Category Archives: homosexuality

EDITORIAL: The Horror of Eurovision

EDITORIAL

The Horror of Eurovision

No politics at Eurovision?

No politics at Eurovision?

Last weekend the “Eurovision” song contest wound up in Moscow. The world could only stand slack-jawed gaping at the unbounded horror of it all.

Eurovision has a rule that says “no politics allowed” during the contest.

But that didn’t stop host Russia from decorating the stage with an inflatable fighter jet and an inflatable tank and having the Russian army choir perform the keynote song.

No politics allowed?

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EDITORIAL: LGBT is RIP back in the USSR

EDITORIAL

LGBT is RIP back in the USSR

One of the most telling features of the recent U.S. presidential elections was that gay marriage was banned by voters in referendums in several states by the same margin that Barack Obama was elected — in other words, these socially conservative measures were enacted by Obama voters.  If you add on top of that how surprisingly well John McCain did, and the extent to which Obama voters were motivated by frenzied hatred of George Bush rather than rationally-based respect for their own candidate and his qualifications, you begin to see that Obama’s support isn’t really as wide and deep as some might like to imagine.

But if LGBT partisans think they have it bad in the United States, they should cast their glance across the Atlantic (or, for that matter, the Pacific) and take a look at Russia. It will make them feel much better, as virtually any comparison to Russia almost always has that effect on those lucky enough to be living someplace else.  And maybe, must maybe, it will make them want to start acting in political solidarity with their oppressed brothers and sisters behind the new Iron Curtain.

In a feature entitled “Closeted Russia,” the In These Times website tells the tale.   It quotes Kevin Moss, editor of the anthology Out of the Blue: Russia’s Hidden Gay Literature:   “It’s strange.  Before, you could almost understand the secrecy, and yet now, even with all the contact Russia has with the West, gay people just aren’t out.”  That’s because, in fact, Russia has far less “contact” with the West and its values than most people know, or care to admit.

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Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Gays

The New Statesman reports on what happens when a group of homosexuals tries to have a little protest party against the neo-Soviet crackdown on gays on a boat on Russia. Things went fine for a little while . . .

Then the atmosphere changed. The boat came in to dock at the second stopping points to find a jetty lined by paramilitary police. Rumours spread that they were not letting anyone on or off the boat. I pointed out how grim-faced the officers looked peering out from under their visors. “You would also not be smiling if you were paid the same as the soldiers in our army” someone said. A few heated exchanges with an officer ensued. A short-haired woman – who looked like Rosa Klebb out of From Russia with Love – patrolled the side of the boat, her hand on her holster. In the end the tension subsided and the boat moved on. Perhaps they were there to protect the boat from a boarding party of nationalists. It seemed unlikely. It also seemed absurd that a supposed European democracy like Russian was using its armed forces to police a peaceful cruise down the river. Where were these troops being diverted from – guarding a missile silo, patrolling the Chinese border? The day after the cruise religious Orthodox extremists took an iron-clad ship down the Moscow river to “cleanse it of the filth”.

Sex in the Neo-Soviet City

Moscow Does not Believe in Tears tips La Russophobe to the following item from the features section of the Moscow Times:

Following last weekend’s violent attacks on gay rights protesters, Moscow’s largest club, B1 Maximum, will host a pop and rock event called “March of the Sexual Majority” on Wednesday. Its poster has the slogan “For the sake of life on Earth!” and shows a cartoon image of a man and woman holding hands, with a white circle marking the woman’s womb.

The event is organized by Alexei Kortnev, lead singer of the veteran rock band Neschastny Sluchai, which headlines the event, along with actors Mikhail Shirvindt and Igor Zolotovitsky. Among the other participants are Channel One presenter Valdis Pelsh, who is a former member of Neschastny Sluchai, the bands Khoronko Orchestra and Bi-2, and singer Irina Bogushevskaya.

Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, Kortnev said that the timing of the event just over a week after the gay rights protest in central Moscow was a “very sad coincidence” since the concert had been planned four months ago. “We are categorically against the violent putting down of the protest,” he said, calling it a “disgraceful punch-up.”

“I’m not against those people, we’re not against those people,” Kortnev said. “We are against the active popularization of homosexual values among young people.” Such popularization was growing very quickly, he said. “Primarily it’s on the stage and in pop music.”

He complained of “an erosion of the difference between men and girls” and “an assiduous denial of our sexual nature.”

The event will include games related to the topic, such as a contest in which audience members demonstrate their knowledge of how to use a condom correctly. The contest will be called “Stretch out the Pleasure,” Kortnev said, consulting television presenter Pelsh at the other end of the line.

To show that the organizers do not support the official reaction to the gay parade, plans for the concert include a sketch in which gay protesters beat up OMON riot police, Kortnev said.

The event did not receive state funding, Kortnev said, although he added that its aims fit well with President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to increase the birthrate. Tickets cost from 600 rubles ($23) to 4,000 rubles. The Russian Orthodox Church is not involved, he said, pointing out that “half the musicians taking part are atheists.”

The event’s poster had to be changed after a complaint from the Moscow city advertising committee, Kortnev said. It originally showed drawings of a man and a woman with a hint at sexual organs. “They asked us to put on pants, so we did,” the singer said laughing.

The idea of holding concerts to promote heterosexuality first came up about 10 years ago, Kortnev said, but it was only recently that the musicians revived it. They have lined up similar concerts in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. If the B1 Maximum concert goes well, the musicians plan to hold another event at the Malaya Sportivnaya Arena at Luzhniki stadium.

The venue that now holds B1 Maximum was the scene of a protest by Russian Orthodox activists in April 2006. The club, then known as La Guardia, was holding a gay night when protestors blocked the entrance shouting anti-gay slogans and holding icons.

Kortnev said he did not expect gay rights activists to picket the March of the Sexual Majority. “I don’t think that there is anything here that they could protest against.”

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Union: The Flames of Cold War, Raging and Roaring Already

In yet another stunning example of barbaric, Sovietesque, behavior, Russia crushed a gay pride parade that included a number of prominent foreigners, another clear indication that Russia wants a second cold war it cannot possibly even wage, much less win. Reuters reports:

A Gay Pride march in Moscow at which far-right activists kicked and punched the marchers was like a return to Soviet-era repression, British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell [pictured, center] said on Monday. Tatchell, who had a black eye after being punched during the march on Sunday, said police failed to intervene as marchers were attacked by nationalists shouting “death to homosexuals”. Police have denied ignoring the attacks. “The behaviour of the Moscow police was some of the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Tatchell told Reuters in an interview outside a Moscow police station where he filed a complaint about the assault on him. “The police stood back and allowed the fascist thugs to attack us. They made very few efforts to stop them.”

“(It) was very reminiscent of the repression by the police in the Brezhnev era of old-style Soviet Communism,” said Tatchell, referring to Leonid Brezhnev who led the Soviet Union throughout the 1970s.

“They (the police) seemed to be working hand in glove with the neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists to get them to bash us. But either way, the end result was the same. We got arrested, we got bashed, and most of the assailants walked free.” A Moscow police official, who did not want to be identified, said officers had detained many of the assailants and pulled gay rights activists to safety when they were attacked. “As far as they were able, and depending on the situation as it developed, the police ensured the safety of citizens regardless of their political and other interests,” the official said. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called gay marches “satanic”, refused permission to hold the parade. Riot police detained dozens of gay rights protesters, including two members of the European parliament. France expressed its dissatisfaction at the violence. “We regret the arrest of national and European Parliament elected representatives, who have since been released, as well as of several homosexual Russian activists. We ask for the latter to be released,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Tatchell said the treatment of the Gay Pride march was a symptom of a wider crackdown on democratic freedoms in Russia. “I think we need to say very loud and clear to President (Vladimir) Putin that Russia is welcome in the European family of nations,” the campaigner said. “But that includes responsibilities, including respect for gay and lesbian human rights and including defence of the right to protest and freedom of expression.”

