Russia Cancels ‘Death of Stalin’ Movie Release But Denies It’s Censorship

The Russian authorities have cancelled the release of the satirical movie, The Death of Stalin, because it mocks the country’s Soviet past.

The film is the latest creation of Armando Iannucci, the Scottish satirist behind Veep and The Thick of It, which mock the political systems of the U.S. and U.K. respectively, and the 2009 film In The Loop, which lampooned both.

The Death of Stalin, which deals with the bloody power struggle following the titular event, is now getting a massive publicity boost around the world, thanks to the Russian ban. The movie was released in the U.K. in October and will roll out in the U.S. in March. But it won’t be hitting Russian screens on Thursday, as was planned.

On Tuesday, the Russian culture ministry revoked the distribution license for the dark comedy, which is adapted from a graphic novel. Culture minister Vladimir Medinsky was, however, adamant that the move did not constitute censorship.

“We don’t have censorship. We’re not afraid of critical or hard-hitting assessments of our history,” Medinsky said. “But there’s a moral boundary between the critical analysis of history and pure mockery.”

“Many people of the older generation, and not only, will regard it as 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,” the minister said.

The film’s case was not helped by the fact that its Russian distributor planned to launch it on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the World War II Battle of Stalingrad.

For his part, Iannucci said many Russians had told him, “It’s funny, but it’s true,” upon seeing the film. He said he hoped the film would appear in the country after all.

The Death of Stalin, which features stars such as Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, and Jeffrey Tambor, is hardly Iannucci’s first venture into pitch-black comedy. In The Loop was a parody of the machinations that led to the Iraq War.

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