The Russian National Guard Has Canceled Your Yulia Tsvetkova Solidarity Film Screening

Flacon Design Factory in Moscow. Photo courtesy of Popcornnews.ru

Russian National Guardsmen Disrupt Screening of Film in Support of Yulia Tsvetkova at Flacon Design Factory in Moscow
MBKh Media
September 15, 2020

Russian National Guardsmen have come to the Flacon Design Factory in Moscow and stopped a screening of the [2014 documentary] film Vulva 3.0, an event planned in support of the activist Yulia Tsvetkova. The screening’s curator, Andrei Parshikov, reported the incident to MBKh Media.

According to Parshikov, Petrovka 38 [Moscow police headquarters] had received an anonymous call that so-called propaganda of homosexualism [sic] would take place during the event.

“First, Petrovka 38 got an anonymous call, and then the local police precinct was informed about the call. The precinct commander came to Flacon and said that things looked bad. We told him about the movie. He said that while he understood everything, he couldn’t help us because since Petrovka 38 had received the call, a detachment would be dispatched in any case and they would shut down the screening. The only solution, he said, was to give the local police a screening copy of the film so they could that could look at it and make sure it checked out, but he still could not promise anything. We said, Okay, we’ll give you a screening copy, and we’ll postpone the screening,” Parshikov said.

Subsequently, around twenty Russian National Guardsmen arrived at Flacon. They are patrolling the premises and making it impossible to screen the film.

UPDATE (8:24 p.m.)

The screening of the film has been canceled for today, curator Andrey Parshikov has informed MBKh Media. According to him, the Russian National Guardsmen are still at Flacon. Parshikov added that the film would be sent for a forensic examination tomorrow.

Yulia Tsvetkova is an activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In November 2019, she was charged with “distributing pornography”(under Article 242.3.b of the Russian Criminal Code) over body-positive drawings she published on Vagina Monologues, a social media group page that she moderated. Due to pressure and harassment, she had to close the Merak Children’s Theater [which she ran with her mother].

Law enforcement authorities began their criminal inquiry into Tsvetkova after two criminal complaints were filed against her by Timur Bulatov, who runs the homophobic social media group page Moral Jihad, which mostly publishes threats, insults, and Bulatov’s own derogatory monologues about gays.  [Bulatov] informed the police that Tsvetkova was distributing pornography.

Tsvetkova was subsequently also charged with several administrative offenses for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations” on her personal page on VK and the group pages Komsomolka: Intersectional Feminism and The Last Supper: LGBTQIAPP+on-Amur | 18+.  Tsvetkova was convicted on these charges and fined.

Thanks to Maria Mila for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

“He Fell on the Knife”: Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay

Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay Man
Takie Dela
February 7, 2020

A jury at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court acquitted a man accused of murdering homosexual Roman Yedalov, reports the LGBT group Stimul, whose lawyers represented the interests of the victim’s friend and mother in court. The website xgay.ru reports that the assailant’s name is Anton Berezhnoy.

The defendant admitted his guilt in part. He claimed, however, that he had not caused the death deliberately but accidentally: the victim had allegedly “[fallen] on the knife.” On February 6, when asked the question of whether Berezhnoy had caused Yedalov’s death or not, the jury said he had not, thus obviating the following question as to his guilt.

A final verdict will be handed down by the presiding judge in a few days but, according to law, the verdict cannot be a guilty one for the defendant. Stimul’s lawyers have already said they would appeal the court’s decision.

“The evidence and testimony presented in the trial convinced me that the altercation was provoked by the defendant,” said Anton Lapov, a lawyer for the injured party. “I’m convinced that it was this bloody outcome that the defendant envisaged. One person had their life taken, while another person was robbed of their health.”

The murder occurred in the early hours of June 29, 2019, at Kursk Railway Station in Moscow. Berezhnoy assaulted gay couple Roman Yedalov and Yevgeny Yefimov, who were returning to their home in the Moscow Region, and struck them with a knife.

The murder was captured on CCTV. Courtesy of Takie Dela

Yefimov’s wounds were not life-threatening and he survived, but Yedalov died on the spot. According to Yefimov, Berezhnoy shouted insults relating to their sexual orientation during the attack. Yefimov suspects that Berezhnoy followed them from a night club.

The Russian Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into the murder. Yefimov and the dead man’s mother were named as the injured party, while Berezhnoy was remanded in custody. During the trial, the prosecutor argued that the available evidence proved the defendant’s guilt. Yedalov’s mother told the court that she was proud of her son for defending his friend by stepping between him and the assailant.

In November 2019, Maxim Pankratov, the star of a video on the YouTube channel Real Talk in which children asked him questions about homosexuality, reported that he had been threatened. People on the street recognized him and shouted “Faggot! Pervert” as he walked past. Another group of strangers attempted to attack him at night, but he managed to escape. Pankratov underscored the fact that he had not talked with the children about sex and had not committed violent acts against them.

