war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Crimean librarian fined for ‘anti-Russian’ books about Holodomor

Halya Coynash
In the latest example of Russia’s dangerously broad anti-extremism legislation, the director of a Feodosiya library, now under Russian occupation, has been fined for holding books about the Ukrainian Holodomor, or manmade Famine of 1932/33


Russia’s Sova Centre reports that the director of the Feodosiya Central Library has been fined for supposedly holding ‘extremist material’, in the form of 12 books about the Ukrainian Holodomor, or manmade Famine of 1932/33.

The specific book published in 2007 by Vasyl Marochko under the title ‘Genocide of Ukrainians’: Holodomor 1932/1933’ is on Russia’s Federal List of Extremist Material (no. 1154).  

The Feodosiya Prosecutor did not stop at simply quoting the relative number on the list of prohibited materials, but asserted that the book had “an anti-Russian orientation” and used language “aimed at inciting inter-ethnic enmity on the basis of belonging to a particular social group.”  The material analysed “contains derogatory descriptions, negative emotional judgements about an ethnic group and individual within in, and calls to incite ethnic enmity which could result in it being used to change mass awareness and serve as the basis for ultra-radical and nationalist views”.

The Director of the library explained that she had only learned in Sept 2014 that the book was prohibited in Russia (unlike in Ukraine) and had not had time to remove it.  She was nonetheless fined 2 thousand roubles and the book has been confiscated.

The Sova Centre notes that the book by Marochko was originally removed together with other material during a search of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow at the beginning of 2011.  This was part of a criminal investigation which was finally terminated ‘for lack of elements of a crime’, however a number of books were then added to the federal list of banned material which then contained just 1271 works, and now holds more than double this number.

The books deemed ‘extremist’ included publications about Holodomor as an act of genocide of the Ukrainian people, as well as material about the crimes of the NKVD, the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, etc.   They were all placed on the Federal List on the basis of a ruling of the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow from 01.12.2011.

This is by no means the first time that Crimeans have been penalized over books which are freely published and sold in Ukraine.  On a number of occasions there have been armed searches of homes, mosques and religious schools with the FSB and police supposedly looking for ‘arms, narcotics and prohibited literature’. The head of a Muslim school was fined back in August in a case which looked suspiciously like intimidation since the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims had already announced that measures would be taken by the beginning of the new year in September.    

It should be stressed that Russia’s list simply needs to be remembered, since many of the works – whether Muslim books of worship or historical books about Holodomor or the Ukrainian nationalist movement – would be most unlikely to be deemed as ‘extremist’ in other countries.

At a press conference on Jan 12, the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights named Russia’s Law on Extremism as one of the five laws which have had the most detrimental effort on the human rights situation in the Crimea since Russia’s annexation.  One of the main reasons is the dangerously broad interpretation given to the term ‘extremism’ and the fact that in the Crimea and, of course, in Russia it is most often used against those the authorities deem dissidents rather than those actually inciting inter-ethnic enmity.

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