Russia to Criminalize Mockery of Its National Anthem

Alexander Legkov
Gold medallist Alexander Legkov (C) listens to Russia's national anthem at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia, February 23, 2014. The country's officials hope to criminalize insulting and mocking the anthem. Phil Noble/Reuters

Russia's Supreme Court has approved a bill to criminalize mockery of the country's national anthem, according to one of the senators who drafted it, news agency Interfax reported.

Vadim Tyulpanov, chairman of the committee for parliamentary procedures in the upper house of parliament and one of the bill's three authors, announced Tuesday that the court had greenlit the proposal to punish "desecration of the main musical symbol of Russia."

The Kremlin has not yet officially announced Russian President Vladimir Putin signing off on the proposed law. However, if he does, this would give Russia's national anthem a similar level of protection that the country's flag and coat of arms enjoy.

Currently, persons, officials or legal entities seen or heard mocking the Russian national anthem can be fined between $45 and $2,200. Should the new law be ratified, however, insults to the anthem will be punishable by up to a year of jail time or public service lasting the same period of time.

The bill defines the offence of mocking the national anthem as acts of "deliberate distortion of the musical arrangement or lyrics of the national anthem of the Russian Federation during its public performance or when published in the media, in the press, including electronic and telecommunications networks such as the Internet."

Russia's national anthem has been rewritten numerous times, as the music currently used was originally adopted as the Soviet national anthem by Joseph Stalin in 1944. Following his death, a debate about some of the lyrics in the latter verses of was reopened and references to Stalin and Vladimir Lenin were taken out in the 1970s. The bombastic tune did serve as the iconic anthem of the Soviet Union for decades, until the state's collapse.

Although the anthem was scrapped in 1990, as the Soviet Union began to devolve into the Russian Federation and other sovereign republics, Putin restored the musical composition as Russia's national anthem in 2000, commissioning new lyrics.

Instead of paying tribute to the "indestructible union" and the "immortal ideas of Communism," the anthem was changed to its present form, hailing the "sacred" and "beloved" Russia.