Now that Russia is doing its best to regulate what kinds of sex children can learn about, the government is moving on to other imminent societal dangers. Namely, the merry, gift-bearing holiday figurehead known as old St. Nick.
Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Mikhail Degtyaryov has requested that the minister for industry and trade look into the regulation of Santa Claus. In yet another bid to distance Russia from the mores of the West, Degtyaryov thinks the jolly, rotund version embraced and promoted by the likes of Coca-Cola should disappear from Russian culture, in favor of the taller, leaner, more traditional Grandpa Frost. (We should note that Coca-Cola is one of the main sponsors of the Winter Olympics in Sochi and has therefore been subject to many calls for boycotts from the gay rights community.)
“The initiative would effectively ban the use of the more Western red-suit-clad Santa Claus,” according to The Moscow Times. The key here for Degtyaryov is culture, not corporations. He apparently feels strongly that Western Santa “undermines cultural sovereignty and spiritual sovereignty.”
Russia's version of Santa Claus, Grandpa Frost (Ded Moroz), is not all that far removed from the jolly red giant Westerners know and love. He still wears red, fur-lined Christmas garb, but he doesn't carry the extra weight around the midriff that Santa does. Three horses (not reindeer) lead his sleigh, and rather than the North Pole, Ded Moroz lives in a log cabin in Russia's Vologodsky Region, north of Moscow. Oh, and he was banished from folklore for a period after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Degtyaryov is no stranger to controversial legislation. A member of the Duma since December 2011, some of his other proposals include banning American currency completely from Russian circulation (because he thinks it’s on the verge of total collapse) and giving two days of paid leave per month to women suffering the “psychological and physiological discomfort” of PMS. (I might be biased, but that one doesn’t sound so bad. Paid leave!)
How We Know
We tracked all available Degtyaryov social media pages in an attempt to understand the man the behind the controversy. His LiveJournal and personal website proved most useful.
Wacky initiatives or not, the 32-year-old lawmaker is a youthful infusion of new leadership for the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. Degtyaryov was elected to serve on the party’s central committee last year and serves on the High Tech Committee in the Duma. According to his bio, he considers himself first and foremost a patriot, as evidenced by his desire to expel Western culture. In a nice little twist of irony, his LiveJournal (it’s a huge thing in Russia) is called “The Anti-Censorship Blog.”
If the Industry and Trade Ministry were to bite, the regulation would apply to toy and costume manufacturers and children’s TV and book publishers. Degtyaryov has 10 months to ruin Christmas for everyone. We wish him well.