Russia won't see 'The Death of Stalin'

The Ministry of Culture of Russia regards the satirical film as ''an insulting mockery of the Soviet past''

The Death of Stalin won't be shown in Russian cinemas: the Ministry of Culture has found the film insulting and banned the screening only two days before the supposed premiere in cinemas. The film's director, Armando Iannucci, advocates his creation and hopes that the Russian authorities will change their mind. However, it is unlikely as patriotism is Russia's national idea for now.

The Ministry of Culture of Russia has withdrawn the general release license of The Death of Stalin due to numerous complaints about the film's content, reports Reuters citing Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky. The film, which depicts back-stabbing and infighting among Stalin's inner circle after his death in 1953, was privately viewed by the ministry's officials and advisers last week. Most of the spectators said that they were disappointed and outraged. Elena Drapeko, deputy head of the culture committee in the State Duma, even stated that she found ''extremism'' in the film. The ministry has also requested extra legal checks on the film's content.

''We don't have censorship,'' stated Medinsky. ''We are not afraid of critical and unpleasant assessments of our history. But there is a moral line between the critical analysis of our history and desecrating it.'' According to the minister, many people of the older generation will perceive The Death of Stalin to be ''an insulting mockery of all the Soviet past, of the country that defeated fascism and of ordinary people, and what's even worse, even of the victims of Stalinism''.

Director of TheDeath of Stalin Armando Iannucci: ''I'm still confident we can get it in cinemas.'' Photo: Chatham House

The film's director Armando Iannucci, a British satirist, was once described by The Daily Telegraph as ''the hardman of political satire''. He still hopes that the Russian authorities will reconsider their decision and bring the film back to cinemas. ''All the Russians we've shown the film to so far, including Russian journalists, have said how much they enjoyed and appreciated the film,'' said the director. ''They say two things: it's funny, but it's true.''

However, such a U-turn seems unlikely given how actively the Russian authorities are promoting the idea of patriotism on the threshold of this year's presidential election. Putin has called Stalin ''a complex figure'' and criticised attempts to demonise him. The well-known Soviet leader is considered to be responsible for the deaths of millions due to his ruthless political decisions. Nonetheless, many Russians still associate him with the country's greatest achievements including the victory in the Second World War.

By Anna Litvina