Russian Library Director Goes to Trial for Possessing “Extremist” Books

The director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, Russia, has begun the trial process after being charged and put on house arrest last year for possessing books that “incite ethnic hatred.”

Last October, Natalia Sharina’s personal residence as well as her place of work were raided by Russian authorities, who claim to have found books by Ukrainian nationalist Dmitry Korchinsky — books that under Russian law are designated as “extremist” materials and in effect banned. Though Sharina argues that the books were planted, she was still charged with possessing banned books. For the last year, she has been on house arrest awaiting trial.

That trial began on November 2, and she is formally being charged with “inciting ethnic hatred and humiliating human dignity” according to digital news outlet Quartz, as well as embezzling about $54,000 from the library — charges that could land her up to a decade in prison.

Despite the allegations, Sharina maintains her innocence and that the books were planted. She argues the whole situation is a political move based on tensions between the Russian and Ukrainian governments. “I do not understand the charge and so I do not feel any guilt,” Sharina told prosecutors during the trial. “I ask the respected prosecutor to explain what actions I actually took to spread enmity.”

Sharina’s lawyer told BBC that the whole case is “steeped in politics.” During the trial itself, he expressed concern that such extreme measures were being taken to make a political statement: “It’s very sad that someone is trying to drag this court into politics,” Pavlov told the judge, adding, “It’s no coincidence that it’s the Ukrainian literature library that was searched, and not a Belarusian or a Cossack one.”

The relationship between Russia and Ukraine has continued to be strained the past few years and it appears that even libraries and their staffs aren’t safe from being dragged into the political battle between the countries. CBLDF will keep you posted as the Natalia Sharina’s story develops.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!