Russia launches swearing ban; books, films, plays risk fines

MOSCOW Tue Jul 1, 2014 10:52am EDT

Related Topics

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian ban on swearing in films, plays and books came into force on Tuesday, a policy designed to appeal to conservatives but which Vladimir Putin's critics condemned as a further move against free speech.

Under the legislation that was passed in May, films containing "foul language" will be banned from wide release and books with swear words will have to be sold in sealed packages with obscenity warnings.

Theaters will not be allowed to stage productions containing obscenities according to the law, which imposes fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($1,500) for each infraction.

Russian media have reported that software known as the "swear-bot" will be used to police cursing on the Internet.

The law is meant to ensure "the protection and development of linguistic culture," according to a statement on the Kremlin's website. But critics say it is reminiscent of Soviet-era censorship and will suppress free expression.

Putin has struck a conservative tone in his latest presidential term, praising what he calls traditional values and holding up the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority.

Last month, newspaper Izvestiya said communications watchdog Roskomnadzor planned to use a search program to root out rude words in online articles and comments attached to them.

The 25 million-rouble ($729,500) system will search the 5,000 mass media sites that are already monitored manually, the report said.

The "swear-bot" faces a huge task as Russian is known for the breadth and inventiveness of its obscene vocabulary.

A dictionary of Russian swear words lists over 1,200 different phrases that use a single slang term for "penis".

Russian novelist Fyodr Dostoevsky wrote in the 19th century: "It's possible to express all thoughts, feelings and even deep analytical thoughts just by saying this one noun."

The swearing law follows stricter rules on bloggers and restrictions on non-state media that critics say were part of a campaign to bring independent media under Kremlin control, something the government denies. [ID:nL6N0NL3VF]

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (2)
leesik wrote:
Will putins new nick, khuilo be banned too? That is probably the main impetus behind it.

Jul 01, 2014 1:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ian_Kemmish wrote:
The official line on Voice of Russia radio this evening (with the inevitable nod to the situation in Ukraine) was that swearing contributes to anti-Semitism. To which the only possible response is “Is that the best they can come up with?”

More interesting, considering how much of what Mr Putin himself says has to be watered down in translation for a Western audience – does this mean that reproduction of any of his speeches made in front of TV cameras over the last decade and a half (remember “killing Chechens on the crapper”?) will now be a criminal offence?

Jul 01, 2014 3:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.