Thursday, July 23, 2015

“We have reached a point of no return” Russia’s most renowned librarian talks to ‘Meduza’ about state inspections, foreign agents, and cultural exchange

Американский культурный центр, занятия летней школы сценаристов. Июнь 2015-го Фото:
Photo: American Center's page

Renowned librarian and cultural critic Ekaterina Genieva passed away on July 9 in Israel after a battle with cancer. Genieva had served as the head of the All-Russia State Library of Foreign Literature for nearly a quarter of a century, right up until her death. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, she also worked as the President of George Soros’ Open Society Institute in Russia. This week, the Open Society Institute came under government scrutiny for “threatening Russia’s interests.” Authorities had also been paying special attention to Genieva’s library, asking her to shut down the American Cultural Center, one of many international organizations her library hosts. Shortly before she passed away, Ekaterina Genieva was interviewed by Katerina Gordeeva for Meduza. Genieva shared her thoughts about the Ministry of Culture, about Russia’s “spy fever,” and about the importance of cultural exchange.
Requirements imposed on public educational and cultural projects are becoming ever more stringent. Against this backdrop, the Library of Foreign Literature looks almost provocative: it’s a whole community of intellectuals, you have books about tolerance, you host concerts with musicians who have gone out of favor with the state, you also host a dozen foreign cultural centers in this building. How close are you to becoming a “foreign agent?”

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