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Outspoken Russian MP sticks up for public swearing


MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - A controversial senior lawmaker spoke out on Friday in defense of the public use of Russian swearwords, or mat.

"It is a grassroots language, which originated during serfdom in Russia. It is a form of protest, it is our everyday language. It must be legalized," Vladimir Zhirinovsky, deputy speaker of the State Duma lower house and leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, said in a radio interview.

Russian law classifies the use of mat in public as hooliganism, and fines of up to 1,000 rubles ($30) or a short custodial sentence can be imposed on offenders. However, the law is rarely enforced.

Zhirinovsky's defense of expletives is another example of populism from the extrovert politician and is likely to find support among those Russians who feel mat reflects the richness of their mother tongue.

"This is a revolutionary form of language, through it they [the people] attempt to express their protest," he told the Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei station.

Despite the expansive arsenal of obscenities boasted by the language of Dostoevsky and Chekhov, the ban on swearing in the Russian media renders translations of Western gangster movies and thrillers mild in the extreme, as characters label one another "morons" and tell each other to "buzz off" in place of the four-letter frenzies of the originals.

On the few occasions that swearwords have been uttered on national television, the incidents have quickly passed into legend. Not surprisingly, given the spontaneous nature of live broadcasts, sportspeople and commentators have been more often than not responsible for turning the Russian airwaves blue.

In another recent case of public mat, the Spartak Moscow football club was fined almost $15,000 after a group of supporters held up a banner suggesting that their opponents enjoyed intimate relations with sheep.

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