Even though Russia seems to have their hands in conflicts around the globe, they also like to carefully control what their citizens can do. While nearly every country around the world has basic laws, some of Russia’s are pretty outrageous.
Russia doesn’t just stop at internet censorship and human rights violations — they even hold grudges against seemingly normal things like rap music and French cheese. Quite a few of these banned items are only banned because Putin doesn’t like them! Read on to find out what could land you a night in jail in Russia.
House Of Cards
Don’t even think about watching one of Netflix’s most beloved political television series’ if you’re in Russia. If you’ve watched the show you might have noticed that the character playing the Russian president looks eerily similar to a certain oligarch currently in control.
Russia hates the show because of the portrayal and has banned it. Two episodes were even supposed to be filmed in the UN chambers but Russian representatives opposed it.
When the viral phone app was released in 2016, kids (and adults) worldwide went crazy for it, and Russia was no exception. The only problem was that Russia felt Pokémon Go was too much of a distraction and decided to crack down on the app.
The ban was all thanks to an internet user who posted a video of him playing the game in church. Russia claimed that the game mocked organized religion and “denied the divinity of Jesus.”
Since 2008, Russia has banned the gothic emo look for being a “dangerous teen trend.” That means if you wear black clothing, black makeup, tease your hair, and listen to alternative music then you might wind up in jail for a night.
Many critics think that Russian lawmakers have mistakingly lumped the emo trend in with skinheads. The bill that banned it argued that the emo trend encourages depression, social withdrawal, and even suicide.
Yes, the point of Bitcoin and other online currencies is that there are no laws or banks governing it, but that doesn’t mean Russia can’t try their best to ban it. President Putin and the Kremlin has issued an official rejection of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies on the basis that they might be used for “money laundering and financing terrorism.”
It seems as though while the rest of the world is looking for new, high-tech ways to launder money, Russia is fine with the good, old-fashioned way.
It’s messed up, but it’s true. In 2014, Russia decided to ban the use of four particularly bad words in the arts. That means no films or books can feature these words because President Putin hopes to create a “national and spiritual identity” for the country.
The rule is so strict that even old books and plays might be re-censored or have a warning on the cover. The cursing ban is even supposed to extend to comments about art forms on the internet, but we’re not sure how they plan to enforce that.
If you’re hoping to go on a retreat to Russia, find your zen, and become a little more flexible while you do it, then think again. Parts of Russia have banned yoga because local officials believe that yoga “promoted the spread of new religious cults and movements.”
If you want to casually stretch in a public park without using any of the traditional names for certain yoga positions, you might get away with it.
There’s no dressing up for yours or your partner’s pleasure in Russia unless it’s more than 6% cotton. In 2014, President Putin banned all synthetic lingerie and “lacy underthings.” When the law went into effect, nearly 90% of the lingerie in Russian stores were considered illegal.
This might sound like a trivial ban, but there were legitimate street protests from women in Russia and Kazakhstan over the issue. Some women were even fined more than $60 for owning lingerie.
You might think that memes flow freely on the internet, but that doesn’t stop President Putin from wanting to put an end to them. In 2015, Russia banned any internet memes that make fun of the country’s political figures. While memes of Putin himself are most common, this ban applies to each and every lawmaker in Russia.
If a Russian citizen does post a meme that violates the conditions, they might be asked to remove it or face a harsh lawsuit.
Yes, the “Wolves” singer might look sweet and innocent, but apparently, she’s dangerous enough to be banned from Russia. The singer was denied a Russian visa because of her stance on LGBTQ+ rights. Basically, because she supports gay rights she wasn’t welcome to tour the country.
While other singers who support LGBTQ+ rights haven’t been banned yet, some have chosen not to tour Russia on their own accord. Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Elton John have all spoke out against touring in Russia.
Okay, obviously not all people are banned from driving, but there is a strange and sweeping list of reasons why Russia can deny you a driver’s license. One of the major reasons that have garnered attention is if you have a “medical deviation” which covers transgender people, bi-genders, asexuals, and cross-dressers.
