News Brief

‘Sex with Stalin’ video game ignites fury in Russia

In Russia, a new video game invites users to meet, avenge and ultimately have virtual sex with an avatar of Joseph Stalin. Rather than ironic laughs, the game has sparked an eruption of new controversy in a country with a mixed view of the Soviet dictator’s legacy.

The game, rather unimaginatively entitled “Sex with Stalin,” advertises itself to both fans and foes of the Georgian-born leader under whose brutal regime tens of millions of Soviet citizens died. It promises violence, nudity and blood, and users can use it as a tool for “revenge” or, should they wish, to “help the leader reach worldwide supremacy,” apparently by seducing him.

The program, the brainchild of a Russian development company called “Boobs Dev,” has attracted heavy attention from state-sponsored media outlets in Russia. Sputnik news published an interview with one of the developers on Wednesday in which the reporter asked: “Is the game aimed at admirers or simply to lovers of ‘alternative history?’”

The Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communists of Russia, Maksim Surajkin, has called for the game to be banned. “Whatever we think of Stalin, he is a state activist who defines a great age of our country,” he said in a statement., a state-operated media agency, quoted Olga Alimova, a Communist Party representative, calling the video “an abomination”, saying that “doctors must look into this.”

In response to the game’s upcoming release Kremlin-backed news agency RT (formerly Russia Today) ran with a tongue-in-cheek headline: “Communists not aroused by upcoming ‘Sex with Stalin’ video game.” Alongside its story on the video game, RT featured a piece highlighting Joseph Stalin’s approval rating: according to research carried out by Russian NGO the Levada Center, it has now reached an historic high in Russia.

Aspects of Stalin’s legacy – in particular his World War II allied victory against Nazi Germany – have been heavily promoted by the Kremlin in recent years, while the bloodier history of the gulags, purges, and famines that define Stalin’s leadership are systematically ignored.

In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the mayor recently unveiled a new bust of the Soviet dictator.

Historians in Russia who specialize in Stalin’s victims have been detained and charged with “indecent acts”, while memorials to the Gulags are considered a stain on the Great Patriotic War Narrative.

In 2018, the Russian Ministry of Culture banned The Death of Stalin”, a comedy by satirist Armando Iannucci, from Russian cinema screens, declaring the film a piece of “ideological warfare.” It is yet to be seen whether this game will be given the same treatment.