Did you know that only 10% of the world’s population lives in countries where same-sex marriage is legal? Homosexuality is still criminalized in more than 40 countries around our pretty, blue, spinning planet. You won’t find much tolerance or acceptance in these places. Yet, because these places are lacking in education and cultural resources, but big on religion, it is sort of possible to understand how they might be behind in progress. It is even more shocking when a country of great resources, top universities and international moved backwards, changing its laws to walk down that dark path of the criminalization of gayness in all forms.
In 1993, male homosexuality was decriminalized in the Federation Of Russia, but there was no legislation that protects against all discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Russia.
Same-sex marriages and civil unions have never been recognized. However, in 2013, the Russian Federation’s legislative body, State Duma (their lower house) and the 166-member Federation Council banned the distribution of “Propaganda Of Non-Traditional Sexual Relations” to minors. This, of course, is one of the biggest smoke-screens of the 21st century, and it leaves me asking what other Putin political plots are taking place in or by the Russian Federation. Human Rights, after all, provide a perfect eclipse. The citizenry is forced into an emotional knee-jerk reaction to such laws. Hmm… what else is going on in Russia?
But, smokescreen or no smokescreen, the issue remains; a leading nation is closing its door on basic Human Rights right in plain sight of the rest of the world. We don’t need a Congressional investigation here. It is a simple case of repression and oppression; the Russian Federation is taking a step back to the 19th century. We all live in the present and we cannot ignore that this is 2017 and not 1817.
What is next? Will it be expected that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s musical legacy will be published and performed under another name in case minors might hear it and turn gay? Will Vladimir Lenin’s own decriminalization of homosexuality or even Boris Yeltsin’s 1993 decriminalization be removed from the history books in schools and universities? Writer Alexander Pushkin might not have been gay but her wrote openly about the big bonus of male bedfellows in letters to his gay friend Philip Vigel. Perhaps Pushkin prose and poetry needs to be removed from the bookshelves?
There is also Nikolai Gogol’s plays and stories, and LeoTolstoy’s musings on his own gay attractions in his autobiographical articles about his childhood. The list of gay/bisexual Russians who are prominent in the arts is rather impressive:
Modest Tchaikovsky: librettist, brother of Poytr
Vladimir Davydov: Tchaikovsky’s nephew
Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948): filmmaker
Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929): impresario
Léon Samoilovitch Baks (1866-1924): painter, scenic and costume designer
Alexander Ivanov (1806-1858): painter
Alla Nazimova (1879 –1945), actor, writer
Felix Felixovich Yusupov Jr. (1886-1967): adventurer, Rasputin killer
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950): dancer/choreographer
Erté (Romain de Tirtoff 1892-1990): The Bob Mackie of Russia
Léonide Massine (1896-1979): dancer/choreographer, boy toy
Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957): painter, friend to the smart set
Serge Lifar (1905-1986): dancer, boyfriend
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka (1899-1969): painter, graphic artist
Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev (1938-1993): dancer/choreographer/director/conductor, didn’t sleep with Diaghilev
Tsar Ivan IV (1530-1584): ruler, composer, poet, not so Terrible
Should we also begin to wonder whether gay engineers or architects who have built prominent buildings, bridges or icons will now be forgotten as their creations are destroyed or their own histories re-written? This issue is not just about Russian LGBTQ people in the arts. It’s about the situation we find ourselves in now that the USA is Russia’s bitch.