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Russia: “And You Call It A Gay [Pride] Parade?”

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, International Relations, Law, LGBTQ+, Media & Journalism, Politics, Protest, Religion

This past Saturday marked the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia, and a number of people attempted to take part in a gay pride parade in Moscow – despite the ban by a city court and mayor Yuri Luzhkov's words from the day before: “As long as I am mayor, we will not permit these parades.”

Orthodox Christians, Russian ultra-nationalists and skinheads attacked a handful of gays who showed up by the Kremlin to put flowers to the Unknown Soldier Memorial. Riot police detained up to 120 people that day, among them journalists and human rights activists, many of whom now intend to file a complaint to protest their unlawful detention and harsh treatment.

LJ user mnog was at the scene with a camera and posted a three-part photo series – part one [1], part two [2], part three [3]) – entitled “And You Call It A Gay [Pride] Parade?”

LJ user onair described [4] the failed event this way (RUS):

Moscow is the world's only city where a gay [pride] parade took place in the absense of the gays themselves. That is, there were a lot fewer of them on Tverskaya [Street] yesterday than there are at 7 PM on any workday. […]

LJ user lev4enko provided a short analysis [5] of what happened (RUS):

[…] What took place on Saturday very much resembled a well-managed riot (unlike [the World Cup one on Manezh Square in 2002]). Every such event is, for those who inspire these marches (fascist marches, I mean), yet another training. And it's clear that they are preparing for the [presidential election] campaign of 2007.

It's obvious that since there was not a single object of attack, they were forced to satisfy themselves with attacks on journalists. […] What remains unclear: why Moscow OMON [riot police] a) didn't interfere when the red-brown instigators were attacking journalists, b) why, at the same time, did OMON detain and placed onto buses those very journalists who were peacefully fulfilling their professional duty, and c) why did these same OMON detain fascists very selectively and in small numbers? Do the aggressive skins […] and pseudo-patriots have a lot more rights to walk freely in the city's center than the generally peaceful sexual minorities with flowers in their hands? […]

Aidar Buribayev (LJ user aidar_b), a Russian Newsweek correspondent who got detained on Saturday, wrote this about his detention – and about the march [6] (RUS):


5. […] spent all five hours at the [police] department. It was prohibited to sit down and lean on the walls. Neither was talking allowed, and cell phones had to be turned off.

6. First, they let the nationalist ideologue Krylov go, then – skinheads, then – the homophobes who didn't look like skinheads, then – gays, then – their defenders, and they kept us, journalists and human rights activists, till the very last.


8. It's the first time that I didn't understand what they detained me for. I was leaving the square, when the cops stopped me, checked my papers and dragged me into the bus. Somewhat strange.

9. Gay pride organizers consciously chose to escalate the conflict! They needed a loud scandal. I'm sure they did.

10. There were practically no gays and lesbians on the square. And if the gays were [too scared] to attend the march, this means they don't deserve equal rights with the heterosexual majority. Let them squeeze like rats around basements and clubs. […]

Roughly a month earlier, on May 2, the same person (aidar-b) commented on his own homophobia [7] (RUS):


I've always considered myself a homophobe, always disliked gays, and every time I could, I used the forceful [offensive slang synonyms for “gay;” three of them used in the original sentence]. Sometimes, I was beginning to worry that maybe I couldn't stand them so much because I myself was a latent [homosexual]?!

It looks like I worried in vain. I feel terribly sick of these homophobic pogroms; there's more and more greyness around.

A constructive discussion ensued between two readers of aidar-b‘s LJ:

mike67 [8]: All correct and normal. To recognize [gays] as people with equal rights, you don't have to love them. We should work not on lowering the levels of homophobia, but on rising the levels of tolerance.

schukina_irina [9]: I agree. One thing left to do is explain to the Orthodox [believers] what tolerance is. The question is HOW?

mike67 [8]: Yes, this is a problem. I'm trying but with no results so far.

schukina_irina [9]: You are trying? In what ways, if this isn't a secret?

mike67 [8]: In what way? Through conversations. By attempting to figure out the situation to an extent that would allow me to explain it to the people with various degrees of preparedness. This, unfortunately, is the only way I can do it. I don't have access to the serious mass media.

schukina_irina [9]: Does it work? I'd join you even… I wonder how such people react to all this, what they do, whether it is possible to explain anything to them. Often, they are impenetrable. I'm even interested in this as a future sociologist.

mike67 [8]: It's totally okay to have discussions on it in LJ – especially taking into account that it's here that all new ideological trends will be developed, one way or another. As for the opponents’ “impenetrableness” – I wouldn't be so categorical. We are all “impenetrable” when it comes to this or that. An average skinhead is possibly as concerned about things as an average liberal. That's why it's better not to think that we are better in some way. And if we think they're mistaken, we should fight not with the people, but with their convictions. Though it's hard to implement it all in practice. Sometimes it turns out to be impossible, but so what?