The restrictions don’t stop there. If you’re shorter than 150cm, have a pathological gambling problem, or even showcase certain “fetishisms” you can be denied a license.
Russia, like many other European countries, have chosen to deny the Church of Scientology religious rights and instead classify it as a cult. Russia joined countries like France and Germany by banning the “religion” from the nation.
Still, Russia took it a step further and even went as far as to ban the books and teachings from being readily available. That means you won’t find anything by founding L. Ron Hubbard on the library shelves in Moscow.
Russia probably knew that it would be futile to try and ban the famous Eastern-European soup in their country. The sour dish is one of the most popular amongst Russians, but the name is actually a Ukrainian term.
Since we all know that Russia has a serious grudge against Ukraine, then it makes sense why restaurants have become encouraged to call it “beet root soup.” Although it’s not an outright ban, if President Putin “encourages” it then you should probably follow the rules.
President Putin himself has been outspoken against rap music. The Russian president has called on cultural leaders to control the music so he doesn’t have to resort to outright banning it.
Putin says that rap is based on “Three pillars: sex, drugs, and protest” and that those ideas should not resonate with Russians. Even rap made in Russia by Russians have been targeted, and some rappers have canceled concerts because of police pressure.
There are only four areas in all of Russia were gambling is legal. As of 2009, only the Altai, Krasnodar, Primorsky, and Kaliningrad regions of the country can legally operate casinos, gaming rooms, and slot machines.
The ban came after Russia experienced a rapid increase of casinos and slot machines in the 2000s. Many casinos also targeted young people in their advertisements. On top of all of that, it was shown that most casinos were engaging in money laundering and tax evasion.
There has long been restrictions in Russia about where and when you can smoke. At first, the ban applied to restaurants, but now it applies to nearly every public place. In 2015, President Putin had gone as far as to ban anyone born after 2014 from EVER buying tobacco.
Considering the fact that in 2016, 60% of the Russian population were smokers, this ban might actually help the overall health of the country. Don’t be fooled though, reportedly, smoking is only banned because it is one of Putin’s personal pet peeves.
Sexual education is nearly non-existent in Russian schools thanks to a ban on many banned terms and the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The word “condom” isn’t allowed in Russian textbooks so it’s a little difficult to teach contraception.
Over the years there have been multiple attempts to push through reform on this issue but pressure from the church and conservative politicians shut it down every time. It also doesn’t help that Russia has a population crisis and actually offers prizes and money to couples who have kids.
Russia likes to know exactly who is posting about what on the internet. If you want to hide behind an anonymous monicker than think again. In 2014, Russia passed a regulation that made it illegal for blogs with more than 3,000 daily visitors to remain anonymous.
If your blog receives more than the 3,000 daily quota then you technically have to register as a media outlet which means disclosing personal data about yourself.
Apparently, bacon from outside their own country isn’t good enough for Russia. In 2014, Putin placed an embargo of the import of all pork products, but particularly bacon, from Europe. He claimed that the ban was due to outbreaks of swine flu in Lithuania and Poland, but the EU claimed otherwise.
The EU’s trade commission said the ban was “clearly disproportionally, discriminatory, and not based on science.” Maybe Russia just thinks it doesn’t taste as good.
Russia isn’t exactly friendly to most non-traditional religious practices (we’re looking at you, Scientology and yoga) but they seem to really hate Jehovah’s Witnesses. The religion was added to a list of “extremist organizations” in 2017 and forced to disband.
They were accused of collecting money to organize events (what religion doesn’t) and they even had their official website blocked. Despite the ban, the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have more than 175,000 followers in Russia.
One of the most notorious and controversial bans in Russia came in 2014. Whether you’re LGBTQ+ yourself of not, you could find yourself facing jail time or monetary fines for partaking in LGBTQ+ parades, handing out pamphlets, or even flying the rainbow colored flag.
