A chain-smoking wolf who kicks over trash cans while swilling beer in a striped navy shirt delighted Russians on Saturday by sneaking past the censor and assuming his place among the morning cartoons.
Millions of Russian children woke up this weekend to the first official day of school and the knowledge that a new media law meant to protect them from bad conduct had just entered into force.
Any show with the type of behavior displayed by the wolf in question in Nu, Pogodi! (“You Just Wait!”) — an iconic set of nine-minute cartoons that have defined childhoods since Soviet ages — would have to wait until 11pm.
The penalty would have been especially severe in the wolf’s case: His habits qualified him for the strongest of the five possible age ratings — an 18+.
The younger-age TV guidance is the only advisory to parents and also applies to other media, such as Russian Web sites and even radio stations.
Newspapers fall under the category because of their advertising content and photographs, while films are required to carry tags that should theoretically only let six-year-olds see violence in which good trumps evil.
However, little stirred as much soul-searching among all ages of Russians as the fate of Nu, Pogodi! — one of the first Soviet shows to include jazz music and the kind of meaningless violence that defines a Western cartoon.
The solution came in the shape of a decision by the state’s mass media supervisor body to classify the wolf and rabbit as part of Russia’s cultural heritage that could be shown at any time.
“People were making apocalyptic forecasts about something that several generations were raised on being banned,” Deputy Telecommunications and Media Minister Alexander Zharov told the government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
“But there is now no need to limit the time at which it airs or rate it,” he said.
A wolf who chases endlessly after a rather cocky rabbit with buck teeth was not the only chain smoker of Soviet cartoon lore.
A smartly dressed crocodile named Gena liked to puff on a Cuban cigar or a pipe while breaking into soothing song.
And many famous dads smoked in the kitchen while unfolding their morning papers or sharing a few words of wisdom with their children.
Zharov said all these classics would be spared the censors as well.