Whither Russia?: The Role of Libraries in the Transformation of a Society
November 16, 1999
Ekaterina Genieva has never been afraid to pursue unpopular topics. As a student at Moscow State University in the early 1970s she wrote her dissertation on James Joyce’s Ulysses , then banned in the Soviet Union. She has spent nearly three decades at the Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow, a safe haven in Soviet times for intellectuals forbidden to work elsewhere. A religious believer, she supported the liberal priest, Father Alexander Men,until his murder (almost certainly by the KGB) in 1990 and has memorialized him with international conferences and publications each year since his death. She mounted exhibitions on anti-Semitism and other uncomfortable subjects, and during the coup attempt of August 1991, she defied the KGB and made the library’s printing press available to publish banned newspapers.
In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Dr. Genieva has emerged as director of what is arguably the most active library in Russia, the Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow, and as one of the leaders of cultural reform. She serves on President Yeltsin’s Council for Culture and Arts. Perhaps her most visible post is president of the Soros Foundation in Russia, which has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars under her leadership.
Dr. Genieva’s 1999 Mortenson Distinguished Lecture is entitled “Whither Russia? The Role of Libraries in the Transformation of a Society.”