Russia’s anti-profanity law came into effect Tuesday, banning use of the words in theatre, film, books and concerts.
The forbidden words, referred to collectively as mat, are: colloquial terms for male and female sex organs; a verb for sexual intercourse; and a derogatory term for a prostitute. Utterances are punishable by fines of $75 for individuals and $1,500 for businesses.
The law, which President Vladimir Putin signed off on in May, comes on the heels of a 2013 law that rooted out swearing in the media, according to the Moscow Times.
To enforce the law online, Russia spent $775,000 on a program, dubbed the “swear bot,” to scan the 5,000 websites that are otherwise monitored manually, Reutersreported, noting that the program is faced with a difficult task since there are roughly 1,200 different phrases containing a slang term for penis.
On Tuesday, some Russian media outlets lamented that the banned words were used frequently by the likes of famed novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and poet Alexander Pushkin.
It will be up to the artistic director to decide what to do with swearing
A spokesperson at Russia’s ministry of culture, which overseas theatres and issues movie distribution certificates, told the Moscow Times in May the law would not be “aggressive,” and directors would be afforded the right to choose whether to keep swearing in their scripts.
“Its only aim is to regulate this sphere, so that swearing will have its purpose,” spokesperson Irina Kaznacheeva said. “It will be up to the artistic director to decide what to do with swearing, whether to break the new law or not, we will not interfere in the process.”
Critics, however, have slammed the law as an affront to freedom of expression.