Russian Communists Call for Banning HBO's 'Chernobyl'

Chernobyl Finale Still 1- HBO Publicity -H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

The Russian Marxist-Leninist political party says the series "demonizes the image of the Soviet government and Soviet people" and calls for libel cases against the writer and director of the show.

A Russian Marxist-Leninist political party, the Communists of Russia, claim HBO's Chernobyl series "demonize[s] the image of the Soviet government and Soviet people" and should be banned.

The party, which had appealed to Russian state broadcasting regulator Roskomnadzor, is also calling for libel cases to be brought against the writer and director of the show.

"The real tragedy is the Chernobyl series is ideological manipulation by HBO," reads a press release issued by the party, a splinter group formed by an extremist fringe of Russia's traditional Communist Party. "The television series about the dramatic events of April 1986 is an ideological tool designed to defame and demonize the image of the Soviet government and Soviet people."

The party, which does not seem to recognize that the Soviet Union has not existed for nearly 30 years and the concept of the Soviet people is one most Russians today only read of in history books, concedes that the hit TV series is largely factual, but claims "the motivation, the actions of the heroes, the order of relationships in institutions and collectives, the moral climate in Soviet society, are an absolute lie."

The party urges Roskomnadzor to open libel proceedings against the writer, director and producers of Chernobyl under Article 129 of Russia's criminal code, although media reports note that this clause of the country's criminal code is no longer valid.

HBO's five-part series starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson has gripped Russian viewers — and even prompted one domestic TV channel to launch plans to make a more "patriotic" version for local viewers.

In Russia, Chernobyl has aired on Amediateva, "the home of HBO," and on KinoPoisk, Russia's version of IMDb, its average rating is 9.1.

The Communists' appeal is, however, likely to fall on deaf ears: The popularity of the HBO series is such that even Vladimir Medinsky, Russia's conservative culture minister who is usually no friend of the West, has praised it.

"The film was made masterfully … with the greatest of respect for ordinary people," Medinsky told Russian media. "My father, who was a liquidator [one of the Russian volunteers engaged in fighting the fire following the explosion] practically from the first day, said that, yes, in general it was just like in the film."

Russian media reaction to the series has been divided. Popular tabloid Argumenty I Fakti dubbed it an "excellently filmed lie," claiming it depicts the Soviet people as "bloody executioners or helpless victims."

But Susanna Alperina, a TV critic for government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, wrote: "I don’t think there are elements of propaganda in the series. Sometimes, an outsider's view is truer."