Russia Cracks Down on Profanity in the Arts
Putin Signs Law to Restrict 'Foul Language' in Books, on Stage and in Film
Updated May 5, 2014 3:28 p.m. ET
MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin signed a law that restricts the use of profanity in the arts, the latest move in a push to reinforce what the Kremlin calls traditional values in Russia.
The legislation is the latest in a flurry of bills tightening control over freedom of speech and the Internet as well as toughening punishments for terrorism and extremism.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, covers literature, theater, film and recorded music. It was opposed by some theater personalities, writers and performers, whose works will now have to be issued in special packaging indicating that they include profanities.
The law doesn't spell out specifically what constitutes "foul language" but sets fines for its use in works of art ranging from 2,000 rubles ($56) for individuals to as high as 100,000 rubles for legal entities. The law also restricts the public showing of films containing swearing.
An expert panel may be called to determine if a word in question is profane in case of disputes.
Under another law also signed Monday, bloggers with more than 3,000 daily pages views will be subject to hefty fines for using profanities beginning in August, when they will be effectively equated with media outlets.
Mr. Putin signed a similar law penalizing swearing in the media last year. News agency Rosbalt was briefly shut down by a court decision for posting videos containing foul language after the law had been enacted.
Russia has a strong tradition of using swear words in works of art, which is why leading Russian artists, including theater director and actor Oleg Tabakov, call the law excessive. Its critics doubt that the law can be properly enforced.
"I think that no one will have any kinds of problems over this," Sergei Shnurov, the frontman of Leningrad, Russia's most popular punk band, said in a recent interview with the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty.
"The future will tell. I've lived awhile and laws have been different during this time, even money has changed, to my memory, four times. Well, now they ban swearing, and tomorrow maybe they'll allow it again," he said."I treat these things calmly."
Mr. Shnurov, whose lyrics often consist almost solely of profanities, said antigovernment protesters "are shouting about how laws aren't being enforced. So why worry if they aren't being enforced?"
Russian has an unusually rich and diverse vocabulary of curse words, some of which were used in prominent works of literature as far back as the 19th century.