THIS is where the Net comes into its own. We’ve received and reported variations on an article claiming that Tolkien fans are beaten up by the police in Kazakhstan. The news came originally from British newspaper The Independent and was taken up in the US by NPR.

Mikhail wrote in to say: “Just a quick note on that article

“Tolkienisti” (Tolkien fans) from Alma Ata claim that this article is a complete lie and nothing described appears to occur in reality. Like there are only ~300 Tolkien fans in Alma Ata who get together near Tian Shen and nobody bothers them there. I can not swear on a bible that my infromation is correct, but it’s obtained from the discussion board of the main Russian-speaking Tolkien fan’s portal Arda-na-kulichkah

To back that up further, we got this from Arhi: “I got friends (Tolkien fans) there, in Kazakhstan, and they wrote to me saying that it’s the first they’ve heard of such persecution.

“So far, I’ve read only the article. I haven’t listened to the NPR version of it yet. But if you read the article closely, you’ll realise two things:
1. The journalist sits in Moscow and writes about Kazakhstan. Look at the map — isn’t he a bit far from the action?
2. A person whom he interviewed (Askar Ibragimov) resides in Moscow as well (I know that person!). I don’t say he is lying, but obviously, there might be a misunderstanding.
3. The water-in-the-cell torture described was not done to the Tolkien-fan, but to a self-described punk-rock musician. Not that it makes the torture any less heinous, but I suspect it was about drugs, not about lifestyle per se.

“My Kazakhstan friends are saying that they live in Almaty and have never been harassed by the police, and that’s the first time they hear about it. One of them said that the first priority of their police these days is to identify and deport illegal Tadzhik immigrants from the country.

“Take that material with a grain of salt, will you? Thanks.”