Russian Lower Parliament Calls for Relaxing Rules on Racist Nazi symbols

An interior view shows the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, Russia January 20. MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

Russian lawmakers have voted to lift a legal ban on displays of Nazi symbols like swastikas as long as they are not intended to promote fascist ideology.

Currently the public display of Nazi symbols along with logos of extremist organizations is banned in Russia and punishable by a fine or up to 15 days behind bars.

A vote by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday backed lifting the ban, which was introduced in 2014. The amendment still has to be passed by the senate and signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lawmakers opposing the ban pointed out that it theoretically applies to documentaries about the Third Reich as well as World War II-related feature films, book illustrations and school textbooks.

They cited cases including a woman from the western city of Smolensk who was given a small fine in 2015 for posting a picture on social media of German soldiers in the courtyard of her home during the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union.

The ban has also affected Russians who re-enact World War II battles.

The lower house voted in favor of lifting the ban when symbols are used to promote a “negative attitude to Nazi ideology and extremism” and when there are “no signs of propaganda or justifying Nazi and extremist ideology.”