Librarian under Arrest: Trial of all that is Ukrainian
Vitaly Portnikov Vitaly Portnikov Ukrainian journalist

15:51 Nov. 2, 2016

Trial of all that is Ukrainian

A woman is looking for books on the shelves while standing on a ladder in the Russian State Library in Moscow (Getty Images)

This is not a trial of Sharina, this is a trial of Ukrainian culture

Today a Philistine court of the Russian capital begins proceedings on the merits of the case of Natalia Sharina, the director of Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature who has been charged with extremism and embezzlement.

Read more Director of Ukrainian library in Moscow goes on trial for 'extremism'

I have already written that Natalia Sharina is not a "Ukrainian nationalist" or for that matter an extremist. She actually has nothing to do with Ukraine. She is a modest Russian clerk, who was sent to the Library of Ukrainian Literature in order to rid the institution of the political context, the memory about the respectable organizations of Russian Ukrainians, which sprang up in Moscow and other cities in the wake of Gorbachev's perestroika.

Those particular organizations were the initiators and founders of the collections which would later become the Library of Ukrainian Literature.

Sharina was required to turn this library, which appeared owing to public enthusiasm, into a "normal" municipal office.

And I must say that the civil servant, with her strict HR policy, coped with the task. Her only guilt was that the institution, she headed, continued to be called the Library of Ukrainian Literature. And after Russia attacked our country, this alone constituted a crime.

That is why, what we see today in the Philistine court - is not a trial of Sharina. This is a trial of Ukrainian language, Ukrainian literature, and Ukrainian culture. This is a trial of the right of Russian Federation's citizens of Ukrainian origin to have the opportunity to read the books and listen to the songs in their mother tongue.

This is a trial of Russian citizens' right to become familiar with the ancient culture, owing to which Moscow actually appeared.

What can I say, this is the most common Nazism, meanly disguised under the talks of extremism and embezzlement. Natalia Sharina is an involuntary victim of this misanthropic ideology.

Another important goal of this process is a complete and final destruction of the Library of Ukrainian Literature. Radio Liberty reported that from October 11 the library works exclusively as a reading room – so that you, God forbid, would not be able to take home a book in an "extremist" language. Library holdings, carefully collected by ordinary people with the support of Ukrainian cultural institutions, are going to be passed to the Center of the Slavic cultures.

And that would be all for the Library of Ukrainian literature, restored in Moscow decades after Stalin's pogrom.

But just for a while. After the collapse of Putin's regime, and reformatting the state on the territory of the Russian Federation, we will rebuild the library again.

Vitaly Portnikov is a Ukrainian journalist and political expert. This article originally appeared in Russian in

comments powered by Disqus


Opinion13:12 Dec. 8, 2016
"Don't let the best be the enemy of the good", Graham Meadows about Ukraine's decentralization
Opinion13:36 Dec. 7, 2016
Besides the government, communities must push for local development
Opinion12:34 Dec. 7, 2016
"Startups, IT sector, bio and nano-technology able to write new page in our economic system"
Opinion14:41 Dec. 2, 2016
Ukraine should watch out for Russian retaliation, analyst says
Opinion16:40 Dec. 1, 2016
Mariupol is us
Subscribe to receive regular email updates about Ukraine and Eastern Europe