November 01, 2019

A Brief History of Political Insults

A Brief History of Political Insults
Arkhangelsk from across the frozen Dvina. Polukha

News of Russian courts punishing people for what they write or comment online is no longer anything out of the ordinary. Over the past several years, the state has used a range of criminal charges to prosecute citizens for online posts, ranging from “spreading extremism” to “promoting Nazi symbols” and “justification of terrorism.”

Then this past spring a new criminal charge was added to the state’s arsenal that rights activists say can be used to quash any and all manner of dissent. Since it was enacted, a law criminalizing “disrespect of authorities” has been used to prosecute ordinary Russians 45 times. In some cases, its implementation only served to incite more internet irreverence.

The law came about through an amendment of the existing law on hooliganism, and it made “offending” society, the state, its official symbols and institutions, punishable by a fine of R30,000-100,000 rubles ($460 to $1,500). In the case of a repeat offence, the fine is increased to R300,000 and can include up to 15 days behind bars.

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