This weekend, 31 people were arrested in Moscow while protesting the Mayor's decision to outlaw the first annual Gay Pride parade. The images fed over the international wire were shocking enough but the hate-filled sentiment behind the decision smacks of a frighteningly repressive legacy...
Below is a short interview I conducted with my colleague Ruslan, who moved to the States from Russia in 2000. He gives a little insight into the situation in Russia:
Q: Was the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia in 1993, met with popular support?
A: In 1993 people were dying from hunger. Homosexuality was the last thing on people’s minds. A lot of laws were passed; this was the least noticed one.
Q: Has the violence against minorities surged since the fall of the Iron Curtain?
A: The freedom of speech was taken to an extreme. After all, bashing someone over the head is a statement of sorts. Also these freedoms were not spread uniformly. In conformity with ages-old tradition, we had weighted-distribution of rights. The stronger (richer, bigger gun) one is, the more human rights one can get.
Q: How were LGBT people treated under Communism?
A: There were no out LGBT people in the USSR. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s they were shot. In the 60s and 70s they were sent to Siberia. In the 80’s they were encouraged to leave to the morally-degraded and bankrupt West.
Below are quotes translated by Ruslan from an article published in the Rambler:
Vice-Speaker of the Russian Parliament led a protest against the failed gay parade. His party wants to defend “traditional way of life of Christian Russia.” He accused “russo-phobes” of starting the homosexuality movement in Russia, and included Russian ministers of Culture and Education onto the list of russo-phobes. He suggested that all Gays and Lesbians should be forecefully cured or otherwise be placed under indefinite house arrest.
His official banners said “Russia Without Faggots” and “Sodomites are Not for Russia”. These banners were topped with flags of the Russian Orthodox Church. The organizers called for “slavic brothers” to “clean Russia from this garbage.” “We will help Christians from London, Paris, Berlin to stop gay-parades in their cities.”
Moscow Mayor: “We have nothing against people with non-traditional orientation. In 1993 we passed a law that forbids persecution of such people. These people can get together in their own special clubs. But we are against homosexual propaganda. The same way as most societies are against alcohol or tobacco propaganda.”
There's also a great article by the BBC about homophobia in Russia.