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Russia: No ‘Alphabet’ Content for those who Learn ABC with Duolingo

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According to Russia Today’s triumphant report,

‘The US-based company behind the popular language-learning application Duolingo has agreed to remove content potentially violating Russian “LGBT propaganda” laws, the country’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has announced.

The watchdog said on Tuesday it had received a letter confirming the company’s compliance [with] national legislation.

“The Duolingo company sent a response letter to Roskomnadzor, in which it confirmed that it had removed materials promoting non-traditional sexual relationships from its educational application,” the watchdog told TASS in a statement.’[1]

There are several main lines of reaction to the news that I have encountered on- and off-line. The Libertarian crowd would think it inappropriate to implement any kind of restrictions on free speech, that being quite in line with Classical Liberalism in this matter, although they are a bit more sceptical about any state’s hidden intentions, as well as the very legitimacy of a nation’s right to limit or control anything, not to say of the substantial existence of such thing as ‘a nation.’ The interesting part is that many of those guards of liberty would call themselves culturally Conservative, which puts these people in the situation where you are rooting for the football team whose recent victory was bought by a bribe, and the bribegiver was Adolf Hitler who just happened to be on your side of the cultural Stadium, a fellow fan whom you now have to share a winning beer with. This coincidence can really make you think whether you should change the colours… And that is why there are ‘Conservative’ voices against such and other restrictions (for example, concerning abortions), when they are imposed by a state power. Especially when this particular power is not ubiquitously believed to properly represent the Will of the People.

On the contrary, there are bon savage radical traditionalists in the West who take all these autocracy issues easier and hold Russia to be a kind of tradi-paradise where men still love women and all the rainbows are as straight as birch trees. They will cheer the decision, while ironically, at the same time, condemning the NY Trump’s conviction – something that no Russian who lives in this paradise would get even slightly surprised by.

What may be the Catholic position?

From my perspective, it shines through Psalm 146: ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.’ Nevertheless, when some help happens to come through the princes, then praise the Lord and recognise what is good, praying for all men including those in power without making an idol out of them. Our job is more about trying to perfect the somehow good agenda up to the point of the ultimate Catholic truth. That is, to make things factually good, actually good.

What just happened in Russia was indeed factually good: Russian students will not be exposed to the agenda propagated by that modern Western deity whose blasphemous name is spelled like a sacrilegious tetragrammaton and means the same (zie/zir-be-whom-they-are-not). I don’t think a Catholic could deny some intrinsic goodness of the decision. To be objective, some of Putin’s policies regarding families and counter-family ideologies are essentially good and somehow effective:

  1. It was under Putin’s leadership, when the Russian government implemented various family support policies, including financial assistance for families with children[2], maternity leave benefits, and programs aimed at supporting families in need.
  2. Putin has been quite vocal about promoting traditional Russian values, including the importance of the family unit, patriotism, and cultural heritage – something a Westerner can’t be blamed for missing today.
  3. Moreover, the Russian government has introduced legislation aimed at protecting traditional family values[3], including laws that restrict the promotion of ‘non-traditional’ sexual relationships, particularly to minors, which is really something.
  4. Putin has expressed concerns about demographic trends in Russia and has emphasised the need to address population decline[4], which is indeed a common problem the whole World is facing, despite what the overpopulation alarmists had to say about it decades ago.

What is problematic and can be further improved?

Let us go back to the news.

According to the same source, Roskomnadzor (the Russian media watchdog) handed Duolingo a notice in April about its potential violation of Russian legislation and warning it ‘about a ban on publication of any materials promoting non-traditional sexual relations.’

There are two problems with the underlying philosophical presuppositions of this factually good legislation and other efforts to protect the ‘traditional’ values:

Problem 1. The very term ‘traditional’ is in fact… ‘modernist,’ for if the tradition were vivid and strong in the culture, it wouldn’t need the name that renders its place in some kind of dichotomy with all things ‘non-traditional’ – those being regarded as ‘progressive’ and naturally inevitable to come and replace all things old, according to this Hegelian logic we all still unwillingly follow. The moment one does make this distinction, it becomes clear that being traditional is not enough for a value to be accepted. One needs to make a moral argument not to become a doomed loser in this cultural battle. It is better to be a deemed loser in the eyes of the world while actually defeating it, rather than a doomed one, playing its truth-less game of arbitrary decisions and power. Do we have such a moral, truth-based argument? Is this legislature based on one? If nothing is found, then the whole house is built on sand.

Problem 2. Unlike in the conservative/traditionalist West that is rooted in religious premises more than in a habit or disgust with regards to the issue, here in Russia the opposition to all things ‘gay’ lacks a solid metaphysical component or social ground. Only a tiny religious minority would utterly speak of homosexual acts as religiously immoral. Rather, they are associated with social awkwardness, weakness, submissive status and vulnerability of the ‘untouchable caste’ in the criminal culture, as well as with the diseases, childlessness and loneliness associated with the lifestyle. So, it is no wonder why Russian parents would hardly worry about the soul and the afterlife of their homosexual children, but rather about their physical, social and psychological safety. That is why the law we are talking about is carefully secular, and thus metaphysically vague, unstable and vulnerable.

Is it bad, though? Factually, it is somehow good and natural, although contaminated. This attitude must be open to perfection in the following manner: the ‘Alphabet’ agenda is bad because it is unnatural and immoral, not because of its Western origin. Bad things are bad universally. Meanwhile, the people who struggle with their sexuality should be loved and respected, because they are made in the image of God, just like any human being. When we realise these truths as not mutually exclusive, the radical Left will lose its exclusive rights to compassion, while the questions of power limits, business regulation and forms of government will become secondary, as they should have been from the very beginning.

[1] ‘Duolingo removes gay content in Russia’ at RT, URL:

[2] Read, for example, about ‘the Mother Capital’:

[3] See, for example: Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 09.11.2022 г. № 809, URL:

[4] Костерева М, ‘Путин призвал рожать детей пораньше, чтобы обеспечить рост населения России  / Коммерсант’, URL:

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