Earlier this month the Russian government agency in charge of movie distribution ruled that Russian people could not see “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”. The agency’s reason: “Borat” offended ethnic feelings.
The agency denied “banning” the movie, claiming instead it made a mere “recommendation” not to distribute it. But in today’s Russia where political loyalty is imperative, a recommendation from “above” means an order. If nothing else, it’s for businesses to be sure they’re “staying on the safe side.”
Less than two decades ago the Soviet Communist rulers ran all artistic productions through state censors. They decided what books the people of the USSR were allowed to read, what movies they could watch and what music they could listen to. In fact, what was not made officially available became automatically illegal. As the Soviet system began to melt away, censorship was formally outlawed. This “negative recommendation” against distributing “Borat” is the first time the post-Communist Russian authorities have banned a piece of creative expression in years. Russian liberals cringe at another alarming signal that the practices of the Soviet police state are making a creepy comeback.