Ukraine Votes to Ban Russian Music and Books

The Ukrainian parliament voted on Sunday to restrict Russian music and books in the country, as part of an ongoing effort to rid the war-torn nation of Russian culture and influence.

The new cultural restrictions are codified by two laws, both of which received broad support in the Ukrainian parliament, even among legislators traditionally perceived as pro-Russia figures. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy still needs to sign the laws for them to take effect, a move he is expected to make.

The laws come as an increasingly authoritarian streak has swept through the Ukrainian government, banning opposition parties in the nation fighting to defend its democracy. A large segment of the population in Ukraine, particularly in the eastern regions, is ethnically or culturally Russian, meaning that the law will likely lead to the persecution of these citizens — with the persecution of cultural and ethnic Russians by the Ukrainian government being one of the reasons listed for the invasion of Ukraine.

One of the laws bans the printing of books written by Russian citizens. The only exceptions to the rule will be if the author didn’t hold Russian citizenship after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, or if they renounce their Russian passport and become a Ukrainian citizen. The new law also bans books printed in Russia and Belarus from being imported into the country.

Ukraine Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said he was “glad to welcome” the restrictions, which he argued would help to support Ukrainian media.

“The laws are designed to help Ukrainian authors share quality content with the widest possible audience, which after the Russian invasion do not accept any Russian creative product on a physical level,” Tkachenko said.

The second law passed on Sunday bans the playing of music by Russian citizens in the media and on public transportation. The law also creates new quotas for Ukrainian music and speech on TV and radio broadcasts.

Both laws are part of a larger Ukrainian effort to free the country of unwanted Russian influence, a process which has been termed “derussification.” Although the derussification effort has been ongoing for decades, the movement has seen increased support in recent years.

In 2019, the government mandated that the Ukrainian language be used in most areas of public life, including schools. And earlier this year, in January, the government began requiring that Ukrainian print media outlets publish their work in Ukrainian.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, the Russian invasion has prompted many in the country to question their relationship with Russian culture and influence — which is evidenced by the Ukrainian government needing to make laws that keep Ukrainians from listening to Russian music and from consuming Russian media.

In a recent statement, the ministry said, “Due to the full-scale invasion of Russia, the desire to replace the Russian and Slavic slope with the Ukrainian one has significantly intensified in our country.”