Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has banned the distribution of two Russian films for allegedly twisting historical facts in favour of Russia and displaying “contempt” for the country and its people.

The banned films include the screen adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard, a tale following the life of a family in Ukraine from 1918 to 1922 during the Russian Civil War, and biopic Poddubny, about the celebrated Ukrainian-born Soviet wrestler Ivan Poddubny. The films “were distorted and rewritten in favour of Russia,” a statement on the ministry’s website reads.

According to the statement, the ban is consistent with “cultural sanctions introduced against Russia, which the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture will continue to develop”. The sanctions were ordered by the government to target individuals who “support and finance terrorism in Ukraine”.

Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky has hit back with sarcastic comments on his Twitter page calling for the outlaw of works from three Ukrainian-born writers who moved to Russia: “The next logical step is to ban all works from the Kiev-born ‘Ukrainophobe’ Mikhail Bulgakov and also Nikolai Gogol, who refused to write in his native language, as well as the secret Russophile Taras Shevchenko (who wrote his private diaries only in Russian).” 

Prominent Russian film critic and columnist Andrey Plahov has also spoken out against the ban. After refusing to provide a comment to the Russian newswire Itar-Tass on the ban, he wrote the following on his Facebook page: “I obviously refused to comment. Why? Because I am against any censorship, wherever it takes place — in China, Iran, Ukraine, the USA." 

Plakhov reserved most of his anger, however, for censorship within Russia. “But the thing I care about most is the growing censorship in Russia. Have we seen or will we see the films Maidan, The Tribe and other Ukrainian films currently making waves across world festivals in Russian cinemas or on TV? Like hell we will. Will we see Russian films before they are censored: Leviathan, Yes and Yes, The Hope Factory? It is doubtful in today’s circumstances. So, gentlemen propagandists, it’s better to call me about this — then we’ll talk.”

  • Text: Nadia Beard