Russian LGBTQ and New Left Activism

Guest: Jessica Mason on LGBTQ activism and the New Left in Russia.

A Journey into Putin’s Country



Anne Garrels is a former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio and the author of Naked in Baghdad which chronicled the events surrounding the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her most recent book is Putin’s Country: A Journey into the Real Russia.


Aesop Rock, “No Regrets,” Labor Days, 2001.

Gay Propaganda Uptick

As I noted in my Nation article on the gay propaganda law (which, by the way, has been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award), there have only been few instances where the law has been enforced. This seems to be changing. Last week, Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia’s most well known gay activist, paid the first fine in the law’s history after his appeal was thrown out in an Arkhangelsk court. Also, Molodoi dalnevostochnik, a newspaper in Khabarovsk, was recently fined 50,000 rubles for violating the law, the first publication to be prosecuted. “Gay propaganda” is even turning up in the strangest of places. A prosecutor in Stavropol has found “gay propaganda” in a children’s game “Fanti.” Now Lena Kilmova, the founder of Deti-404, a social media group that supports LGBT teens, has been served an “infringement notice.” As reported in the Advocate:

The formal charges against Kilmova claim she “had registered a web page propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations among minors, which took form of distribution of information among minors aimed at forming of non-traditional sexual affirmations, attraction to non-traditional sexual relations, distorted conceptions of social equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations,” according to the Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality.

“In light of general trends in the country, I am not surprised,” said Kilmova in a statement from the Straight Alliance. “But it is very sad that letters from LGBT teenagers themselves are called ‘homosexual propaganda among minors.’ It is absurd! Milonov, the complaint initiator, has two demands: to fine me and to close the group. If it will be closed, LGBT teenagers will lose the only place where they can openly speak about themselves and receive advice they need to live. It will be a catastrophe.”

Are we finally witnessing an uptick in the law use?

Finally, Slon has a revealing infographic concerning gay propaganda. Slon compared references of homosexuality in the media with popularity of searches of the terms “homosexuality,” “gay,” and “gay propaganda” on media sites between January 2009 and January 2014. Apparently all the media discourse has not contributed to any increased interest in searching homosexuality. This is what Slon came up with:

Midwifing Russia’s LGBT Movement


For my article in the Nation on Russian LGBT activism, “Repression and Gay Rights in Russia,” I interviewed Polina Adrianovna, an activist with the LGBT rights organization Coming Out St. Petersburg. I though that in addition to the article, readers would like the hear my interview with Polina. Here is the interview:

An excerpt of the article:

“Our elders and atamans entrusted me to thank you for the course our country is on and for your policies,” Anton Maramygin, a Cossack youth, said to Vladimir Putin at the Seliger Youth Camp in early August. “We see what you are doing: fighting against the sodomites and not allowing them to adopt our children. We support you in every way.” The crowd of young people applauded as Putin smirked.

Homophobia is state policy in Russia, a kind of new sexual sovereignty defending Orthodox Christian morality against the corrosive influence of Western decadence. Putin’s fight against the “sodomites” has spawned numerous pieces of legislation at the regional and federal level. Maramygin’s gushing gratitude referenced two: the infamous federal “anti-gay propaganda law” and the law banning foreign gay couples from adopting Russian children. Both of these laws have elicited international condemnation and calls for boycotts of Russian vodka and the Winter Olympics in Sochi. While the sudden international outcry is welcomed by Russian LGBT activists, many are pessimistic about the boycotts, even to the point of questioning their efficacy. Russian activists, after all, have been struggling against state-sponsored homophobia since 2006 and know well the state’s intransigence. In many ways the anti-gay laws have inadvertently midwifed Russia’s LGBT movement to national and international prominence.
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