Homophobia on the Offensive in Russia

Russia is preparing for the elections to its parliament (called Duma.) Everybody knows that the elections will be a sham. The government forces state employees to vote for the party that is currently in power by threatening to fire them. It forces business people to vote the “right” way by threatening them with sanctions in case they refuse. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the results of the elections have been predetermined. The Russian Prime-Minister Putin doesn’t even try to conceal that he is the puppet-master behind the current lame-duck President Medvedev.

So what do you do when you are planning to perpetrate such a massive electoral fraud against the people of your country? The answer is clear: distract them by something that will make them feel good and in control. It is no surprise that the authorities of St. Petersburg have introduced a bill that will impose fines on everybody who “engages in propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia.” Of course, the idea that homosexuality can be “promoted” makes as much sense as a plan to promote tallness. I’ve tried asking many a homophobe how much “propaganda” of gayness would be enough to make them gay. The answer is always the same: “Of course, nothing would make me gay, but I’m just worried about others.” Equating homosexuality and pedophilia, like this bill does, is also egregiously offensive.

However, many people in the fiercely homophobic Russia that inherited its hatred of homosexuality from the Soviet Union are happy about this bill. The authorities humiliate them by using them to pretend that there is some form of democracy in Russia. In reality, though, people are powerless to choose who will be in charge of their country. The attacks on gays make these downtrodden and humiliated people feel proud of their heterosexuality because there isn’t much else to be proud of. The suggestion that homosexuality can be promoted makes the heterosexual majority feel that sexual orientation is a choice and congratulate itself for making the “right” and the “moral” choice on this issue.

The anti-gay bill in St. Petersburg is still under review. Other areas in Russia, however, have already implemented this kind of legislation (Arkhangelsk and Ryazan). The economy in these areas is in even worse shape than elsewhere in the country, which gives their inhabitants more reasons to be unhappy with the government. And whenever popular discontent in Russia grows, you can always expect to see a distracting maneuver aimed at getting people to concentrate on their hatred towards some marginalized group instead of questioning the ruling party.

6 thoughts on “Homophobia on the Offensive in Russia

  1. A triumph of distraction politics if there ever was one.
    This makes me rethink my plan to visit my friend who’s teaching English in Kostroma though. I was planning on going alone, and I wasn’t exactly in the dark about homophobia in Russia before, but this is pretty frightening still.

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    1. It’s getting worse, too. The Russian LGBTQ movement is fighting heroically and scoring some important victories but the general environment of homophobia is still very much there. 😦

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  2. Well, I’d say that completely regardless of the fancy ways of Putin’s staying in power, the increase of homophobia in Russia is a part of the general right-wing shift throughout Europe which you mentioned in one of your previous posts.
    It is tempting to present Russia as some particularly backward place, but I am not at all sure that if a referendum on “forbidding propaganda of homosexuality” was held in other European countries in a totally democratic manner, the results would be that different compared to Russia… The politically correct authorities of other European counties just will never initiate such referendums…
    I happen to subscribe to Estonia’s Education Forum / mailing list. And I can assure you that the discussion on homosexuality was one of the most heated ones (on par only with the issue of the teacher’s salaries), definitely more heated than the discussions on “the Russians”… 🙂 🙂 It was quite difficult for the moderator to keep social conservatives at bay… Short (simplified) summary:
    —We should educate people about the dangers of homosexuality…
    —This is a forum devoted to education, do we really want to be a laughingstock of both our European colleagues and our own young people?
    —Why should we care about the opinions of those politically correct leftie European colleagues? Their political correctness will be their own undoing. And why should we care about the opinions of those youths who are too selfish to properly contribute to the preservation of our nation, traditions and culture (by propagating biologically and by propagating conservative values)? They just do not think, and we should educate them about the dangers of tolerance.

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    1. Of course, you are the expert on Estonia, but Sweden? Norway? Even Spain legalized gay marriage a while ago. In Spain’s recent elections when the right-wing party came to power, homosexuality was not a topic.

      Is there a chance these attitudes in Estonia are part of the Soviet legacy of homophobia? Or is the demographic crisis partly to blame?

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  3. The situation is similar in Zimbabwe, where gays are “worse than pigs and dogs” according to Catholic Mugabe. The opposition to gays appears to come from the deep, religious sensibilities of Zimbabweans, who see anything short of pious heterosexual marriages and a nuclear family as being perverse. Truly, most Zimbabweans aim to be like their colonizers. However, the colonizers left a culture of the 1950s, which makes this direction of their libidos false and out of date.

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