May 28, 2022

International Publishers Condemn Russia’s Ban on Obscene Language in the Arts, Media

Absolutely the right thing to do. We hope to learn about library groups as well as others (humanities organization, writer groups, etc.) condemning this action by the Russian government.

From the International Publishers Association (IPA):

The IPA condemns the Russian government’s introduction of a law seeking to ban the use of obscene language at arts, cultural and entertainment events, and which requires books containing swearing to carry a warning on the cover stating ‘Contains obscene language’.

The law is due to come into effect on July 1st, with a panel of experts ruling on disputes and deciding what constitutes a swear word. Offenders face fines or even a suspension of their business.

Ola Wallin, Chair of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee, commented that “this legislation is supposedly designed to ‘protect and develop language culture’. The same words the Kremlin is seeking to eradicate from Russian literature have been used by Pushkin, Tolstoy, Lermontov and countless great writers. Whatever problems Vladimir Putin’s government has with free expression, censorship is not the answer. Smart governments promote their creative industries; authoritarian ones shackle them.”


 A similar measure was passed in April 2013, banning swearing in media.

In December 2013, the Institute of Russian Language at the Russian Academy of Sciences complied a list of four words that constitute swearing and will thus be banned. Two depict male and female reproductive organs, one describes the process of copulation and the last refers to a promiscuous woman.

The most recent law has not yet specified a list of specific curse words.

The law has been met with both criticism and shock, as swearing has been a vital component of Russian art, with some of the nation’s best poets and playwrights using curse words prolifically, from classical Alexander Pushkin to contemporary post-modernist Vladimir Sorokin.

According to the Culture Ministry, which is in charge of overseeing the work of theaters and also issuing movie distribution certificates, the newly passed measures will only concern mass culture and will not concern art.

Offenders will face fines – as much as 50,000 roubles (£829; $1,400) for organisations, or up to 2,500 roubles (£41; $70) for individuals.


Books containing swear words will have to carry warnings on the cover.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.