Friday, November 10, 2023

To Borrow Books by ‘Foreign Agents,’ Russians Now Must Show Their Passports in Some Russian Libraries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 7 – Libraries in some Russian cities but not yet in Moscow or St. Petersburg are now requiring anyone who wants to borrow a book written by someone on the Russian government’s “foreign agents” list to show a passport in order to prevent such books from going into the hands of youngsters under 18.

            The practice has been introduced in Krasnoyarsk and Omsk and could spread to other cities. If so, it will simultaneously limit Russians’ access to 28 Russian authors now on the list and create a dangerous precedent for Moscow to use to discourage everyone there from reading their works.

            Officials at libraries in Moscow deny that they have introduced this practice ( and

            Despite the likelihood this practice will spread, it is worth noting for other reasons as well. On the one hand, Moscow is obviously test-marketing this repressive measure far from the center where foreign journalists and embassy personnel would be more likely to notice it and react critically, possibly forcing the Putin regime to back down.

            And on the other, by presenting this step even in Siberian cities as a means of protecting children from supposedly harmful influences, Moscow clearly hopes to distract attention from what it is really seeking to do not only for those under 18 but for all Russians, few of whom welcome having to present their passports on such occasions.

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