Russia's homophobic curse

Published: June 7, 2013

MOSCOW – Many peoples on our small green planet already live under more or less democratic conditions. This is a boon for mankind and a source of minor, and not so minor, differences in human mores and mentality.

For one thing, it is obvious that, in democratic countries, citizens display more tolerance toward each other and tend to show affirmative acceptance of others’ ideas and way of life.

In contrast, totalitarian and authoritarian rule tends to breed tension among particular groups within society — with ethnic, gender, educational and cultural differences serving as the base for social and ideological divides.

In Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mao’s China, there were, aside from political opponents, various “chosen” categories that routinely came under fire — liberal thinkers, feminist activists, ecological alarmists, modernist painters and sculptors, postmodern writers, disabled and mentally ill persons, etc. One major litmus test for a society — aside from anti-Semitism — seems to be its treatment of homosexuals and — especially these days — the attitude toward same-gender marriages.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the contradictory decades of post-Soviet development have brought to the political agenda issues of human rights, of specific femininist social needs, of the crumbling traditional family, and of gay culture — all perceived by the society as new and generally rather annoying.

Meanwhile, at least since December 2011, the “rainbow columns” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) have taken part in major demonstrations and meetings against Russian President Vladimir Putin, against his discriminating election rules and other antidemocratic laws passing through both chambers of the Duma, Russia’s parliament.

Such protest actions, drawing people from various strata of society, often have been accompanied by fierce clashes between leftist and rightist groups, between liberal pro-Western columns and Orthodox-and-patriotic-minded mobsters.

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