge of libraries,’” and she describes one case in which Russian officials asked the Central Chidlren’s Library to remove from its shelves a book on nationalism in Central Asia (

            The librarians have issued a statement saying that they had been “politely asked to remove” a monography by St. Petersburg University anthropologist Sergey Abashin entitled “Nationalism in Central Asia: In Search of Identity.”  They say that they have removed the book from the shelves but will provide it to anyone who asks for it.

            That book considers the formation of nations in Central Asia over the last two centuries and the relationship of ethnicity to other forms of identity such as regionalism, Islam, and clans and how this process has occurred under the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the post-Soviet states.

            The request that the book be removed from the shelves came from the library system for the central district, the librarians said. Efforts by Mukhametshina to get the library system officials to explain their action failed because no one at that bureaucracy’s headquarters would answer her phone calls.

            The book in question was published with the support of the Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research and the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2007 by the Aletey publishing house. “It has never been found extremist by any Russian court or prohibited on the territory of Russia,” the “Vedomosti” journalist points out.

            The book’s author told her that he had just found out about this and hardly knows what to think.  “It would be good to hear the motives behind such a recommendation and who precisely conducted this checking,” Abashin says.  “I can only suppose that someone was upset by the word ‘nationalism’ in the title. I doubt they looked inside and read this academic text.”

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