November 09, 2023

The George Orwell Library


The George Orwell Library
"1984 is now." Markus Spiske, Unsplash.

In Ivanovo, an industrial city located five-hours from Moscow, a beacon of intellectual freedom and resistance to propaganda has emerged. The George Orwell Library, established in 2022, has become a symbol of hope in the face of growing censorship and government control.

Situated in the modest confines of a ground-floor space in a dilapidated building, the George Orwell Library is a sanctuary for free thought. It houses a computer, several hundred books, and its librarian, Alexandra Karaseva. Speaking passionately about the transformative power of literature, the 67-year-old librarian said, "Books help us to see what is human, even in an enemy, and reject any form of dehumanization.”

The library owes its existence to Dmitry Silin, a local businessman and vocal critic of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Fearing potential imprisonment for his outspoken views, Silin fled Russia soon after the library's opening.

Karaseva proudly displayed the library's collection of books, encompassing works on dystopias, the Soviet prison system, writings by contemporary authors critical of the Kremlin, and a selection of lighter novels designed to "lift spirits."

The George Orwell Library stands as a testament to the enduring power of literature in the face of adversity, offering Ivanovo residents a refuge for independent thought, intellectual growth, and resistance against encroaching propaganda and censorship.

Dmitry Shestopalov, an 18-year-old activist from the Yabloko opposition party, frequents the library to watch films and connect with other young people. He highlights the library's role in providing a space for personal growth: "You can develop yourself here despite everything that is happening in our country. You can forget fear, feel free, feel comfort, feel that you are not alone in the enormous system that is devouring us."

The books at the George Orwell Library are readily available for loan, following the traditional lending practices of any standard library. This collection includes the works of authors who have been designated as "foreign agents" under Russian law, a classification that necessitates their sale in bookshops with concealed covers.

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