As if that were not enough provocation for one day, Russia also test-fired a MiRV ICBM that can discharge multiple warheads from a single rocket, seeking to overwhelm defensive capabilities, and made more noises about withdrawing from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty as well. It’s hard to imagine how Russia could be conducting itself any more provocatively, walking directly in the footsteps of the USSR as it reignites cold war with a whole host of countries each of which bests Russia economically and without a single ally of its own.

And the Russians still weren’t done. Even as they refused to extradite the man Britain has alleged killed a neo-Soviet dissident on British soil and took actions that could have killed hundreds of innocent British citizens, yet another physical attack was launched on a British diplomat. The Guardian reports:

A senior British diplomat has been beaten by two unidentified assailants while on an official trip in provincial Russia. Nigel Gould-Davies, first secretary at the British embassy in Moscow, was attacked at 1am on Saturday as he walked across the theatre square in the Siberian city of Chita, police said. Mr Gould-Davies needed hospital treatment for bruises to his face. His glasses were broken in the attack and he was unable to see his assailants, police said.The beating is the second assault on Britons in Russia in two days, and follows an attack on Sunday by anti-homosexual protesters on the British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Mr Tatchell was punched, knocked to the ground, and kicked while protesting about gay rights with a group of European parliamentarians. Yesterday embassy officials described the attack on Mr Gould-Davies as a random assault carried out by drunken teenagers celebrating the end of the school year.

But the assault follows sustained state-sponsored harassment by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi against Anthony Brenton, Britain’s ambassador in Moscow. Activists have picketed the British embassy, disrupted meetings and jumped in front of the ambassador’s car. The campaign started last summer after Mr Brenton attended a human rights conference. Mr Gould-Davies was at the end of a two-week lecture tour in Siberia. The diplomat had given lectures to university students on globalisation, and had also met with regional officials. Chita, 3,760 miles east of Moscow, is home to Russia’s most famous inmate – Mikhail Khordorkovsky. Khordorkovsky was jailed for eight years for tax evasion and fraud in a case widely seen as politically motivated, and as punishment for his role in funding opposition parties ahead of 2003 Duma elections.

Embassy officials yesterday said there was no link between Mr Gould-Davies’s trip and Khordorkovsky. An embassy spokesman said: “We can confirm that an assault took place against a British diplomat in Chita. We are in close contact with him. We look to the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are caught.” In Moscow, three Russian gay activists appeared in court yesterday following Sunday’s demonstrations, which saw the arrest of 25 campaigners, including the German Green MP Volker Beck and the Italian MEP Marco Cappato. The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, yesterday wrote to Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, urging him to lift the ban on gay parades in the city that prompted Sunday’s protest. He also called for all charges against the gay rights demonstrators to be dropped. “I am writing to convey my deep concern at the reported physical violence against and arrest of Peter Tatchell,” Mr Livingstone wrote, adding that gay parades were now “the practice in most cities around the world”.

Yesterday Mr Tatchell said he was still recovering. He said the Moscow police had “stood and watched” while far-right skinheads kicked him to the ground and punched him. “Even today I’m woozy. My eyesight is pretty poor. It’s difficult to see clearly,” he told the Guardian. “It’s almost on a par with the beating I received at the hands of Robert Mugabe’s thugs in 2001. This time I wasn’t knocked unconscious and left in the gutter. But I ended up with a much bloodier face and severe bruising and swelling.” Mr Tatchell yesterday registered a complaint about his treatment with Moscow police. Officials, however, defended the actions of riot police. “The city authorities did the right thing by prohibiting the parade and thus preventing clashes between opponents who are numerous in this country and advocates of sexual minorities,” said Mikhail Solomentsev, a spokesman for Moscow’s mayor.

