Opinion polls in advance of the elections predicted a major drop in voter support for Putin’s party, and in a blatant appeal to conservative religious elements and supporters of ultra-right nationalist parties, the United Russia majority in the St. Petersburg city council quickly pushed through, to use an American formulation, a “no promo homo” law that equated homosexuality with pedophilia, outlawing any pro-gay “propaganda” that might be seen by “minors.” The viciously anti-gay bill passed overwhelmingly, 27-1, with one abstention, in its first reading.
The bill would include fines for gays and lesbians who openly professed their sexual orientation.
Less than 48 hours later, Putin’s stooges in the Moscow city council announced they planned to introduce a similar bill there. According to Ekho Moskvy, a Moscow-based radio station heard nationally, the speaker of the Moscow City Duma, Vladimir Platonov, said that the capital was ready to follow St. Petersburg’s example.
And the party’s leaders, including Russian Duma Speaker Valentina Matvienko, have said they’ll introduce a similar law at the federal level.
“Homophobia is a part of the ruling United Russia’s ideology and of the other three parties represented in the national Duma as well,” veteran gay activist Nikolai Baev, a key organizer of Moscow’s perpetually-banned Gay Pride, told Gay City News from Moscow.
Baev added, “All of these parties are social conservative parties, even the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation]. Communists are leftists in their economic program only. Indeed, they are as conservative and homophobic as Putin’s party.”
The Communists came in second in the weekend’s elections, increasing their share of the vote to 20 percent from just 12 percent two years ago, while Putin’s United Russia lost its more than two-thirds parliamentary supermajority, seeing its number of seats decline from 315 to 238 in the 450-member body.
“Of course United Russia decided to play a homophobic card, as well as a nationalist one,” Baev told Gay City News. “They understand that their popularity is dropping. Therefore, they are looking for the basest electoral instincts, like xenophobia and homophobia.”
He continued, “Homophobia is always used in Russian political campaigns because this is a very good tool against political opponents, from both sides –– from government and from opposition. Accusations of homosexuality are very frequent in Russian politics in order to sully the image of the political opponents. United Russia calls its opposition gays, while the anti-Putin opposition calls United Russia fags.
“For example, the KPRF –– a very homophobic party, which advocates re-introduction of Soviet-era criminal penalties for homosexuality [repealed in 1993] uses in its campaign the slogan ‘better to be red then blue.’ The double meaning of this phrase is that blue is the party color of United Russia, and at the same time the word blue (in Russian, goluboi) means also a slang word for gay men. So, this is not a surprise that United Russia has used homophobia in this campaign. It was predictable.”
Baev recently succeeded Nikolai Alexeyev as leader of the Moscow Gay Pride organizing committee and of the Gay Russia Human Rights Project, which publishes the gayrussia.ru news website, a key catalyst in developing a positive gay consciousness among some Russian homosexuals, the overwhelming majority of whom remain firmly closeted.
Alexeyev recently withdrew from movement activity to write a book, but was driven back into the activist arena by the poisonous St. Petersburg anti-gay law.
The St. Petersburg legislation, Alexeyev wrote in the Guardian, a UK daily, on November 26, represents a return to “medieval barbarity” in Russia’s cultural capital.
“The city –– where the famous Russian gay composer Peter Tchaikovsky lived, worked, and died just days after conducting his ‘Sixth Pathétique Symphony,’ where the gay writer Nikolay Gogol wrote many of his classical works, and where a gay ballet dancer in the form of Rudolf Nureyev gracefully flew over the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre –– turned out to be in the hands of uneducated clericals,” Alexeyev wrote. “Will they ever be well known by the world, except for their anti-gay hatred?”
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