First, armed police seized some of its books. Next, its director was put on trial accused of stirring up ethnic hatred. And now, quietly, its shelves have been emptied and its volumes packed up, ready to be merged into another library's collection. A year and a half after Russia's only state-run Ukrainian language library, Moscow's Library of Ukrainian Literature, was dragged into a political dispute between the two countries, Reuters has learnt that authorities are quietly winding it down.
Officially, what is happening to the library -- its 52,000 books are being transferred to Russia's main foreign language library -- is "a change of address" not a closure. But the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, some of the library's employees, and members of Russia's large Ukrainian diaspora say it is a closure in all but name.
Tatyana Muntyan, a library employee, said that even before the transfer its director had reduced opening hours, stopped home lending, halted acquisitions, and made readers show passports to gain entry. The library's director declined to comment. The saga, along with other measures, suggests political differences between Moscow and Kiev are driving a wedge between two peoples whose cultures have been interwoven for centuries. It is likely to stoke Ukrainian fears that their culture, as well as their territorial integrity, is under siege.