These actions would be shocking from any other industrialized nation, but from Russia they are just the status quo ante. We’ve seen this type of ape-like barbarism so many times from the USSR that the only surprising thing is that it wasn’t even worse.

Truly, the speed at which Russia is plunging down the self-destructive path of renewed Soviet-style dictatorship is amazing, one of the most stunning events of modern human history. And remember, you read about it here first!

Luzhkov Condems Gays as "Satanic"

Maybe you don’t care for homosexuals. But even if you don’t, you probably don’t feel the need to condemn them to hell as long as they leave you alone, right? And even if you felt that need, you probably wouldn’t do it because, if they get condemned today, then who knows, maybe you’ll get condemned tomorrow, right? But unfortuantely, the Mayor of Moscow can’t grasp this logic. Today the homos, tomorrow the Jews, and the day after that . . . the bell tolls for THEE, my friend. The Moscow Times reports:

Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Monday denounced gay rights parades as “satanic” and vowed that he would never allow such events to be held in the city. Speaking during a Russian Orthodox Church conference at the Kremlin, Luzhkov said the city would reject any application to hold a gay pride parade and crack down on anyone who chose to march in defiance of the ban, just as it did in 2006. “Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as a satanic event,” Luzhkov said in televised comments. “We did not let the parade take place then, and we will not allow it in the future.”

At last year’s parade in May, marchers were overwhelmed by militant Orthodox Christians and ultranationalists throwing smoke bombs. The parade had been banned by Luzhkov, and more than 100 gay rights activists and their opponents were arrested by police. Nikolai Alexeyev, the chief organizer of last year’s march, said it was “shocking” that such a high-ranking government official could publicly express such sentiments. “To compare us to a satanic cult is not worthy of the top official of Europe’s largest city,” Alexeyev said. “It is a personal insult.” Alexeyev said the parade organizers would file a libel suit against Luzhkov in the coming weeks. Alexeyev also said that on Monday the organizers of last year’s parade had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, seeking 20,000 euros ($26,000) in damages for the violation of their constitutional right of free assembly.

Gay activists will march again this year regardless of whether Luzhkov bans the parade, Alexeyev said. Ahead of last year’s march, the Council of Europe issued a statement that offered support to gay rights activists in Moscow in their struggle against homophobia. The statement also called on city authorities to ensure the safety of the marchers.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a top spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said Monday that a majority of Russians were against gay rights parades. Chaplin called Luzhkov a “responsible politician” for upholding the will of the people in his remarks at the Kremlin on Monday. “Satanic” was not an exaggeration by Luzhkov, Chaplin said. “The forces of evil are always emboldened by the propaganda of sin,” Chaplin said.

A number of gay rights activists opposed last year’s parade and labeled Alexeyev a self-promoter who sought to use the event to build his own reputation at home and abroad. Gay activist Ed Mishin, director of the gay rights organization Together, said the gay parade dispute in Moscow was merely a personal conflict between Alexeyev and Luzhkov. “This is not a conflict between city authorities and the gay community at large,” Mishin said.

Luzhkov on Monday also accused countries in the West of trying to force their liberal values on Russia, thereby corrupting its children and its traditions. Luzhkov said it was unfortunate that “religious institutions at various levels” in European countries had teamed up with governments to “bless same-sex marriages” and provide “manuals of a sexual nature” for use in the education of children “starting in the first grade.” “Supporters of such education appear in Russia propped up by generous grants from thoughtful Western ‘educators,'” Luzhkov said, Interfax reported. In April 2005, Luzhkov suggested that the construction of a golf course in the bucolic Strogino area in northwestern Moscow would help prevent homosexuals and barbecuers from frequenting the area and damaging the environment.

