March 15, 2021

Equus Asinus Asinus



Equus Asinus Asinus
Sorry, this story has nothing to do with actual donkeys.  TS Sergey | unsplash.com

Everyone loves giving insults in foreign languages, but sometimes it can land you in hot water. And cost you R3,000  ($41) if you insult the wrong person: in this case, a former FSB officer.

This story begins back in 2019 with a particularly rowdy WhatsApp group chat among residents of Novosibirsk. This particular group of people was composed of shared equity holders in a several-year-long project to renovate an old unfinished building.

Emotions became heated and insults began to be thrown about, particularly targeting one individual in the group who happened to be a former FSB agent. Typical insults in the Russian language, such as a "clown," a "blabbermouth," or even a "donkey" are to be expected, but apparently, tensions ran so high that one participant felt that the Russian language couldn't do the argument justice anymore and resorted to using the Latin language instead. 

For some reason, this individual felt that the phrase "donkey" in Russian alone just didn't have the same ring to it, so they added their one and only contribution to the disparaging: "Equus asinus asinus" (the scientific, Latin name for "donkey"). This comment, despite being out of context and not immediately directed at anyone, still earned this individual a R3,000 fine in court when the former FSB agent sued for "moral anguish."

Legal suits for online insult or defamation such as this one have become increasingly more common in Russia in recent years. The other participant who made a majority of the insults, albeit in Russian, was fined R7,000 as well.

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