Homophobic Fascist Hoedown in Russia’s “Cultural Capital”

Gay Pride Event in St. Petersburg. Field of Mars, 29 June 2013

_____

Gay Star News
All participants in St Petersburg gay pride arrested for marching
LGBT activists in Russia confirm that police have arrested about 60 participants in today’s gay pride parade for violating the country’s anti-gay laws, while some were beaten and suffered injuries
29 June 2013 | By Jean Paul Zapata, Dan Littauer

All the participants in today’s St Petersburg gay pride parade have been arrested and are being detained in police vans.  

Some participants were badly beaten by anti-gay protestors. 

Nikolai Alekseev, one of Russia’s most prominent LGBT activists who was arrested last month for organizing a gay rights march, confirmed with GSN that around 60 fellow activists and pro-gay supporters are now in police custody. 

Several people also were badly beaten by anti-gay protestors who attacked the partcipants, with some suffering injuries.

Alekseev, who was not arrested since he was standing outside the fenced area of St Petersburg pride, managed to tell GSN that participants were detained for breaching Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ bill that passed Russia’s upper house in parliament to days ago.

Five Russian gay couples, who yesterday in a historical legal move applied for marriage licenses, were also taking part in today’s march and are now under police custody. The chair of St. Petersburg Pride and Equality organization Yury Gavrikov and his partner Maksim were one of the couples arrested.

Dimitry Chunosov, who along with his partner partcipated in yesterday’s application for marriage license,  was reported to have been beaten up by the anti-gate protestors.

Gavrikov, who knew he was likely to face arrest for organizing today’s gay pride march, could face double penalties as an LGBT individual and leader of an LGBT organization who breached the local and federal Russia’s gay gag  laws.

Both laws have been passed in order to ‘protect minors’ from so called ‘homosexual propaganda’ by punishing offenders with fines and jail sentences. 

The Petersburg law bans the ‘propaganda’ among minors of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality, and makes the offense – which has never clearly been defined by lawmakers – punishable by a fine of 5,000 rubles (US$157) for individuals, 50,000 rubles (US$1,570) for officials and 250,000-500,000 rubles (US$7,854-US$15,710) for companies.

According to the Federal law, any media or gay rights organization could be fined up to one million rubles ($30.8k, €23.2k) and shut down for 90 days, individuals could be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($3k, €2.3k) and foreigners could be fined the same amount, held in jail for 15 days and deported. 

Sources in St Petersburg indicate that the individuals arrested today may be detained for up to two days.

Watch a video of St Petersburg Pride (in Russian):

Thanks to Roman for the heads-up on the first two videos.

Sergei Volkov on Being a Teacher in Russia after the Anti-Gay Law

In the Zone of Silence
How to talk with teens after passage of the law banning gay propaganda
Sergei Volkov
New Times
June 17, 2013

On June 11, the State Duma passed in its third reading a law banning promotion of homosexuality. Complex problems are being driven underground, where teenagers will be left one on one with their questions.

The law banning “gay propaganda” has passed. And although the much broader notion of “non-traditional sexual relations” figures in its wording, this is exactly how it will be referred to for short.

What does the law have to do with me, the father of a quite traditional family (from the viewpoint of the people who drafted the law)? Everything. I’m a schoolteacher. I’m a university lecturer. I’m the editor of a journal for teachers and university lecturers. I’m a member of the Public Chamber. And more than two thousand people, including teenagers, read my Facebook page. When I say or write something, it ceases to be private: with the right will, it can be regarded as propaganda. You see, I’m already one small step closer to falling under this law. Also, I mainly work with teenagers, with minors and with people who work with them. That’s another small step. And I’d like to clear up some of the law’s nuances so as not to fall into its trap.

The law says that dissemination of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes among children, presenting non-traditional sexual relations as attractive, giving a distorted view of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional relations, or imposing information that provokes interest in such relations will be considered “promotion” [or “propaganda”] and as such deemed punishable. Okay.

Does this mean that if I consider a pupil with a non-traditional sexual orientation (I have had experience with such pupils, and, as I know firsthand, so have many other educators) normal and want him to realize himself in the future as he likes, I’m coming dangerously close to breaking the law? I still haven’t engaged in propaganda, but in my own mind I think of this person as ordinary and “legal,” and I think the same thing about the relations he will have with other people like him. I haven’t opened my mouth yet, but I’m no longer so pure before the law.

And if I do open my mouth—because, for example, a pupil comes to have a heart to heart talk with me (I’ve had experience with such conversations, like many other educators, believe you me) or sends a message to my inbox or shares his problems in an essay? Should I tell him what I think or should I tell him what the law requires? The law requires I don’t give a distorted view of the equivalence of traditional and non-traditional relations. So if a female pupil comes to talk to me about her sufferings over a boy, I can hear her out, comfort her, and give her advice. But what if the sufferings of another female pupil are over a girl? Do I have to tell her it’s disgusting and perverted? If I talk to her and comfort her the way I did the first female pupil, will I thus be affirming the equivalence of such relations? Will that come under the law? Or will it not be considered propaganda because it’s one on one, not intentional or systematic?