Russia, Third World Nation, Humiliates Disabled British Lord

Coventry reports:

STRATFORD district councillor Sir William Lawrence has slated Russia’s provisionfor disabled people as “absolutely Third World” after coming a cropper during a visit to Moscow. Sir William, who is also a governor at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, was visiting the country in his capacity as national chairman of the British Toilet Association, which seeks to raise the standards of public loos. Sir William, who needs to use a wheelchair after suffering polio as a child, suffered a fall at the Holiday Inn, in which he damaged his knee. He said he was then carried through Moscow Airport on a makeshift “stretcher”. He said: “Somebody got the bright idea of getting a fork-lift truck and physically lifting the ambulance up to the plane doors and getting me in that way. They then started dragging me across the floor of the plane on a metal sheet nailed to two bits of wood. Flight operator Lufthansa has pledged to investigate the matter. Sir William, who is now recovering in Warwick Hospital, said: “The reality is that Moscow is absolutely Third World when it comes to the disabled.”

La Russophobe has already reported how the Toilet Conference revealed a first indication of Rusisa’s third-world status, the fact that “about a third of Russian homes still have an outhouse. And as for public toilets, port-a-potties are state of the art. Russia has few public restrooms.” You can add into the mix sewage treatment plants, one of which exploded yesterday outside Moscow killing at least one person and depriving the countryside of water services.

Now we have a second indication from the Conference in Russia’s barbaric treatment of the disabled. Shall we tick of some more? Let’s:

#3 — Orphanages & Mental Institutions

#4– AIDS/Homosexual policy & Medical Care & Adult Lifespan

#5– Elections

#6 — Per Capita GDP

#7 — Environmental Policy

#8 — Military Conscription

#9 — Roads & Public Buses

#10 — Official Corruption

When we review our list, we must ask what in what categories Russia is NOT a third-world state. Here the list is shorter: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and High Culture (opera, ballet, literature, etc.). Now, gentle reader, you decide which list outweighs the other.

Russian Pundit Defends Attacks on Gays

Writing in RIA Novosti, Russian pundit Pyotr Romanov defended his country’s recent pogrom against homosexuals seeking to express their civil rights (the headline read “Homophobic Russia Shocks Europe, but What about Sodom & Gomorrah?”):

An unsanctioned Gay Pride parade was dispersed in central Moscow a few days ago. The entire European homosexual community watched the developments closely, as did the Council of Europe, the European Human Rights Commissioner, and parliamentarians-two French and two German Parliament members, who had come to Moscow to support the marchers and were detained by the police.

The day for the parade was chosen to coincide with the start of Russia’s Council of Europe presidency. There are people in Western political circles who are as outraged by this as they are by Russia’s G8 presidency and the upcoming summit in St. Petersburg.

Gay rights activists proceed from the trends and rules of conduct that dominate in present-day Europe, and they demand that Russia follows the same rules. They totally ignore the Russian public mentality and the very short time that has passed since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Another important factor is Russia’s severe demographic crisis. Same-sex couples are the last thing Russia needs, with its plummeting birth rates.

Opinions clash on whether the police had to be so tough on the marchers. But then, the police had their excuse. The flowers gays were to lay to the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb at the Kremlin wall, one of Russia’s most precious shrines, looked to some people as a deliberate provocation. Gay Pride organizers knew what they were doing-they meant the police to look as shocking as possible in television reports, and the cops swallowed the bait. Again, for an umptieth time, they failed to oppose a provocation with the professionalism expected of them.

Be all that as it may, an unbiased person will hardly allege any harsh reprisals against sexual minorities in today’s Russia. There are numerous gay clubs, and gays work on television and in the show business. There are homosexuals among State Duma members, and several political parties offer sexual minorities their support.

The majority of the Russians, however, still have a negative attitude toward gays. Russians are getting back to church, from which Bolsheviks violently kicked them in their time. As they regain faith and open the Scripture, Russians cannot miss its references to Sodom and Gomorrah, in which they do not differ from religious people all over Europe. The Russian Orthodox Church is not the only one to denounce homosexuality-in this it is joined by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.

As the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner thinks, religious believers can sometimes be wrong, so all flowers ought to bloom on earth, homosexuality included. Same-sex couples must be allowed to get married and adopt children.

