Vorkuta Mining and Economic College, in the city of Vorkuta in the Komi Republic, a part of Russia, recently burned 53 books from their own library. They confiscated another 427 books in order to shred them. The books were related to a “Renewal of Humanitarian Education” program that is linked to charities run by George Soros.
Soros is best known as a hedge fund manager, and set up several charities to help post-Communist states transition to democracy after the end of the Soviet Union. In November though, two of his charities, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the Open Society Institute (OSI) were put on a “stop list” by the government of the Russian Federation. They are seen as undesirable, foreign non-governmental organizations.
They’re undesirable because they promote open societies and are pro-democracy, something Putin and his followers see as “soft aggression” against the Russian Federation. Although Russia is, officially, a democracy, Putin has generally made a mockery of the idea since he initially took power in 1999.
Open Society Foundation hasn’t provided a statement in response to any of this yet, but it seems pretty obvious that Putin’s goal is to silence voices of dissent, especially those that might spark more dissent. He is not a particularly democratic ruler, and this kind of activity is pretty much par for the course for him.
The removal of books from a university library is pretty much a slap in the face of democracy and the concept of an open society, which he Russian Federation is supposed to have been professing since the end of the Soviet Union. Beyond that, burning those books brings up some rather negative connotations. Most famously, of course, were the Nazis, who burned books by Jewish and other “undesirable” writers. Back in the 1950s, local churches and schools sometimes organized bonfires to burn comic books in America, because they were seen as having a negative influence on adolescents, an argument which was unfounded and has been long disproven. Putin isn’t really in great company here.