What the Ukrainian and Russian library associations have said

In a previous blogpost, dated February 25, the day after Russia started its ongoing war on Ukraine, I’ve been thinking about librarians’ attitudes to war. This I then followed up with quotations from statements published by IFLA, ALA, EBLIDA and the Nordic National Libraries and my comments. But what have the Ukrainian and Russian library associations said about the ongoing war between their countries?

Books Not Bombs poster by Merseyside Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Jesper Laursen pointed us to an Appeal of the Ukrainian Library Association to IFLA President and Governing Board and IFLA Members. This appeal was made “on the fifth day” of the war. Thus it seems that the board of IFLA has received it before making the statement that I quoted in my previous blogpost. Being myself a personal member of IFLA, and therefore actually an adressee of the appeal of the U.L.A., I wish to quote it in full as an act of solidarity, before I add any comment. So here it comes, in the English translation that accompanies the original text at the Facebook site of the U.L.A:

The Appeal of the Ukrainian Library Association
to IFLA President and Governing Board and IFLA Members

Logo of the U.L.A. from its Facebook site.

Dear friends and colleagues,

The fifth day of the full-scale Russia’s invasion to Ukraine is ongoing, air bombing of a large number of cities and villages of whole Ukraine, Russian tanks are on approaches to Kyiv, Kharkiv, Russian subversive groups are on our land. The occupiers are firing not only on the military infrastructure, but also on schools, museums, libraries, hospitals, civilian residences. In Chernihiv the municipal library for children has been destroyed. Our brave defenders, civil people including children are dying.
As at February 27, 352 Ukrainians are dead, among them 14 children, 1684 – wounded, among them 116 children. Thousands of people were forced to leave the country.
In these challenging times Ukrainian librarians are together with all the people. There where it is possible, libraries continue to provide their services to users, including online services. Libraries are working in cyberspace against disinformation. Libraries are holding classes in emergency medical assistance. Hostels, care units for displaced persons are accommodated in libraries.
Ukraine is supported by the whole civilized world. We have received a lot of letters of support from library associations (including IFLA members) and librarians from different countries. We are receiving media help in spreading true information about Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We are being offered help in accommodating Ukrainian refugees.
We are grateful to everyone who is with us in these difficult times for our country and our people.
The profession of a librarian obliges everyone who has chosen it to be media literate. Librarians as no one else must stand against disinformation. However, we regret that Russian librarians and Russian Library Association do not react to the situation.
To stop this bloody war economic and other sanctions are being imposed on Russia. We are convinced that sanctions in the cultural sphere are no less important and will accelerate the fall of putin regime in the Russian Federation.
We therefore appeal to IFLA President and Governing Board to support Ukrainian librarians and exclude the Russian Library Association and all institutions of the aggressor country Russia from IFLA members, and their representatives from all IFLA governing bodies.
We appeal to IFLA members to support our appeal and address their appeals to IFLA President and Governing Board.
Today Ukraine is fighting not only for its own independence and the future of its children. We are fighting for the future of the whole world! Ukrainians are dying for European values! Supporting Ukraine, you are supporting the democratic future of all the countries!
Glory to Ukraine!

Having read and given some thought to what the U.L.A. says in the above statement, I realized that I also had to find out what the Russian Library Association might have had to say. So I looked up its website and used the good DeepL translation service on the stream of news in Russian there. (I do not understand the Russian language although my country, Finland, has a ca 2.000 km long border with Russia, which is somewhat embarrassing to admit.) That’s how I came over the following Statement of the Board of the Russian Library Association:

“Dear Colleagues,

Today it is not easy for all of us to live and work in such a rapidly changing world. A few days have completely transformed the familiar world, it is very difficult to switch to daily work and professional activities in the flow of news. But the work of libraries becomes extremely important on days like these! Let us remember that libraries have always been and remain the most important institutions regardless of public views and the current political conjuncture. We try to do everything to collect and preserve our common values – our collections, our cultural heritage, the very code of information that we must pass on to the next generations. Our readers need us.

Logo of the R.L.A from its website.

We must continue to do our work, so necessary for society, even in the hardest of times. We must support our colleagues all over the world. Maintain all possible professional contacts. It is especially important for us to help preserve the book collections of libraries that have fallen into the high-risk zone. This is important for all of us, for future generations of our readers. And – most importantly – we remember that human lives are of the highest value, we all need peace as soon as possible!

This is a time of professional solidarity and support. The Russian library community stays in touch with the libraries of the world and – as always – is ready to work and cooperate in our common noble cause.

Board of
Russian Library Association

The two statements, that of the U.L.A. and that of the R.L.A., speak a lot for themselves. I feel a deep symphaty for both. When I was a young man, I studied the writings of Antonio Gramsci, the historical “father” of Eurocommunism who died in Mussolini’s prisons. Those writings are not always easy to interpret, because their author had to avoid expressions and language that would have caught the attention of the prison wardens, with negative results. Supposedly, the board of the R.L.A. also expresses itself with particular caution now, during the war, to avoid that their authorities crack down on them. What pleases me is the humane and peaceful tone of their statement. As I have constated, in the previous blogposts, librarians are pacifists!

I can also understand, although not fully accept, the tone of of the Appeal from the U.L.A. And I am glad that IFLA has not followed their demand to “exclude the Russian Library Association and all institutions of the aggressor country Russia from IFLA members, and their representatives from all IFLA governing bodies.” The extremely worrisome drift towards a general “decoupling from Russia”, including the breaking of cultural and scientific ties with Russia or any other country, which I already wrote about in my yesterday posting, would be a fatal mistake!

Mikael Böök

Lovisa, Finland, March 4, 2022

10 Responses to “What the Ukrainian and Russian library associations have said”


    Announcement from all Nordic Library Organisations of 03-03-2022

    The Nordic library associations resolutely condemn the war Russia has started against Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the aspiration of the Ukrainian people to live in a free, independent and democratic state of Ukraine, guided by European fundamental values. We invite all Nordic libraries to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and to provide with financial donations and moral support.

    We urge libraries and their representative organizations to condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation immediately and to suspend all co-operation with the institutions representing the Russian Federation. We encourage libraries to spread the right information about the attack and to campaign strongly against disinformation.

    We are committed to continuing to create a comprehensive space of knowledge and culture, free from false information, lies, hatred and war, and open to all. People with a Russian background living in all countries need to feel welcome in the library. The action of the Russian Federation is not their fault. Let us use all the tools at our disposal to win the information war. Libraries mean freedom. Libraries are the gateway to the future. Libraries are also encouraged to support potential refugees from The Ukraine in cooperation with state and non-governmental organizations.

    Nordic library associations have made a donation to Reporters Without Borders to support their work in disseminating objective information.

  2. Dear Danmaksbiblioteksforening and all Nordic Library Organisations,
    when you urge libraries and their representative organizations to “suspend all co-operation with the institutions representing the Russian Federation”, do you include the Russian Library Association among “the institutions representing the Russian Federation?” Do you think that the R.L.A is guilty for the war on Ukraine of the Russian Federation? I hope your answer to these questions is no. Because, to break international cultural and scientific ties is not a task worthy of libraries and librarians. So no cultural and scientific “Decoupling from Russia”, please!
    We are now at a moment that looks darker than any instances of the previous Cold War. Do you yourselves wish to be seen as “representing” the “federation” that is the closest counterpart to the Russian one, namely, the Western military alliance NATO? Do you want to express your solidarity with NATO? Again, I hope not. I hope you to express your solidarity with the peace movement and, in particular, with the nuclear disarmament movement! If not now, when?


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