Sharing This Oscar-Winning ‘Donald Duck’ Cartoon Is Illegal in Russia

Screen capture: Walt Disney, "Der Fuehrer's Face" (1942) / YouTube

Screen capture: Walt Disney, “Der Fuehrer's Face” (1942) / YouTube

Two men in Tomsk have been convicted of disseminating illegal extremist materials online, for uploading some songs by a white supremacist band, as well as a Walt Disney anti-fascist cartoon from 1942, Der Fuehrer’s Face, which stars Donald Duck and won the Academy Award for cartoon short that same year.

Both men confessed to the crime and expressed remorse, claiming they’d shared the materials as a joke during the summer of 2013. The judge fined them both 3,000 rubles (about $40), and declined to sentence them to 15 days in jail, which is the maximum penalty for the production and dissemination of extremist materials under Russian Administrative Code 20.29.

The Donald Duck cartoon has been banned in Russia since December 2010, when a Kamchatka court added it to the national list of illegal extremist materials, along with dozens of other racist video clips found to have been shared by a man named Sergey Semenov. (Tomsk prosecutors, incidentally, transliterated Donald Duck’s name differently than the spelling found on the federal list of extremist materials, making it seem technically as if the two cartoons are actually different films.)

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A racist depiction of the “Japanese enemy.” Screen capture: Walt Disney, “Der Fuehrer's Face” (1942) / YouTube

According to Sova, a Moscow-based hate crimes watchdog organization, that the Disney cartoon was banned along with Semenov’s other materials is proof that the authorities didn’t actually watch each video in Semenov’s collection, before banning them all. “This incident,” says a statement on Sova’s website, “once again demonstrates the uselessness and even the danger of the federal list as an instrument and reminds us that the best solution would be to get rid of it altogether.”

Der Fuehrer’s Face features Donald Duck living in a fascist dictatorship, where he’s ordered about at gunpoint and set to work assembling bombs on a factory line. Under threat of execution, he is forced to salute every portrait of Adolf Hilter he encounters. The cartoon also features a racist depiction of the Japanese, in keeping with America’s wartime propaganda efforts on two fronts. In the end of the film, Donald Duck awakens to realize that it was all a dream, and he is in fact living in the United States. Embracing a miniature of the Statue of Liberty, Donald speaks his final line: “Am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America!”


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