Berlin, Rome, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco… Gay pride parades continue their glorious march across the globe this year with one very noticeable exception – Russia. What happened to gay pride in the biggest country on Earth? First gay pride parades started in commemoration of Stonewall riots anniversary but over the years they have lost most of the political relevance transforming themselves into celebration of diversity, acceptance and tolerance, a kind of gay carnival and love parade.
This is not the case in Eastern Europe, where gay parades when they do take place are under the siege of protestors and breakdown of violence and abuse is normal occurrence. Gay Prides there are still real battles for the human rights in the war against homophobia, prejudices and orthodoxy.
In Russia though all attempts to organize Gay Pride events have been consequently banned altogether, and even the idea of having gay parade in itself seems to be too radical for increasingly conformist society. While illusive gay parade in Moscow would still have its original true political agenda giving repressed minority rare opportunity to speak out for its rights, it is however the glitter and explicit frivolity of commercialised western Gay Parades that stirs controversy in Russia and gives an excuse for the authorities to ban Pride Parades as ‘amoral acts’. The gap between deeply closeted life of the minority that hardly dears to speak its name in Russia and freedom gay people enjoy in the west became so vast that even most experienced and culturally educated Russian may get real shock witnessing Pride for the first time.
Sharing his impressions from Berlin’s gay parade earlier this year, journalist from Russian state News Agency Nikolay Troitsky posted on his blog the following “It crossed my mind to get a powerful bomb that would target exclusively faggots, … sincerely, if only all these filthy perverts have been eradicated, Earth would be a much better place’. He later on added “I do hope and believe that no such scum will ever happen in Russia.’ Well, his wish so far has been coming true. Against last year’s European Court’s ruling, Moscow authorities has once again banned Gay Pride this year, for the 6 year in a row. Same happens in second largest city in Russia St. Petersburg. Notoriously, anti-gay demonstrations are being allowed, even on the International Day Against Homophobia when gay meeting is, surprise-surprise, banned.
Contrary to the worldwide tendency of increased acceptance of homosexual behaviour, recorded by the 10 years long study of the University of Chicago covering over 40 countries, public acceptance of homosexuality in Russia has further decreased. In fact, only about 8% of Russians believe that being gay ‘is not wrong at all’. What could be the reasons behind falling tolerance to gay minority in Russia? In my opinion, increased role of religious institutions, criminalization of Russian society and growing nationalism are to blame.
Historicists agree that ancient Russia was one of the most tolerant countries in relation to the same sex attraction. It was in fact pro-western reformist tsar Peter the Great who introduced first anti-homosexual laws (initially in the military only) after he came back to Russia from his extensive OE in England and Holland. However, similarly to many newly independent colonies like India and African countries, Russia is eager to see homosexuality as western export while actually it was only its oppression that has been introduced from overseas. Still, in Russia as well as in most Eastern European countries, people are quick to turn their frustration in troubled economies and raising social problems against the West and various freedoms associated with it; they are often more than happy to give back some freedoms for the former stability, eager to rediscover ‘true national morals’ to support them through difficult transitional times and determined to defend their ‘unique lifestyle’ from decadent West.
Homosexuality became associated with the West and globalization more than anything else. If in other countries agitated anti-globalists would turn to crash MacDonald’s and foreign banks, Eastern Europeans are likely to target gays as the most recognizable symbol of earlier reforms, openness and internationalization.
Russian Orthodox Church is no doubt in the vanguard of the crusade against homosexuals. Its representation at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg has just published report entitled “On the subject of right to critically evaluate and legally restrain imposing of homosexuality” which in the best traditions of Hebbel’s propaganda turns table against gay community accusing it in repressions and violence against heterosexual society. Homosexuality is labelled as an ideology, which is said to be aggressively forced upon defenceless ‘normal’ citizens. Report claims that ‘gay propaganda’ promotes gay lifestyle as superior, more prestigious, elite and attractive while recruiting innocent heterosexual children to ‘choose’ criminal homosexual behaviour and performing ‘so called ‘coming out’’ ritual . According to report, homosexuality is an ideology of hatred and oppression with homosexuals apparently especially keen to hate, marginalize and discriminate against ‘normally oriented’, i.e. heterosexual women. Gays also conspire to seize state assets and resources and use them as means for further popularization of their rotten ideology.
Report claims there is no truth in discrimination or violence against gays apparently anywhere in the world, coming up with a strange story about seeking attention gay guy in the US who allegedly burned his car and reported it as a hate crime. However, all real well-documented facts about daily repressions against gays around the world, particularly in Russia and former Soviet bloc countries, are ignored. Only last month all three planned gay assemblies in Russia – two in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg, have been promptly crushed by the police and their participants arrested. Still, report fantasizes that it is heterosexual majority that has been discriminated and violated against and that it needs to be protected from ‘gay extremists’. Document warns against spreading ‘gay racism’ and discrimination of heterosexuals who are apparently perceived by gays as a lower race, and it further claims that gays are calling for physical violence against Christians and Muslims.
