Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Russia’s Libraries Told to Remove ‘Objectionable’ Books from Shelves and Send Them to Be Burned, Lebedenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 20 – One of the most powerfully disturbing pictures from Nazi Germany are of crowds throwing books by Jews and others Hitler didn’t approve into the fire in order that no one would be able to read them. Now, the Putin regime appears to be pursuing the same goal but in a quieter way lest it spark an international outcry.

            Sergey Lebedenko, a journalist and literary observer, says that “at the end of last week,” the authorities sent a list of books to Moscow librarians directing that they be removed from the shelves, made inaccessible and then not stored but sent to be burned (newizv.ru/news/culture/20-12-2022/to-li-sozhgut-to-li-spryachut-iz-bibliotek-moskvy-izymayut-knigi-znamenityh-avtorov).

            Lebedenko provides a photograph of the list and notes that among the books to be processed in this way are works by Vasily Rozanov, Eduard Limonov and even the great Soviet sexologist Igor Kon, all of whom have written among homosexuality and thus must be excluded because of Russia’s latest anti-LGBT law.

            “No one is going to just hide these books in storage,” he continues. “Their issuance to patrons will be blocked by the electronic system.” Still worse, the books on the list that are to be burned, a fate more final than being put into special facilities (spetskhran) as the Soviet powers did earlier.

            According to Lebedenko, “the final solution – no pun intended – seems to have been taken by the library directors, but they will be required to provide documentation that they have sent the books for disposal,” an indication that the real order came from higher up. “The only hope lies with the conscience and courage of librarians to resist covertly.”

            Unfortunately, he reports, the system is already working: One book he tried to check out that was available in 34 Moscow libraries last week is not to be found in any of them. Lebedenko and others like journalist Georgy Bovt fear that the ban on books about gays is not the end and that the ban will be extended to other books the powers think “objectionable.”

            Russian officials and pro-Kremlin commentators like Sergey Markov are noisily denying that such a list exists, claims that will muddy the waters as far as news coverage is concerned but do nothing to call into serious question the list and other information that Lebedenko is now reporting.

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