Russia claimed the “anti-gay law” was protecting children and advocating for traditional family values, but many people inside Russia claim it is simply a discriminatory act aimed to quiet an anti-Putin community.
Food From The Western World
Russia has banned the import of most (delicious) foods from countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, and the European Union. The ban comes as retaliation for Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Russian officials have even started a campaign to track down and destroy Western food that has been smuggled in. You can find photos of Russian workers squishing French cheese and throwing American peaches off the back of a truck.
The Death Of Stalin
This 2017 satirical film was banned by Russia before it was even released. The plot follows the power struggle in the Communist party in the 1950s after Stalin’s death. The Russian minister of culture said the film was “aimed at inciting hatred” and was a “Western plot to destabilize Russia.”
Believe it or not, Stalin is still a very popular figure in Russia, so it makes sense why they wouldn’t want a movie trashing him, even if it’s meant to be a comedy.
The Telegram App
In a world where data sharing and spying is an increasing worry among the average person, applications like Telegram have come to the rescue. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically WhatsApp without being connected to any server like Facebook, which means your messages are encrypted and safe.
The only problem is that telegram has been a favorite app for terrorist organizations. Russia banned Telegram because the founder refused to share the encryption with the Russian spy network.
The late Republican senator and one-time Presidential nominee was banned from entering Russia after he was a driving force behind placing sanctions on them in 2014. McCain was just one of many Western and European officials who was suddenly barred from entering the country.
While others were worried, McCain seemed to wear it as a badge of honor. He even made the sarcastic comment that he’d have to spend “Easter in Sedona, rather than Siberia.”
Several Wikipedia pages and certain websites have been shut down or banned from Russian servers because of drug-related content. Even if the website is simply giving information about the scientific or historical use of drugs, it has been banned.
Russia even once shut out the entire Reddit website for more than 24 hours thanks to a single drug-related thread. This is likely because, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians became one of the top users of narcotics in the world.
This ban on soap and beauty products from Western countries like England, France, and the United States is thanks to Russia’s consumer protection agency. They have outlawed soaps from huge companies like Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and Henkel.
Russian officials say that products are “toxic” and don’t meet Russian safety standards, but the companies claim them to be perfectly safe. We’re sure this has nothing to do with Western sanctions against Russia.
While many countries have outlawed Holocaust deniers, Russia has taken it to the next level. In 2014, President Putin signed a law that made denying the Holocaust AND the accepted narrative of the Soviet Union in WW2 a crime.
Specifically, it says that if you don’t follow the history books and agree that the Soviet Union was nothing but good during the war, then you could land in jail. This law goes so far that in Russia, they say that WW2 started in 1941, not 1939, because they want to forget about the time they were on the Nazi’s side.
While no country likes to welcome a spy with open arms into their borders, Russia has classified anyone who is against their point of view as “foreign agents.” The ban came alongside the sweeping regulations against the LGBTQ+ community.
Basically, any independent group that receives any sort of “foreign funding” is deemed to be dangerous. That ranking goes up if the “foreign agents” are involved in any sort of “political activity.” The language is broad for a reason. This law essentially allows Russia to classify anyone as a foreign agent.
There will be no networking if you’re on Russia soil. In 2016, a Moscow court decided to ban access to the social networking platform LinkedIn because it stores the user data on servers outside of Russia.
The state claims that this ban was imposed to protect user data, but critics say it’s banned because Russia cannot access the data. Given everything we know about Russia and cybersecurity, we’ll let you be the judge.
Abortion has been a controversial topic for most countries around the world when it comes to making laws. While many countries have gone forward with decriminalizing abortion and upholding women’s rights, Russia is one of the many who have not. While abortion clinics and doctors exist in Russia, their reach is highly restricted.
In 2014, the Russian government even passed a bill that placed a monetary fine on anyone who went through with an illegal abortion.