Authorities in a resource-rich territory in Russia are on a witch-hunt for books deemed subversive, in particular those published with the help of an undesirable foreign entity.
The news website 7x7, a media outlet based in Russia’s Komi Republic, reported January 13 that regional officials issued an order late last year to remove books held in libraries and educational institutions that were published with funds provided by the Open Society Foundations, a network of philanthropic initiatives financed by billionaire investor George Soros.
Russian leaders have long accused Soros and his network, which strives to foster civil society in formerly communist states, of working to overthrow the established order in Russia and other formerly Soviet republics. On November 30, Russian prosecutors formally designated the Soros foundation network as an “undesirable” entity, in effect making it a crime for any Russian citizen in Russia to have contact with the organization.
According to documents posted by 7x7, days before prosecutors in Moscow made the announcement on undesirable status, Andrei Travnikov, the deputy presidential envoy in the North-West Federal District, which includes the Komi Republic, issued a directive to Komi officials to inventory Soros-funded books held by state institutions and remove them. In citing a reason for such action, Travnikov claimed in his directive that Soros-funded books “form a wrong perception of Russia’s history in young people and popularize ideas that are alien to Russian ideology.”
On December 14, a Komi government directive went out to top higher educational officials and librarians in the region to clear the shelves of offending tomes.
The next day, according to the 7x7 report, authorities at one higher education institution in the coal- mining center of Vorkuta reported that they had burned 53 books. According to a report distributed by Lenta.ru news portal, a librarian at the Vorkuta school claimed that the books were doing nothing but gathering dust.
“I’ve been working here 11 years, and the books from the [Soros] fund were around even before then, and no one has ever checked them out and they have been in storage,” said the librarian, identified by Lenta.ru as Yelena Vasileva.
EurasiaNet.org operates under the auspices of the Open Society Institute in New York, an entity in the Soros network.