But what if the conversation happens in the classroom—because, for example, I need to intervene in a conflict involving a student who is “different,” or because we’re discussing a book, a film, an incident, or the law itself? (Teenagers aren’t blind: many of them are interested in politics and what is happening in society.) Or, say, what if I’m asked about the project Children 404, a Facebook page where children of non-traditional orientation talk about what it is like for them in the adult world, a world of homophobes? In these cases, I’ll have to talk in public. So what? What should I say? Or should I hand them the text of the law while shaking my head and mumbling something unintelligible by way of saying, “You see, I can’t do it: the fines are so steep. What if someone suddenly takes what I say the wrong way or files a complaint? You can’t be too cautious”?

Or, for example, the publisher Samokat has just released the book Fool’s Cap, by Darya Wilke. It’s a poignant and beautifully written book about a boy who lives in a puppet theater (his parents are actors), a book about the world of theatrical workshops, a book about puppets—and a book about love. The boy becomes aware of his unconventionality, his sexual specialness. And so as not to be found out he pretends by playing the role of jester, which is his favorite puppet. He gradually grows up emotionally and realizes a jester is not someone who plays the fool, lets everyone take a whack at him, and hides under the fool’s cap. Real jesters are freer and stronger than kings. So he decides to do his own little coming out. And he wins.

I often tell teenagers about new books, because we read a lot of stuff that is not on the curriculum. I want to tell them, among other things, about this book as well. But will I be able to do it now without fear of being accused of gay propaganda? What guarantee is there that some parent won’t come running into the school screaming that their child has had a book about “faggots” rammed down his throat? The parent won’t even bother to open the book, but he will be certain I’ve committed a crime just by introducing it to my students. Remember how quickly parental opinion turned against Ilya Kolmanovsky: they demanded their children be protected from a gay teacher, who wasn’t really gay but had only gone to the State Duma to support the protest against passage of the law and explain to people that if a person is homosexual, they are that way by nature. Of course, not all parents were against Kolmanovsky, only a minority, but in our business one unhinged parent is enough to ruin a teacher and a school forever. Believe me when I say I know what I’m talking about.

The law has been passed, but the controversy over it has not died down. I’ve noticed that problems not addressed by the law often get mixed up into the debate. For example, can a same-sex couple be considered a family? Can the marriage be registered, or must the union be tagged with a different label? Can same-sex couples adopt children? These issues are exacerbated by the fact that such things are more and more permitted in Europe. For many, this is a sign it’s time we in Russia should ban these things. Unfortunately, the confusion and tension around these issues makes it impossible to get to the bottom of them.

Aggression comes pouring out of many people when discussing same-sex relationships (and the new law in particular), revealing an inner fear. Talking through the problem could be a remedy for fear, but the law drives it into the zone of silence and presents people working with adolescents with a difficult choice.

Silence is detrimental to teenagers who have discovered their own specialness. They need to talk about it with someone. I am very grateful to my fellow educators who replied to my question on Facebook by writing that nothing would change for them after passage of the law and that as before they would try and help any pupil with any problem, because all pupils are equal to them.

My last point has to do with the fact that homophobically minded people make the following move as one of the strongest arguments in their favor. They ask whether I would want my own son to be seduced by a gay. My answer is that I don’t want my son to be seduced, and it doesn’t matter whether the seducer is a woman or a man. I would want my son to figure out what he wanted, and for things to happen as they should, the way he wants. Or the way he wants with the person or persons with whom they’re going to happen. And I want for him to know that I’m ready at any moment to talk with him and accept him. And that there are other adults ready to do the same.

What I very much do not want is for him to break himself to satisfy the majority and its laws and not have the chance to be himself, or for him to be left without help by people who could give him help but prefer to keep quiet on pain of punishment.

Sergei Volkov teaches Russian language and literature at School No. 57 in Moscow. He is also editor-in-chief of the journal Literature, an associate professor of philology at the Higher School of Economics, a lecturer at the Moscow Art Theater Studio School, and a member of the Russian Federal Public Chamber and the Ministry of Education’s Public Council.

Original article in Russian

We’ll Sail Away (Petersburg School Leavers)

Petersburg school leavers are wildly optimistic about their country’s future.

Graduates of Petersburg schools will leave Russia

Twenty-five and a half thousand school leavers gathered for this year’s Scarlet Sails event [on June 23, 2013]. The massive farewell celebration set the city budget back 20 million rubles [approx. 466 000 euros].

A survey of schoolchildren at the festival revealed a huge number of young people not wanting to stay in the country. The young men and women say they do not see a future in Russia.

