The Moscow city prosecutor's office is considering opening an investigation into the popular Harry Potter books after an Orthodox believer lodged a complaint that they discredit Christianity, an official said Monday.
The office's senior investigator, Andrei Alexandrov, has asked the Russian Book Chamber to provide copies of all books that mention Harry Potter in their titles and whatever additional information it has about the boy wizard, said Rustem Aigistov, the chamber's executive director.
"It is a lengthy inquiry ... and we are still drafting a response to it," he said.
Moscow-based Rosman publishing house has published Russian-language editions of all four of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Rosman said the books have sold 3.5 million copies.
Aigistov confirmed a report in Moskovsky Komsomolets that Alexandrov is studying whether the books violate Article 282 of the Criminal Code, which deals with instigation of ethnic, racial or religious enmity. Violators, if convicted, face up to five years in prison.
Moskovsky Komsomolets reported Monday that Alexandrov opened the inquiry on Dec. 16 after his office received a complaint from a woman in the Moscow region town of Tarusa. In her complaint, the unidentified woman said "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second book in the series, promotes witchcraft and discredits the Orthodox faith. Prosecutors were unavailable for comment Monday.
Rosman spokeswoman Natalya Dolgova called the allegations absurd.
"Claims of Satanism are absolute nonsense," she said.
The Russian Orthodox Church has issued no official statements on Harry Potter. But at least one outspoken Orthodox missionary has read all four books and concluded that they are harmless. "Is it a textbook on magic?" Deacon Alexander Kurayev said in an undated 16-page critique of the Harry Potter series posted on his personal web site. "No," he said, "it's a fairy tale."