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Putin Bans the F-Word From Movies, Plays

Published: May 6, 2014 (Issue # 1808)



  • A statue of Pushkin standing in front of the Rossia Theater in central Moscow.
    Photo: Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on Monday prohibiting swearing in public performances, including cinema, theater and other forms of art.

The law will come into effect on July 1, and afterwards swearing in films, plays and concerts will incur penalties of up to 2,500 rubles ($70) for individuals and up to 50,000 rubles for companies and organizations.

A similar measure was passed in April 2013, banning swearing in media.

In December 2013, the Institute of Russian Language at the Russian Academy of Sciences complied a list of four words that constitute swearing and will thus be banned. Two depict male and female reproductive organs, one describes the process of copulation and the last refers to a promiscuous woman.

The most recent law has not yet specified a list of specific curse words.

The law has been met with both criticism and shock, as swearing has been a vital component of Russian art, with some of the nation's best poets and playwrights using curse words prolifically, from classical Alexander Pushkin to contemporary post-modernist Vladimir Sorokin.

According to the Culture Ministry, which is in charge of overseeing the work of theaters and also issuing movie distribution certificates, the newly passed measures will only concern mass culture and will not concern art.

"The law is not aggressive; its only aim is to regulate this sphere, so that swearing will have its purpose," Irina Kaznacheeva, the ministry's spokesperson, told The St. Petersburg Times on Monday.

"It will be up to the artistic director to decide what to do with swearing, whether to break the new law or not, we will not interfere in the process," she said.

Many theater directors and playwrights have complained that the new law is effectively in conflict with intellectual property legislation, according to which authors' works cannot be changed.

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