A gay guy replies to an ad on the Internet, but he is not welcomed in the place of the appointment by another homosexual, but by a dozen of neo-Nazi skinheads who insult him and pour urine on his hair, force him to declare his name and address and to show his ID card to the camera. Videos of this kind have been filmed and uploaded to the Web in Russia, as the media of the whole world complain. The scandal is global, but it’s actually the tip of the iceberg: the images proposed by foreign sites are the most presentable ones, while other videos show more violent scenes, minors forced to strip naked, to touch some girls’ breasts, to simulate oral sex with dildoes… The torturers are sometimes groups linked to the far Right, some other times simple teenagers.
Russian youth’s image is shocking. According to a recent survey by the liberal magazine Novoe Vremya, 41% of young Russians approves of Putin’s politics, while only 14% opposes to the president; in addition, their criticisms focus on the economic situation, while political problems and democratic violations are absolutely undervalued. These data, however, don’t convince everyone. “Here in Russia it is better not to believe in any statistics, because statistics are distorted – says Vladimir Voloshin, chief editor of the gay entertainment site KVIR – In fact, all the tv channels are brainwashing citizens, but they can hardly do so with young people, who get information mostly through the Internet.”
Despite the unusual international attention, it remains difficult to get a clear idea of reality, since the constant clash between information and misinformation makes every image fuzzy. Only one thing is sure: in Russia, the authoritarian president Putin is increasingly becoming a real dictator, as the conviction of the blogger Alexei Navalny, one of the leading critics of the regime, has shown. Recent illiberal laws against imaginary “gay propaganda” are just a way to distract the public, to offer the popular anger a scapegoat: “The government is trying to divert Russian society’s attention from real problems to other issues, including homosexuals” confirms Vladimir, who, however, doesn’t lose hope: “I believe that this attempt can succeed only temporarily.”
Vladimir seems very optimistic if you look better the homophobic front: anti-gay laws, that led to the arrest of LGBT activists even before their formal promulgation, are supported not only by Putin and his corrupted circle, which controls more and more every aspect of country’s life, but also by the Russian Orthodox Church. Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Rus’, said about the recognition of same-sex marriages in some European and American countries: “This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law” [RT]. The former Soviet spy Putin confirms that the Church and the Kremlin are “natural partners” [Asia One, via Wayback Machine].
Regime’s homophobia, instead, perhaps it is not natural: it doesn’t matter to know what are the intimate convictions of the Russian president and his circle, the essential thing is to understand the role that the regime has assigned to homophobia in a calculated manner. The hatred towards different sexual orientations, intentionally confused with pedophilia, is just a way to distract the masses: “Regional and central authorities’ corruption and irresponsibility have reached an unimaginable degree, the country is heading for disaster, the so-called ‘stability’ Russian is fragile, since the income from oil and gas sale can’t cover all the internal expenses and needs of the country,” says Vladimir, who also offers a wider geo-political reading: “All new anti-democratic laws are the result of Kremlin’s fear of the future.”
The opponents of the regime, fortunately, launch some signs of hope. As Vladimir notes, “rainbow flags has been present at all opposition demonstrations held in Moscow in the last two years.” Sad to say, anti-Putin forces still appear divided and poorly organized, despite their common goal is clear: “The priority is to fight for Russia to become really democratic. In a democracy, all minorities feel comfortable and live free.” “LGBT people should fight for democracy, not only for their rights, separating them from the context” is the call that Vladimir launches to the Russian movement, but not only to the Russian one.
Differently from many other countries, Russia is the focus of LGBT media and organizations’ attention. There are many proposals to try to counter Moscow’s homophobic laws, although few of them appear potentially effective. Someone is focusing on boycotts, starting from Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee, replying to USA Today, has already made clear that he washes his hands on it: “We have received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” So much for that: the show must go on…
The US gay journalist Dan Savage has proposed on Slog a boycott of Russian vodka, and other products of the Euro-Asian militant were targeted by other militants. These ideas are rejected even by Russian activists, such as Nikolai Alekseev, who judges these initiatives unnecessary, since they will be detrimental only to local producers, who aren’t able to put pressure on the government or to change its policies [Gay Star News]. Even Vladimir Voloshin calls for a distinction: “Common homophobia is one thing, but homophobia fomented by the state is different homophobia. Common homophobia is present in every country, but doesn’t show itself if the government guarantees tolerance to minorities. On the contrary, here in Russia things are going in the opposite way: the government plays with the baser instincts of the crowd because it tries to accumulate political capital.”
The aim of Russian LGBT movement and of its allies, in short, shouldn’t be to hit Russian people indiscriminately, but, on the contrary, should have two goals. On the one hand, it’s essential to increasing pressure on the highest political levels. Up to now local governments proved to be more resolute (Reykjavik and Berlin have questioned their twinships with Moscow and so did Milan, Bordeaux, Nice and Lansing, Michigan, with St. Petersburg), while the greatest international leaders are silent: Obama, who strongly criticized local homophobic laws in his recent trip in Africa, said nothing during his meeting with Putin…
On the other hand, it’s important to support the Russian LGBT movement. A great tool for doing this is the fund created by some Italian associations [Certi Diritti, via Wayback Machine]: even two euros can be a barrier to the homophobic glacial wind that blows from Moscow…
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