Russian Director Nikolai Dostal Accuses Local TV Channel of Censorship

The director claims that swear words and sex scenes were cut from the re-airing of his miniseries "The Penal Battalion," rendering the plot partially incomprehensible.

MOSCOW – Russian director Nikolai Dostal has accused the state-run TV channel Rossiya of censoring out profanities and sex scenes from his TV miniseries Shtrafbat (The Penal Battalion), which recently was re-aired by the station.

In a letter sent to Oleg Dobrodeyev, head of the state television group VGTRK, which runs Rossiya, Dostal complained of “arbitrary and illegal censorship” of the miniseries, which is focused on a penal battalion during the Second World War.

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According to Dostal, all expletives were excised from the miniseries, including a song sung by criminals. “It is common knowledge that at the war, profanities were used a lot, and in the [miniseries], words of that kind are to be heard rarely, plus not the strongest ones, and they are said by criminals,” he said, defending his use of strong language in the series.

The director added that a sex scene in one of the episodes was shortened, and another scene, in which a man from the penal battalion rapes a Russian girl, was cut so dramatically that the rape “seems to have not happened.” Dostal complained that the cut had an impact on the story’s further events, making them look less motivated.

“I understand that you [Oleg Dobrodeyev] didn’t do it personally and probably you didn’t give direct orders to do it,” Dostal observed, adding that he still feels ashamed for this kind of “crude, petty and hypocritical censorship” on the part of the station.

The re-airing of the series occurred at a time when some deputies of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russian parliament, were calling for a ban on profanity in Russian films and TV programs. Legislation was, in fact, passed earlier this year banning profane language in the media.

The Penal Battalion was was originally commissioned by Rossiya and premiered in 2004. It was later re-aired several times in its original, uncut version.