Staunton, January 15 – The Russian ministry of culture has prepared a draft decree that would ban the showing of any film that its officials viewed as denigrating the country’s national culture, threatening its national unity and undermining the foundations of the constitutional system.
The decree was supposed to enter into force today, but news agencies are reporting that not all of the relevant ministries have yet had time to file their comments and so a meeting will be held to consider possible modifications of the terms of the decree.
Cultural figures are outraged about this proposal. Daniil Dondurey – the editor of Iskusstvo Kino – said he was very concerned about the introduction of “national unity” as a legal term. “What is this national unity? This is a completely new term which didn’t exist [and] it is an unprecedented attack on good sense.”
Andrey Proshkin, the president of the Movie Union, said that the ministry’s proposal opens the way to other kinds of prohibitions. It means that a bunch of officials can decide what Russians will see and what they will not and that those who produce films or other forms of art “will not have any means of defending themselves.”
And Sem Klebanov, head of the Film Without Borders company, said he wanted to know who would be making these decisions. At present, he suggested, “no one knows,” nor can anyone be sure how such arrangements would apply to films produced abroad which Russians might want to see.
But there is at least one group that is enthusiastic about having the culture ministry take such a step. That is the Association of Orthodox Experts who have sent a letter to Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky calling for the establishment of what they call “an Orthodox Hollywood” to produce good Russian films.
Some of their number apparently would like to see new laws that would allow the authorities to ban films like “Leviathan” which they say slander the Russian people and the Russian state. But others believe the best course is to use the state’s economic leverage and ensure that no such film gets state financing in the future.
The Moscow Patriarchate has not taken a position. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, one of the Patriarchate’s senior officials, said only that Orthodox citizens like all others have the right to appeal to the state without the sanction of the church. Another prominent Orthodox figure, Deacon and blogger Andrey Kurayev, however, was more cautious.
He told Izvestiya that “when the clergy interferes in the affairs of state administration, this is called clericalism. Clericalism is prohibited by the Russian Constitution, and anti-clericalist positions are not only contained in the laws but are even in the interests of the church itself.”
But Kurayev, who is known for his outspoken views, added that there is a real problem when films distort Russian realities and lead people either in the Russian Federation or abroad to draw incorrect views about the country. Definite steps must be taken, he said, so that such films are not allowed to define the views of either.