This story is over 5 years old.

Russian Official Resigns Amid Calls to Censor Films That Threaten 'National Unity'

Russian Culture Ministry's latest call to reinforce patriotic values and 'consolidate the state and society' takes aim at the movie industry.
Photo by Pavel Golovkin/AP

Russia's Culture Ministry has backed up recent calls to "consolidate the state and society" and reinforce Russian values with a new proposal to ban films that subvert "national unity."

Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has put forward new regulations that would deny a distribution license to any movie that "contains content defiling the national culture, posing a threat to national unity and undermining the foundations of the constitutional order," the Moscow Times reported.


The regulations, drafted in November, were set to be implemented January 1, but have been postponed, pending review and comment from other government ministries.

Filmmakers, industry members, and other Russian officials have already scorned the Kremlin's tightening regulations on media.

"What is national unity? This is a completely new term, it didn't exist in the past," the chief editor of Iskusstvo Kino (The Art of Cinema) magazine, Daniil Dondurei, was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax News Agency. "In the past, all we had was [the term] anti-Soviet propaganda."

"Censorship is just a mechanism, but this is an ideological doctrine," Dondurei added.

Meanwhile, a prominent culture ministry official, Yevgeny Savostyanov, who heads Russia's Coordination Council on Intellectual Property Protection, resigned from the ministry's board and public council in protest of the new regulations.

In an open letter to Medinsky, Savostyanov wrote that he was "ashamed" of the minister's position, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reported.

"The reason for this decision is the stance that you and the Culture Ministry have taken on a range of important matters of public interests, as well as some of your public statement and remarks for which I am ashamed," he wrote.

Russian Culture Minister calls for 'patriotic Internet' to block Western influence. Read more here.

Medinsky recently made headlines after he called for the creation of a "patriotic internet" to keep out anti-Moscow voices that are "against the truth."


The country must "consolidate the state and society on the basis of values instilled by our history," he wrote in a statement published Tuesday on the website of a military historical society he chairs.

"Against us — and that means against the truth — a new blitzkrieg has begun," Medinsky wrote. "We need a patriotic trend in the public conscience. We need films, books, exhibitions, modern video games, we need a patriotic Internet, patriotic radio and television."

Medinsky's call has already garnered support from Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who signed the statement along with several Russian army generals and Academy Award winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov. They cited a televised statement made by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during his recent visit to Berlin as their motivation. Yatsenyuk referenced a "Soviet invasion of Ukraine, as well as of Germany."

Emergency interest rate hike fails to stop ruble's free-fall as Russia's economic crisis deepens. Read more here.

Yatsenyuk later told the television station he was speaking about the post-WWII Soviet occupation of East Germany, but the statement elicited outrage from Moscow, where bubbling tensions with Kiev have reached a boiling point following months of violent confrontations over Ukraine's contested east. Kiev's army is still fighting Russia-backed separatists there, despite a tenuous four-month ceasefire.


The West and Kiev have continued to blame Russia for lighting a fire under the insurgency in Ukraine, and have implemented crippling sanctions on Moscow that have contributed to the country's recent economic woes. Moscow maintains it never sent troops across the border or weapons to aid the Ukrainian rebels.

While frigid East-West relations have dipped to an all-time post-Cold War low, Russia has intensified calls for increased "patriotic" ideals to be entrenched into the country's culture, media, and educational institutions.

The latest call for a patriotic internet to incubate an "ideological counteroffensive in this war for the minds," follows a proposal in spring of 2014 from a Russian senator who sought the establishment of a "sovereign" intranet that would virtually block out the rest of the world — similar to North Korea's totally censored nationwide network.

'Russian Roulette' — VICE News' dispatches from Ukraine. Watch them here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields