George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words have nothing on Russia's mat, a profane vocabulary that's common throughout the country, and especially prevalent in male-dominated spaces like prisons and the army. Mat has a long history in poetry, parody, and political speech, and, on Monday, Vladimir Putin signed legislation to ban it.
Much of mat springs from a handful of base words, as David Remnick explains in the New Yorker. The big four are khuy ("cock"), pizda ("cunt"), ebat' ("to fuck"), and blyad ("whore" or "bitch")—and those words will be banned from movies, concerts, and theatre performances starting July 1.
Prescribed punishments include fines of anywhere from $40 to $1,400, depending on whether the violator is a private citizen, an official, or a business. Movies that use the words won't be certified for distribution, effectively cutting them off from a national audience.
There are exceptions, but they're extremely murky. According to Remnick, the Ministry of Culture claims the swearing ban will only affect "pop culture" and will not apply to art: "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."
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