Russian Officials Deny Burning ‘Undesirable’ Books (1)
Rahvusvahelised uudised 19 Jan 2016  EWR
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Mining college says it removed Soros Foundation books from its library but none were burned.

Officials in the northwestern Russian republic of Komi have denied that a local college burned books published by a Western foundation considered undesirable by the Kremlin.

Last week Russian media ran stories saying the college burned 53 books published with money from the Soros Foundation.

“We removed their entries from the catalog, took the books downstairs and burnt them in bins in the college courtyard,” Elena Vasileva, a librarian at the Mining and Economics College in the city of Vorkuta, told a local news site, The Telegraph said.

In a letter released on 13 January, Komi education officials said the order to remove the books from libraries came from Andrei Travnikov, a deputy of the Kremlin’s envoy to the northwestern federal district.

Officials made the admission after a letter purportedly from Travnikov to the deputy head of the Komi regional government was leaked last month. It said books published by the Soros Foundation “give young people a distorted perception of national history and popularize sentiments alien to Russian ideology,” The Telegraph says.

The official letter said that another local university, Ukhtinsky State Technical University had been advised to remove from its library 413 books published with Soros support.

Russia effectively exiled the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute last year, placing them on a list of foreign non-governmental organizations deemed to engage in “undesirable” activities in Russia.

But reports of the book burning evoked an angry response from Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, who called it “completely unacceptable” because it “looks terrible and provokes strange historical associations,” The Moscow Times reported.

Soros was one of the first Western philanthropists allowed to operate in the then-Soviet Union. His foundations have been generous funders of cultural organizations, rights groups, and media in the former Communist countries. (Transitions is a recipient of funding from the Open Society Foundations.)

On 14 January the Komi Education Ministry said no books had been burned. The press had misinterpreted the mining college director’s words on the issue, a ministry spokesperson said, Interfax reported, according to The Moscow Times.

The spokesperson said the books had been withdrawn from the college library and stored in a warehouse. A college spokesperson said old or outdated books are commonly incinerated.

• Last year Russia banned works of two well-known British military historians, John Keegan and Anthony Beevor, over suggestions that they were “imbued with Nazi propaganda” about World War II.

• In October Russian authorities put the director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, Natalia Sharina, under house arrest after they found books in the library by a banned Ukrainian ultranationalist author. Police searched the homes of two library staff members in December. Sharina and other library staff say police planted the banned books in the library.

• Hungarian-born billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros is often seen in Russia as a front for Washington’s supposed schemes to spread foreign ideas about human rights and democracy across the post-Soviet sphere. Russian anti-drug bureau chief Viktor Ivanov recently accused the Soros Foundation and other non-profits of sponsoring reports promoting the spread of soft drugs across the world, RT said.
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