News Brief

Why Has Russia Banned A British Comedy About Stalin?

An award-winning British comedy film about Stalin has been barred from Russian movie theaters on the grounds that it contains “banned information”, and insults the country’s past.

“The Death of Stalin,” directed by British satirist Armando Iannucci, was due to have a limited release in Russia from tomorrow. But the country’s culture ministry withdrew its permit following a private screening for government officials, and a conservative-led campaign against the film.

It the latest example of the Russian authorities either censoring or restricting content that is seen as being critical of the country’s past. Last month, a Russian historian who has been documenting the victims of Stalin’s purges was ordered to undergo psychiatric testing. Another ministry recently withdrew a Russian textbook from schools because it referred to Ukraine’s 2014 uprising as a “revolution.”

In a statement announcing its decision, the Ministry of Culture cited a letter from lawmakers and members of its “public council,” who had condemned the film for “lampooning the history of our country” and “blackening the memory of our citizens who conquered fascism,” according to the Tass news agency.

The campaign against Iannucci’s film began last year, when officials expressed concern that its release would undermine celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.

However, the Ministry of Culture did allow another controversial film to go ahead, about Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II and his affair with a Polish ballerina — despite nationwide protests led by Orthodox priests and other conservative groups.

Despite the ban, Iannucci remains hopeful that the ministry will reverse its decision. He said he had only received positive feedback from Russians who have seen the film, telling the Guardian “they say two things: it’s funny, but it’s true.”