The Commissioner and other defenders of sexual minorities are not unlike Bolsheviks in their invincible belief that the truth is on their side. Blinded by their convictions, Bolsheviks made sure everyone lived according to their laws and doctrine. Now, Europeans are just as sure that homosexuality is not a sin but every citizen’s legal right. Why this steadfast assurance? Has any of the advocates of same-sex love ever come back from the dead with thorough knowledge of the other world’s ways and judgments? Just why are they so sure that tolerance revitalizes and not corrupts the community?

There are no answers to these questions. A religious person also cannot say how he knows his convictions are right-he just feels that way, the same as his opponents do. Neither side has any firm proof of its point, so why should Russia follow the Council of Europe on this issue? Why is it to believe the Human Rights Commissioner and not the Pope or the Patriarch of All Russia?

The Council of Europe is determined to have its will at all costs. Russians cannot sympathize with its Bolshevist determination after the nation was driven for several decades along the road considered to be the only right way. That road led Russia to the brink of an abyss, as we all know. Can we be sure the road charted by the Council of Europe will not bring us, another several decades later, to rename Moscow Sodom and St. Petersburg Gomorrah?

We Russians have had enough guidance. We want to choose our own road independently. After all, that choice is what democracy is all about.

We are willing to enter into discussion if the Council of Europe sees the matter differently-but only without moralizing. After all, Europe’s present-day morals are too lax to do any moralizing.

So, as La Russophobe understands it, Russians feel that the Gay Pride Parade was in fact a devious European plan to subvert Russia’s national security by causing various moral calamities associated with homosexuality to infiltrate Russia and turn it into a pornographic wasteland, which Russia isn’t now (but see Pravda‘s feature on Russian “eroticism“). In fact, by opposing rights for homosexuals Russia is standing up to a group just as invidious as the Bolsheviks. Oh, and laying flowers on a grave constitutes an act of irresistable provocation that simply cries out for night sticks.

Well, glad that is all nice and cleared up. Thank goodness for Russia, salvation of mankind!

Moscow Shame O6


The Chicago Tribune reports on how the homophobic Holy Russian Empire has sought to crush its planned 2006 gay pride celebrations:



Russia Gays Hear Call: Go Back to the Closet

Homosexuality is no longer a crime, but as nation’s first gay pride parade nears, scorn and abuse intensify and religious leaders weigh in

