The government of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic has added four Christian books to an official list of Extremist Materials. Forum 18 reports that a court in Luhansk (also called Lugansk) ruled in May 2021 that the books were “extremist” and in July they were added to the list by the Luhansk Justice Ministry and therefore banned.
The latest addition means that there are 18 Christian works on the list of Extremist Materials, including a Russian version of the Gospel of John published by the Council of Baptist Churches.
The four books are The Door is Open by nineteenth century Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon, Born to Die by US evangelist Billy Graham, Jesus Our Destiny by nineteenth century German pastor Wilhelm Busch, and Cursed to Be? by German evangelist Wolfgang Bühne. The books were seized from the Council of Baptist Churches in the city of Sverdlovsk (known in Ukraine as Dovzhansk).
The Luhansk General Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the Council “actively use and distribute printed materials containing elements of extremism”. The books, argued the Prosecutor’s Office, “incite religious discord”, contain “propaganda of exceptionalism, superiority and inadequacy of the individual on the basis of religious adherence or attitude to religion”, and thereby “violate the rights, freedoms and legal interests” of others.
The banning of the books was necessary, it added, for “defending the interests of the younger generation and securing the safety of the Republic”.
The Luhansk People’s Republic is a region of eastern Ukraine which declared itself independent from Ukraine in 2014, but is not internationally recognised as a sovereign state. Both Luhansk and the Donetsk People’s Republic, which declared independence from Ukraine at the same time, are Russian-speaking regions that regard themselves as essentially Russian. Ukraine, by contrast, is more Western-oriented, with Ukrainians in the west of the country supportive of joining both NATO and the EU.