The law forbidding the use of explicit language in theater plays and concerts has come into force, despite protests from the artistic community.
The ban covers any public show – from amateur speech or standup comedy to cinema blockbuster. From now on films with obscene words will only be sold with special warning stickers.
The fines vary from $60 to almost $1,500 depending who breaks the law, be it ordinary people or companies.
When the bill was being discussed it met with opposition from politicians and artists. The politicians claimed the bill lacked an official list of obscene words and therefore could be abused by those who would enforce it. Artists simply said that it was an unnecessary limitation of their right to artistic expression, and that banning obscenities in cinema and on stage would create a brushed-up reflection without affecting reality.
The bill's sponsors said the decision on what words are obscene will be made by independent language experts at first and after some time the necessary list would be drawn up. They also said that video and audio recordings are not outlawed and those who seeks freedom of expression can distribute their art in recorded form.
However, a few Russian performers and celebrities kept protesting against the bill until the day it came into force.
Theater director Dmitry Yegorov promised to publish an online library of various works containing explicit language, including the classics of Russian literature and film. The same web-site will also contain celebrities’ video requests to repeal the ban, and a public petition against it.
Other reaction has been colorful, movie actor Gosha Kutsenko made a heated speech full of obscenities at the Kinotavr Russian film festival and presented a cake inscribed with explicit language. The frontman of the ska-punk band Leningrad, Sergey Shnurov, played naked and promised to perform sex on stage if the ban on obscene language is enforced.
Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov, known for his support of the strong state and authority, joined the campaign against the ban saying that it was hard for him to imagine movies about war in which characters do not use obscene language. “Swearing is a subtle matter, one of the greatest inventions of the Russian people. Swearing is justified when it expresses some extreme state of a human being, such as war, death or pain,” Mikhalkov told the RIA Novosti news agency. At the same time, the director said that it was “repulsive and disgusting” when obscenities became the language of everyday communication.
However, a part of the Russian society supports the ban. Flamboyant leftist journalist Aleksandr Prokhanov called sex-related obscenities “the language of hell” in a radio interview. “Swearing is the language of hell, it appears when one’s heart muscle contracts. We live in a time when hell comes to this world,” the Russian News Service quoted the journalist as saying.
На плацу уже час стоял хмурый полковник и молчал, потом рявкнул: Р-р-разойдись! Два солдата идут в курилку: -Что это с ним? -Мат запретили!
— Живой голос Редакции (@Fontanka_spb) July 1, 2014
Also, the public has started making jokes about the new law, like this one: a colonel stands before a line of soldiers for an hour without saying a word. Then he simply shouts “dismissed!” and marches away. What's the matter with him? Asks one private soldier. It must be the ban on obscene language – suggests another.