Authorities in Russia's Komi Republic accused of ordering destruction of books

Russian authorities in the Northern Republic of Komi have been accused of ordering the destruction of dozens of books and the removal of hundreds of others from university libraries in the region on the grounds that they contain “elements alien to Russian ideology and form a distorted perception of the country's history.” The books, the majority of which were humanities textbooks, were published with money from the Soros Foundation, a philanthropic organization which in November of 2015 was declared an “undesirable foreign agent” and effectively banned in Russia.

The Komi Ministry of Education allegedly issued a letter ordering the removal and destruction of the books. College librarian Elena Vasileva told 7x7 that “we removed their entries from the catalogue, took the books downstairs and burnt them in bins in the college courtyard.”

Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky stated that he has "asked for materials, an investigation, to establish what happened... Book burning looks so bad and raises such historical associations that, in my view, it is completely unacceptable."

The Komi Education Minister, Svetlana Moiseeva-Arkhipova, has insisted that the Ministry merely ordered the removal of the books and not their destruction, calling any type of documentation that proves otherwise “a fake”. On Wednesday, Moiseeva-Arkhpova stated that the volumes were taken from the shelves under instructions from a deputy of Vladimir Putin’s official federal envoy to the Komi Republic.

Russia has been criticized for its handling of groups and organizations whose viewpoints do not coincide with the quasi-official political, societal, and cultural ideology of the Russian state.

In November of last year, two Soros charities, the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, were deemed “undesirable organizations” according to the controversial law "On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regarding the Regulation of the Activities of Non-profit Organizations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent", and were effectively banned from operating in Russia.

George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist who played a significant role in the peaceful transition from communism to capitalism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  He is viewed with deep suspicion in Russia due to his support of many civil society organizations that are advocates of democracy and human rights and opposed to the Russian government.

Soros charities gave more than $1 billion in grants to more than 64,000 Russian teachers, professors, and students prior to their cessation of operations in Russia in November.

Soros continues to be actively involved elsewhere in Eastern Europe in the promotion of democracy and human rights. He has been an advocate of Ukraine’s progress in both of these areas. The business magnate also provides one of Europe's largest higher education endowments to Central European University in Budapest.

  Komi, Russia, Book Burning, Soros Foundation, NGO