- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, saved 2 million Russian books from being incinerated over the weekend.
Scheduled to go up in flames was the inventory of Victor Kamkin Inc., a bookstore which was behind in its rent and faced eviction from its quarters in a massive brick building on Boiling Brook Parkway in Rockville.
The gigantic warehouse full of Russian books was supposed to have closed yesterday morning with its books taken to the incinerator by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.
"We averted a catastrophic incineration," said Mrs. Morella. "I didn't want any books burned."
Mrs. Morella made calls over the weekend to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and County Sheriff Raymond M. Kight to ensure that the books would not be destroyed on Monday morning. She then negotiated a deal with Victor Kamkin's landlord that would allow the bookstore to remain open for three more weeks.
Finally, she persuaded Librarian of Congress William Billington to help Kamkin's owner, Igor Kalageorgi, find a home for some of the books in the next three weeks. The Library of Congress agreed to send specialists to examine the vast collection and identify which books could go where, said a spokesman for the Library.
Some of the books will be sent to the Library of Congress, but most of them will be distributed to libraries and other institutions around the country. Mr. Kalageorgi will take some to his other store in Reistertown, Md., but not all of the books will find a home.
"We're interested in saving materials that otherwise would be lost to the research community," said the Library of Congress spokesman.
Mrs. Morella was the central player in working things out, said the spokesman. "She was keen on getting a solution. She played a very positive role in working out a compromise."
Mrs. Morella, who spent most of her day off on Sunday making calls, said, "I thought this is absurd, that we could have book-burning in our country, in my district."
Victor Kamkin Inc. was founded 50 years ago by its namesake, a Russian emigre. It was said that Russian and American spies and government officials frequented the bookstore during the Cold War.
When the Cold War ended, interest in the Russian bookstore declined, as did the low-cost supply of books from the Russian government, which saw the store as a way to funnel propaganda into the country.
This article is based in part on wire reports.


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