Death of Stalin: Russian police visit cinema defying film ban

Russians looking at poster ad for The Death of Stalin, 23 Jan 18Image copyright

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The cinema was packed for the banned film’s first screening in Moscow

Russian police have visited a Moscow cinema that screened the British comedy The Death of Stalin in defiance of a government ban on it.

The police gave no explanation. Several uniformed officers were photographed at the Pioneer Cinema in central Moscow.

The film had a first screening on Thursday at the cinema, which has sold tickets for showings until 3 February.

Russian officials called the comedy “insulting”. It shows a power struggle after the Soviet leader’s death.

AFP news agency reporter Ola Cichowlas tweeted photos of the police at the arts cinema on Friday.

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The film, from director Armando Iannucci, is a satire of political intrigue in Moscow following Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.

As a result, many of the main characters are real historical figures.

  • Russia reacts to The Death of Stalin ban
  • Russia bars The Death of Stalin

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A Pioneer Cinema ticket for The Death of Stalin

The film was released in the UK in October, but it was banned by the Russian culture ministry after a private screening for officials and film directors in Moscow.

The Pioneer Cinema is near central Moscow’s Arbat district, an old quarter long associated with artists.

Russians who watched the film on Thursday gave broadly positive reactions to BBC Russian.

“It really is extremism to ban such a film,” one woman said. Another woman said “this film has to be seen”.

When asked if he had felt at all insulted by the film a man said “of course not”.

Two elderly women who experienced Stalin’s dictatorship told Reuters news agency they liked the film. Dina Voronova and Ella Katz were schoolgirls when Stalin died.

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Volga Films

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The Death of Stalin did not go down well with Russia’s politicians and cinema elite

Under President Vladimir Putin there has been a revival of enthusiasm for Stalin, despite the 1930s Communist Party purges and mass terror that killed or incarcerated millions of people.

February is the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, which turned the tide of war against Nazi Germany. Many Russians admire Stalin for his role in that bitter struggle.

Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky denied that the film ban was an act of censorship. He said it was a question of morality.

“Many people of the older generation will regard the film as an insulting mockery of the Soviet past,” he said.

The ministry says the cinema will be prosecuted for showing the comedy without a licence.