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Dota 2 developer changes tournament logo because of Ukraine’s decommunization law

December 5, 2021 9:13 pmby Daryna Antoniuk
Left: logo of the esports tournament Eastern Europe Dota Pro Circuit organized by Russia-based Epic Esports Events . Right: an emblem of a prominent Soviet youth organization featuring Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. (Valve/Epic Esports Events, Wikipedia Commons)

How is Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin different from Pudge, a ghoulish hero from the hit game Dota 2?

When they’re illustrated in the same style, framed by the same star wreathed in flame, perhaps not different enough to avoid legal problems in Ukraine.

U.S. video game company Valve, the developer of Dota 2, evidently thought so.

The Soviet-style logo with Pudge was used by Russia-based organizer Epic Esports Events to promote a Dota 2 tournament in Eastern Europe. Valve requested for the emblem to be changed to avoid violating anti-communism laws in Ukraine, where the tournament is broadcast.

The old tournament logo specifically resembles the emblem of Lenin's All-Union Pioneer Organization, a mass youth organization that existed between 1922 and 1991. The Russian text on the emblem says “Always Ready!” - a salute that was used by the organization's members.

Russian Epic Esports Events said the tournament logo cannot be considered a communist symbol but agreed to change it on Dec. 2. 

It is not clear whether Valve decided to alter the logo to play it safe or if there have been any threats of legal action from Ukraine.

For Ukraine, the Soviet Union is a bitter memory from which the country tries to distance itself. Ukraine even had a period called Leninopad (Leninfall), which started during the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2013 and was marked by the widespread destruction of Lenin monuments.

That is why the government polices the use of communist symbols. Under the law, those who promote communism and its symbols in Ukraine can be imprisoned for up to ten years.

Epic Esports Events released a frustrated statement, saying it had already produced gift sets, banners, and other products with the logo and got a legal opinion claiming that the logo is not a communist symbol “and even more so is not propaganda.”

Nevertheless, the organizer decided to comply “to ensure a seamless competition.”

The Eastern Europe Dota Pro Circuit tournament now uses a logo of all Epic Esports events, with the letter ‘E’ on a black-and-red background. The company didn’t reveal whether it wants to make a new logo for the competition that started on Nov. 29 and will run until Jan. 23.

The tournament with a prize pool of $280,000 features the best Eastern European teams, including Ukraine’s most popular esports club Natus Vincere, or NaVi, and Russian Team Spirit with two Ukrainian players. 

The top teams of the competition could have a chance to participate in next year’s competitive video gaming tournament, The International, with a prize pool of $40 million in 2021.

Daryna Antoniuk
Author: Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk studies journalism and communications at Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. Antoniuk worked as a news editor, social media manager, and freelance journalist before she joined the Kyiv Post staff in February 2020. She is passionate about information technologies and artificial intelligence.