Source: Rosbalt.Ru

The Russian State’s War against the Boy Next Door (Alexei Gaskarov)

Alexei Gaskarov, Civic Activist, Opposition Coordinating Council Member,
and Anti-Fascist, to Remain in Police Custody until October 6
Natalya Zotova
Novaya Gazeta
June 25, 2013

1372177292_173203_96

“Phones on vibrate mode, keep your comments to yourself. Young woman, don’t talk to him!” a bailiff interrupts a young woman in a “Free Alexei Gaskarov” t-shirt (Gaskarov’s fiancée Anna Karpova). Gaskarov himself stands behind bars and peers into the courtroom. Today is a hearing on whether to extend his detention in police custody and thus one of the few days when family and friends can see him.

Defense counsel Svetlana Sidorkina motioned for several pledges to stand surety, including those made by Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and Rain TV owner Alexander Vinokurov (who came to court in person), to be entered into the record, as well as positive character references of the defendant submitted by the Opposition Coordinating Council (to which Gaskarov was elected with twenty-two thousand votes) and its local analogue, the Zhukovsky People’s Council. Igor Volk, a cosmonaut and Hero of the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Kondratenko, a distinguished Soviet test pilot, also honored Gaskarov with positive letters of reference. Sidorkina likewise motioned for a petition, signed by five hundred residents of Zhukovsky (where Gaskarov was born and lives), calling for less severe pre-trial restrictions, and media articles detailing Gaskarov’s activities as an anti-fascist and public figure, to be entered into the record. “Would someone hiding from the law be engaged in social activism?” she asked.

Investigator Alexei Bykov predictably asked the court not to admit most of this into the record: “The main character reference for Gaskarov—that he was part of a group of people that attacked police officers—is quite sufficient.” From his cage, Gaskarov reiterated to the judge that he had pulled a police officer away from a demonstrator whom the officer was attempting to detain, but that he did not regard this as a violent confrontation: he had no intention of hurting the policeman and caused him no physical harm. Gaskarov himself was beaten on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and soon afterwards he filed a complaint against the riot police who had attacked him, along with a medical report on his injuries. “This shows I had no intention of going into hiding,” he explained to the judge in the quiet, calm voice one uses to pacify a child.

Bykov read, it seems, from the same document as during Gaskarov’s arrest hearing in April, because the language was the same: “[Gaskarov] led a secretive life, changed places of residence, and planned to go into hiding abroad.” Except before it had simply been “abroad”; now the record also contains “countries with anti-Russian sentiments,” where, according to the investigation, Gaskarov often traveled.

Yegor Ozherelyev, a colleague of Gaskarov’s from the consulting company Expert Systems, came to court in person to deny that Gaskarov had been in hiding before his arrest. He showed that Gaskarov was a responsible employee who successfully coped with any task and came to work punctually, being absent only when he had been met outside the office by members of the security services and taken away for a “chat.”

Sidorkina moved that Gaskarov be released on bail: his mother had pledged her apartment, which is valued at 3.5 million rubles [approx. 81,000 euros] and where her son is officially registered. “He owns no apartment. The mom is a different person,” said the prosecutor in his objection to the motion.

A new witness has emerged in the Gaskarov case. His identity is classified, like that of the previous two witnesses, but unlike them, he is not a police officer but someone who identifies himself as a member of the anarchist movement. According to his testimony, he fears for his life, because “activists don’t like cooperating with the police.” He claims that the goal of the anarchists is confrontation with the state system, and their ideology centers on violent action.

“They’re following the Khimki scenario. When they don’t have enough evidence, they put together false testimony. I think this person doesn’t exist,” says Gaskarov’s girlfriend Anna Karpova.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Svetlana Sidorkina delivered an impassioned speech.

“Since I have gotten to know him better, I have begun to respect my client five times more. I have never met a person with such ideal character references: everyone, young and old, speaks of him as a remarkable man. If he were freed, he would be of far greater benefit to the country. The investigator has not specified how Alexei could hinder the investigation [were he released from police custody].”

“Sufficient grounds have not be adduced for not extending the arrest,” the prosecutor said laconically in closing. People in the courtroom laughed helplessly.

Judge Skuridina extended Alexei Gaskarov’s arrest for three month and eight days, until October 6.

Photo by Yevgeny Feldman for Novaya Gazeta

Original article in Russian

 _____

Moscow activist Ilya Budraitskis:

Today Alexei Gaskarov’s detention in police custody was extended until October 6, that is, until the official conclusion of the Bolotnaya Square investigation. I no longer have the strength to describe all the shit that went down at the Basmanny district court. The only thing worth noting is the expanded version of the report issued by Center “E” [the “anti-extremism” police], which was read aloud by Judge Skuridina. Autonomous Action and “other radical leftist groups” are now openly identified as sources of permanent anti-state violence, and the motive for keeping Alexei in custody is his “authority within that milieu.” This in fact is the answer to a frequently asked question. How does Gaskarov’s case stand out from the Bolotnaya Square case as a whole? By its clear, no longer merely political, but ideological orientation. We are dealing here with a show trial aimed specifically against the radical left, publicly recognized as a potential threat. And disrupting it is a matter of our common future. So follow the campaign at gaskarov.info. Make suggestions, participate and, most important, don’t lose heart.

_____

Lyosha Gaskarov: Not a Word about Politics