In special focus there is gay anal intercourse which is portrayed as the core of the gay identity. Report analyzes some forensic documents detailing possible signs of anal intercourse (apparently rape) and concludes that gay ‘anal coitus’ is inhuman, traumatic and nothing less than torture of ‘passive’ partner. As a consequence, ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ is propaganda of torture and according to this weird logic homosexuality itself becomes nothing less than an assault on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (!) Mention of the human rights is rather ironic as back in 1948 atheist USSR abstained from the vote on Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and last month Orthodox Russia voted against UN’s Human Right Council Resolution endorsing gay rights. Report however claims that gays are gaining illegal privileges over heterosexual population in Russia. What I wonder these might be? Probably privilege of being rejected employment by ¼ of Russian Companies (according to the last week’s survey), privilege of being considered outside the law (43% of population would like to see homosexuality made illegal again), privilege of be deprived of freedom of speech (with the second region in Russia passing law against ‘gay propaganda’) and assembly (across Russia), privilege of being beaten up and arrested just for being who you are – police joined forces with Neo-Nazis and Orthodox extremists to crush nearly all gay meeting for the last decade, with gay victims being arrested but real aggressors never being prosecuted.
Orthodox Church has full support from the state on the issue. Prime minister blames gays for demographic problems. Former Moscow mayor called gay parades ‘satanic’. Perverts and fags are common words for gays in the media. Prominent MP Alexander Fedulov and member of Federal Council Oleg Panteleev called last week for gays to be rounded up and dispatched to ‘settlements up North’ (read: GULAG), another MP mildly suggested that Russian gays not liking it there should emigrate ‘to shove western freedom down their throats and swallow it’. Head of the Moscow Registry Office Irina Muravieva when asked about gay marriage equated it with bestiality.
Other religious confessions also share the hatred. Talgat Tadzhuddin, Chief Mufti of Russia, was reported to say about pride marchers “if they come out on the streets… they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that – Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike … Sexual minorities have no rights because they have crossed the line. Alternative sexuality is a crime against God.” Berl Lazar, one of Russia’s chief rabbis, agrees that allowing Pride to go ahead would be “a blow for morality”.
So what is the driving force that unites all these different parties – Muslims, Orthodox, Jews, skinheads, politicians in bulling of LGBT groups? It is all of the following – patriotism, nationalism, machismo, rejection of the West. As in Nazi Germany, gays in Russia are blamed as effeminate, degenerative and amoral, rejected by nation determined to reclaim its special place in the world as strong, healthy and independent country with its own beliefs and unique mission. It is opposition to something or someone that helps diverse people unite into group and distinguish themselves as something different and special. It also helps to target another minor and weaker group that can be bullied and blamed for various former and present misfortunes while perceived as traitorous, non-conformist, pro-western and pervert. Gays simply suit this role far too well. As with other forms of bulling, when aggressive party gains critical mass, supporters are increasingly easier to be recruited – Sieg Heil comrades! Get gays to the camps! If you are not with us, you are against us! Incredibly, other Eastern European nations despite their common dislike for the former Big Brother still catch the same tune easily and close ranks in increasingly harsh attitude to LGBT minority. Homophobes of all nations, unite! Be strong, show these sissies who is in charge. – No to ‘gay propaganda’! Stop perverts from poisoning our healthy morals, protect our boys from emasculation. Step up and fight! And fight they do – with stones, poles, bottles, excrements all thrown into hundreds of Pride Marchers by thousands of anti-gay protesters in Serbia, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia and other former social states that do dare to allow gay parades.
Homophobia is right at the heart of Russian macho culture. Criminalisation of society, that flourished in the time of anarchy after the breakdown of USSR when many criminals successfully legalized themselves as politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, made things much worse. With one of the highest incarceration ratio in the world and approximately 1mln of inmates, prison culture and lexicon has found its way into the mainstream. Nearly everyone speaks prison slang these days, degenerate words borrowed from lexicon of murderers and thieves are now equally used by Russian president and children in a kindergarten. Among others, words like ‘opuschennyi’ and its variations (brought down, buggered man) became innocent and acceptable in every day’s life. In prison, were the word originates from, opyschennyi is the lowest cast of untouchable men forced into slavery by the means of a gang rape. These men are virtually brought down on their knees for oral or on all fours for anal sex; these two activities are the only instances when any physical contact (no touching, exclusively genitals to mouth or anus contact) with other inmates takes place. ‘Brought down men’ are used for the filthiest jobs like cleaning toilets, they are not allowed to speak or been spoken too, they have no rights; anything they came in contact with becomes filthy so they have to be kept in a dedicated place, usually by the open toilet and used when an urge arises. Russian society seems to have managed to marginalize gay community into the role of the brought down men, who are not allowed to speak and who can be forcefully sodomized anytime by whoever takes fancy – church, state, neo-Nazis, media, well anybody.
Comparing with western civilized world, gay rights movement in Russia is still in limbo. Outnumbered gay activists in Russia are fighting for the basic human rights. According to LGBT activist Nikolay Baev, they have three clear goals. The immediate first goal is freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for LGBT people. The next goal will be anti-discrimination legislation and protection of gays in employment and education, laws to prevent hate crime and hate speech. Only after that they could put forward the third and ultimate goal – gay marriage. For now though, in the atmosphere of public oppression and threat of violence, gay activists have to retrieve to partisan tactics. Gay-friendly graffiti started appearing in Moscow CBD, gay activists keep in secret places of their supposed meetings until the last hour and they further confuse police by coming in and out of the closet in seconds by displaying/hiding pink triangles on their clothes in the streets. Some people almost managed to start gay manifestation by creatively disguising themselves as a bride party.
Nikolay Alexeev, the most famous face of troubled Gay Pride campaign in Russia, has been trying to find justice in courts using existing laws that grant rights to march peacefully as well as protection for social groups against hate speech. Russian courts however refuse to accept gays as a social group and therefore even consider granting them any rights. “I have been through over 200 court cases in Russia…. all lost,” says Alexeyev. – “It is amazing to see how our judges can be so creative to give decisions against the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
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