MOSCOW — On a recent Sunday night, the organizers of a gay party at a Moscow nightclub peered nervously out the front door. Clustered outside were hundreds of screaming demonstrators, some of them liquor-addled skinheads throwing bottles and eggs, others old women in head scarves clutching Russian Orthodox icons and crosses studded with small nails.The mob pounced on anyone who approached. The women used the icons as cudgels against guests coming up to the door. Young toughs in tracksuits and steel-toed black boots slammed their heads into the front door, shouting, “Russia is for Russians!””It was very frightening,” said Lyubov Ulyanova, the club’s director. “The police just stood there and watched it all.”Homosexuality was taken off the books as a crime in Russia in 1993, but the gay community remains a magnet for scorn and abuse, forced to tread carefully and quietly through a society saddled with Soviet-era biases.Parade still lacks permitGay leaders in Moscow hope to raise awareness about their community Saturday, when they attempt to kick off Russia’s first gay pride parade through the streets of the capital. Whether the event ever gets off the ground remains in doubt. So far, city leaders have refused to give parade organizers permission.Gay leaders vow to stage the event anyway, despite the protests outside the Renaissance Event Club on April 30 and another demonstration at a different club the next night.”We want this to be our public coming out,” said Nikolai Alexeyev, a leading gay activist behind the parade effort. “We don’t want to stay in the closet anymore.”In an age when gay communities in the West actively assert their rights and enjoy social acceptance, many homosexuals in Russia find themselves forced to keep their lifestyles a secret from families, friends and co-workers. Russian employers routinely find ways to cull gay workers from the workplace. Physical attacks on gay men are rarely taken seriously by police and Russian courts.”The mindset within the gay community is, `Let’s keep quiet, otherwise they will come and get us,'” said Alexander Golousenko, a 36-year-old gay Muscovite who owns a travel agency that caters to gays and organized the party at the Renaissance Event Club. “Everyone says, `Try not to show you are gay, be careful about what you say, be very discreet.'”Russia’s intolerance for homosexuality is rooted in the Soviet era, when it carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. A poll conducted in 1989 indicated that a third of Russians favored extermination of the country’s gay population, and 30 percent favored segregating them, according to Igor Kon’s 1995 book, “The Sexual Revolution in Russia.” Only 6 percent of the poll’s respondents supported the gay community.”During the Soviet period . . . lesbians were locked up in psychiatric wards, treated as if they were insane and given medication normally given to schizophrenics,” said Yevgenia Debryanskaya, a longtime gay activist and owner of Moscow’s 12 Volts Club. “That same kind of homophobia that we had during Soviet times exists today.”With the advent of glasnost, a gay subculture began to evolve as journalists and academics began discussing homosexuality more freely. The movement picked up after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Clubs catering to the city’s gay population opened; gay newspapers and magazines began circulating.Nevertheless, in many ways Russia’s gay community remains as stigmatized as it was during Soviet times. Alexeyev, 28, founder of the gayrussia.ru Web site, says his attempt to submit a doctoral thesis on the rights of Russia’s gay community was rejected by his professors at Moscow State University.Religious leaders take sides”They simply said it’s not the kind of topic they want at their university,” Alexeyev said. His lawsuit alleging discrimination by the university failed in a Moscow court, and he now is pursuing the case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.Alexeyev appears headed for another showdown with authorities, this time over his attempts to organize Russia’s first gay pride parade. Sergei Tsoi, a spokesman for Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, told reporters in February that a gay pride parade was out of the question, largely because it “evoked outrage in society, particularly among religious leaders.”One of those religious leaders, Talgat Tadzhuddin, a top Russian Muslim cleric, warned that Russian Muslims would take to the streets and flog gays if the parade were permitted. Bishop Daniil, a Russian Orthodox leader from the far eastern Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, region, likened homosexuality to leprosy.The backlash has been just as strident in the Duma, Russia’s lower chamber of parliament. Alexander Chuyev, a prominent member of the nationalist Motherland Party, has proposed legislation that would criminalize material in the media or the Internet that in any way depicts homosexuality or promotes the gay community’s agenda.Chuyev doesn’t mince words about his view of gays in Russia: As long as homosexual men and women stay in the shadows, he doesn’t have a problem with them. “But if the gay community wants to come out into the open, that encroaches on our rights–our right to a normal life,” Chuyev said.Under Chuyev’s proposal, an editor or TV producer could be banned from the profession for two to five years if convicted of publishing “gay propaganda” in the media or the Internet.”In our country, the majority of people do not agree with homosexuality,” Chuyev said. “So if homosexuality comes to public life, we’ll see the beginnings of a very dangerous situation in society. A public citizen war, I think.”In making his case for banning the parade, Luzhkov told Human Rights Watch that city officials had to “take into account the point of view on the issue of the overwhelming majority of Muscovites and residents of Russia.” Making popular sentiment the determining factor, Human Rights Watch argues, is an argument unlikely to hold up if the dispute is brought to international court.”One key purpose of human-rights protection is precisely to ensure that majority opinion cannot deny the rights of minorities,” Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s lesbian and gay rights program, wrote in a letter to Luzhkov dated May 8. “Banning the planned parade because of fears of disturbance due to counter-demonstrators would amount to giving violence a license to curb free expression.”

UPDATE: A Russian court has now upheld the Kremlin’s ban on gay demonstrations.

UPDATE: Arrests followed when the gays tried to march anyway.