Leading Russian political and religious figures are calling for the nation to ban Pokemon Go even before it reaches Moscow, with some suggesting it is an American intelligence-gathering project and other attributing it to Satan himself.
“It feels like the devil arrived through [Pokemon] and is trying to tear our morality apart from the inside,” Senator Frants Klintsevich of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party said this week. According to the UK Express, Klintsevich went as far as to argue that Pokemon Go can “[cause] promiscuity and permissiveness.”
The head of the St. Petersburg Orthodox Cossack Society Irbis, Andrei Poliakov, agreed that Pokemon Go appeared to be a Satanic infiltration. “We need to take people out of the virtual world, and this in general smacks of Satan,” he told reporters, calling for a boycott. In addition to accusing the game of pulling people out of the real world and towards Lucifer, Poliakov speculated that the American CIA developed the game.
“Where were the applications developed? In the USA,” he noted. “That’s why you cannot rule out the presence of the CIA.”
While the company that developed the game, Niantic, is based in the United States, Nintendo and the Pokemon franchise are Japanese.
This has not stopped public speculation by officials that Pokemon Go is a secret intelligence plot. On the state agency RIA Novosti, Aleksandr Mikhailov, a retired major general of the Federal Security Service (FSB), argued that players could be inadvertently feeding images to the CIA: “It’s recruitment by one’s own personal desire and without any coercion. This is the ideal way for secret services to gather information. And no one takes any heed, entertainment is fashionable after all.”
Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov also made similar public statements. “I’m starting to suspect that intelligence services might have contributed to this app,” he told reporters earlier this week.
Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game which uses GPS to navigate a player to areas where they can collect items for experience points and capture the titular creatures. It has not yet been released in Russia, but some players have changed their phone settings to countries where the game is already available to begin playing. The game has been a massive hit, sending the value of Nintendo stock soaring over Sony.
It has nonetheless become the target of authoritarians who fear the potential of encouraging players to roam their neighborhoods, and engage in a game that distracts them from politics or religion. The game has hit its most strident opposition in the Middle East, where imams have renewed a decades-old fatwa against Pokemon generally for being a “Zionist” plot to distract children from Islam. Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, the heads of Egypt’s Al Azhar Islamic educational institute, and the head of Turkey’s religious agency the Diyanet have all expressed strident opposition to the game.