College Backtracks on Banning Teaching Dostoevsky Because He's Russian

A university in Italy has backtracked on a decision to postpone a course about the work of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky following a backlash.

Italian writer Paolo Nori posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday saying he had received an email from officials at the University of Milano-Bicocca, in Milan, informing him of the decision to postpone his course following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Dear Professor, the Vice Rector for Didactics has informed me of a decision taken with the rector to postpone the course on Dostoevsky," the email said, according to Nori's video.

"This is to avoid any controversy, especially internally, during a time of strong tensions."

Nori said he had been invited by the university to deliver the four-session course on Dostoevsky, whose novels include Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons and The Brothers Karamazov, starting from next Wednesday.

"They invited me. Each lesson was 90-minutes long. They were free and open to everyone," he said.

Nori went on: "I realize what is happening in Ukraine is horrible, and I feel like crying just thinking about it. But what is happening in Italy is ridiculous."

"Not only is being a living Russian wrong in Italy today, but also being a dead Russian, who was sentenced to death in 1849 because he read a forbidden thing. That an Italian university would ban a course on an author like Dostoevsky is unbelievable," he said.

Nori's video sparked an outcry, with several notable figures criticizing the university's decision.

Matteo Renzi, Italy's former prime minister who is now a senator for Florence, tweeted that it was "insane" to prohibit studying Dostoevsky because of the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"In this time we need to study more, not less: in the university we need teachers, not incapable bureaucrats," Renzi wrote.

On Wednesday, the university released a statement on its social media accounts confirming the course would go ahead.

"The University of Milano-Bicocca is a university open to dialogue and listening even in this very difficult period that sees us dismayed at the escalation of the conflict," the statement said.

"The course of the writer Paolo Nori is part of the writing course aimed at students and citizens who aim to develop transversal skills through forms of writing. The university confirms that this course will take place in the established groups and will deal with the contents already agreed with the writer. In addition, the rector of the university will meet Paolo Nori next week for a moment of reflection," it said.

Newsweek has contacted Nori and the university for additional comment.

Putin visits Dostoevsky museum
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, accompanied by Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova, visits the Moscow's Dostoevsky House museum on the day of Russian novelist's 200th birthday in Moscow on November 11, 2021. The University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy, reversed a decision to ban a course on Dostoevsky on March 2, 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine seven days earlier. Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images