NBCC Statement on Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine

By The Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle

Since its founding, the National Book Critics Circle has championed freedom of conscience, peaceful discourse, and the rights of authors and critics to share their views without fear of censorship, suppression, or violent reprisal. These ideals are embodied in the organization’s bylaws, which overtly champion “all those who seek to assemble free from fear and harm, to speak out against oppression and for freedom of expression.” The ongoing, systematic suppression of authors, scholars, and critics in Russia and its satellite, Belarus, as well as the recent invasion of the independent, democratic nation of Ukraine, represent a grave threat to fundamental human rights and to the civil society that is necessary for literary culture to thrive. In light of this current crisis, the National Book Critics Circle emphasizes its commitment to the values of freedom of speech, nonviolent dissent, and democracy.

The NBCC calls for the immediate release of political prisoners in Russia and Belarus, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, poet Mikola Papieka, historian Yuri Alexeyevich Dmitriev, critic Mikola Dziadok and all other authors jailed in these nations for their ideas and peaceful activism. In addition, the NBCC condemns the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and expresses our specific concern that Russia authorities not impose the systemic suppression characteristic of their domestic rule upon the vibrant and free intellectual life of their neighbors. The NBCC commits itself to highlighting the status of Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian writers as long as such a threat continues, and when possible, to furthering their welfare and championing their freedom.

Ukraine and Russia both have impressive and distinct literary histories and both nations have contributed in lasting and transformative ways to our common literary and cultural heritage. The NBCC stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian writers and critics who continue to struggle for freedom, peaceful coexistence, and democratic values. We remain firmly committed to the belief that an attack on writers anywhere is a threat to writers everywhere, and stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian literary community during these challenging times.