Moscow bookstores’ decision to pull Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus from shelves over concern about “fascist symbols” is a clear example of the chilling effect of sweeping government censorship, PEN American Center said today.

Bookstores across the capital city removed the book from shelves after the Russian government announced that it would conduct raids to remove Nazi imagery and other symbols that offend religious feeling or national dignity ahead of Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Germany. Maus, which depicts Spiegelman’s parents’ experiences during the Holocaust, has a swastika on its cover. It was pulled from shelves because bookstores were unsure of its legality in light of the government’s planned raids.

“That Maus, the furthest thing imaginable from a fascist symbol, would be pulled from shelves as part of this broad ban demonstrates perfectly the absurdity of government censorship,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “The best way to celebrate Russia’s victory over fascism would be with a full-throttled defense of free expression, rather than the worrying crackdown the government is engaged in.”