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‘Undesirable’ comedy Stand-up comedian Idrak Mirzalizade made an ‘insulting’ joke. Now he’s banned from Russia for life. 

Source: Meduza
Stand-Up Club #1 / Youtube

Russia has banned comedian Idrak Mirzalizade from residing in the country for life over an “insulting” joke about Russians. Mirzalizade, who is of Azerbaijani origin, was jailed earlier this month on misdemeanor charges of inciting interethnic hatred. This came after he appeared on a comedy show aired on YouTube, where he made jokes about the xenophobia he encountered while apartment hunting in Moscow. Pro-Kremlin outlets picked up the story, claiming that Mirzalizade had “offended” Russians and should be prosecuted. The comedian, who maintains his innocence and says his statements were taken out of context, has reportedly left Russia already. Meduza chronicles the timeline of events leading up to Idrak Mirzalizade’s expulsion here.

March 1, 2021

The YouTube channel “Stand-Up Club #1” released a new episode of the comedy show “Razgony.” One of the guests — Belarusian national Idrak Mirzalizade, who is of Azerbaijani origin — told an anecdote about his experience encountering xenophobia while apartment hunting in Moscow. The comedian talked about the difficulties that people of “non-Slavic appearance” face when looking for rental housing and made jokes about Russians. 

Early June

On June 5, the Russian Orthodox news network Tsargrad TV published an article titled, “Stand-up comic insults Russians. The people didn’t put up with it. ‘Suitcase – Train Station – Baku’.” That same day, the Telegram channel “Dvach” wrote to its more than 500,000 subscribers that “Idrak Mirzalizade, who has been trying to get Russian citizenship for seven years, insulted the Russian nation to the applause of an audience.” On June 6, talk show host Vladimir Solovyov called for prosecuting Mirzalizade on charges of inciting hatred in an episode of his YouTube show “Solovyov Live.” In turn, Idrak Mirzalizade said that Solovyov and Tsargrad TV took his joke out of context. 

june Continued

Idrak Mirazlizade began receiving thousands of threats online. In Penza, a man conducted a solitary picket, carrying a photo of the comedian with the capiton “Enemy of the Russian people!” According to Mirzalizade, there was a 50,000-ruble ($680) bounty on his head. Later, two men beat up the comedian in downtown Moscow, demanding he apologize.

July 30

A district attorney’s office in Moscow slapped Idrak Mirazlizade with misdemeanor charges for allegedly inciting interethnic hatred (under Russian Administrative Code article 20.3.1). The district attorney’s office said that a study of Mirazlizade’s statements found “linguistic and psychological evidence of the degradation of a group of people on the basis of nationality,” as well as the “propagation” of ideas of this group’s “inferiority.”

August 9

Moscow’s Tagansky District Court sentenced Idrak Mirzalizade to 10 days in jail. The comedian maintained his innocence, but apologized to those who may have been hurt by his joke. “I had no intention of insulting anyone,” he said in court. “The performance was humorous and primarily aimed at ridiculing xenophobia.”

August continued

On August 13, Russian comedians — including Ruslan Belyy, Danila Poperechny, and Konstantin Pushkin — released a video condemning Mirzalizade’s arrest as a “terrible precedent.” “A joke may not please or [it] may offend. But you can’t imprison [someone] over a joke. The only thing comedians want when they go on stage is for people to laugh,” the video’s description read. On August 18, comedians put on a show in Moscow in support of Idrak Mirzalizade.

August 30

The Russian Interior Ministry announced that Idrak Mirzalizade had been banned from entering and residing in Russia for life. Police officials made this decision due to the comedian’s “statements expressing hatred and enmity towards individuals of Russian nationality, degrading their human dignity.” The ministry condemned Mirzalizade’s statements as “inadmissible,” claiming they were “aimed at destabilizing interethnic relations.” According to the Interior Ministry, Mirzalizade has visited Russia multiple times in the past, and received a residence permit in March 2021. 

According to the law on entering and exiting Russia, cited by the Interior Ministry, foreign nationals whose stay in the country is deemed “undesirable” are “obliged to leave the Russian Federation.” On August 30, a source in law enforcement told the state news agency TASS that if Mirzalizade didn’t leave Russia voluntarily he would be deported. However, the comedian’s friends told journalists that he had already left the country. Fellow comedian Artur Chaparyan wrote on Telegram that Mirzalizade left for Belarus following his release from jail. In turn, an unnamed friend of Mirzalizade told Mediazona Belarus that currently, he is “not in Russia and not in Belarus.” Another acquaintance added that the comedian is safe, but didn’t disclose his whereabouts. 

Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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