After the video starring Pankratov was posted, the Moscow police charged the channel’s creators with “promoting homosexualism [sic] among minors,” while the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into sexual violence against minors. Investigators claimed that the conversations with children were designed to arouse them sexually and induce them to have sexual relations. The video was deleted after the scandal erupted.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Yulia Tsvetkova: Blues and Pinks

“He Threatened to Kill Us for Perverting Children”
A Feminist Staged a Children’s Play. She Has Been Accused of Extremism and Interrogated by Police
Larisa Zhukova
Lenta.ru
March 15, 2019

The police department in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has been investigating the work of feminist Yulia Tsvetkova, producer of the activist comedy theater Merak. The ostensible cause of the investigation is her production of a children’s play about gender stereotypes, Blues and Pinks, which the people who denounced Tsvetkova to the police regarded as promotion of homosexual relations among minors. The suspicions of the authorities have also been piqued by the anti-militarist dance productions Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition and Prague Spring, and the VK community page Komsomolka. Lenta.ru recorded Tsvetkova’s account of why regional activists have grown accustomed to threats of real violence and how the local extremism prevention center (Center “E”) inspects children’s dances and drawings.

“Are You Against the Soviet Union?”
Everyone who has known us for a long time agrees that something completely insane has been happening. We have pupils who have been working with us for almost sixteen years, starting with my mom’s early development workshop.

Our theater is me, the actors, and my mom, our manager. We are a tiny theater company in a really small city and the only young people’s theater of its kind. We are not a classic theater company, but a horizontal (egalitarian) and activist theater. We highlight societal problems and look for ways of solving them. We established the theater a year ago. We decided to call it Merak, with the stress on the first syllable. In Serbian, mérak means a buzz, a high, life’s little pleasures.

The actors are twenty-one children aged six and up. They write poems, contribute to the scripts, build scenery, and choreograph the dance numbers. As director, I supply the overall outline, but then I leave the creativity to them. How do you feel in this scene? I ask them. What should it be like? How should the dialogue sound? What words would  you use to say that? How would you dance it? Some find it odd I deal with children as equals, but I believe it has to be this way. We use improvisation, forum theater, gags, and free dance.

Everything was fine until February, until we decided to stage four danced-based plays, which we had been rehearsing for six months. Two plays are staged one day, while the other two plays are staged the next day. We came up with the idea of calling them a festival by way of combining them. It would have been the first activist art festival in the region. A week before the first performance we got a phone call from city hall. The next day, the Youth Center, a venue we had already confirmed, told us they were booked up on the dates we needed, and there were no openings for the next six months.

The telephone conversation with city hall lasted over an our. City officials went over our poster point by point. Why was our play called Blues and Pinks? We wrote, “We can do it again”: were we against the Soviet Union or something? We were asked what we meant by the word “individual.” Obviously, there was something about what we were doing they didn’t like. We also suddenly got the cold shoulder at other venues.

pic_08ab34d1a9a5f76eb7ff4c96411bec73Detail of a poster for The Color of Saffron Festival of Activist Art. The inscription reads “We can do it again. We can ban it!” 

After the news that the festival had been shut down was published, city hall called us and said we had misunderstood them. Actually, they supported our undertaking. They invited us to a meeting at which they made it understood that if we denied the news reports, they would help us find a venue. Since I don’t like having my arm twisted, and I didn’t think I had done anything wrong by talking about the connection between their first phone call and the sudden refusals to give us a venue, I was not about to refute any of the reports. That was when they interrogated the kids.

“The Kids Are Feared like Terrible Dissidents”
To be honest, I thought we would be called on the carpet for our anti-militarist production Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. It is a translation of a song by Serj Tankian, lead singer of System of a Down. He often voices his opposition to war and the arms industry. The big dance number in the play is set to his song. It’s an urgent problem for us, because all the boys who attend our workshop, which has been functioning for over twenty years, try to smuggle in toy pistols at first. But we have a ban on weapons, even toy weapons. Why? We are trying to make sense of things. During the big dance number, one dancer acquires a “pistol.” Then another gets one, too, as a means of defense. A third dance gets hold of a machine gun, and the atmosphere heats up. It is satirical and exaggerated, of course, but it is a quite dramatic play as well.

pic_dc844038f81c1c5c70e0d764a49c0a98

Merak Theater’s poster for its four-play, two-day festival, The Color of Saffron. Originally scheduled for March 16 and 17, it was to have featured (in descending order) Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Spring [sic], Untouchables, and Blues and Pinks

But when we came up with the play, the shooting at the college in Kerch occurred. The kids were scared: the shooting affected them greatly. We talked a lot about what they thought about the incident and how it could have been avoided. No one at school discussed the incident with the children at all, although it should be said adults generally avoid discussing really important things with teenagers. The kids came up with the play’s finale on their own: it showed how the situation could have been avoided.

Prague Spring is a production based on Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. We pay homage to Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography and Maurice Béjart’s 1955 choreography, using music by John Cage. Coincidentally, I got the idea during the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops: the two “springs” came together in my mind around the subject of human rights and resisting oppression. It’s a simple, obvious subject, but when you grow up in a small city like Komsomolsk, it can seem quite remote and forbidden. But this is just what I read into it, inner thoughts not meant for viewers. The kids simply dance spring. That’s it. Six-year-olds hop up and down and run around in circles, making up half of it as they go along.

Our fifteen-minute play Untouchables focuses on bullying at school and kindergarten. A lot of what the kids told us themselves about their own experiences went into the play. The more we talk things through, the easier it is for them to deal with them.

pic_eda40eabbbb3ba6a6ff95708693a0148Photo from the Merak Activist Comedy Theater’s page on VK 

Blues and Pinks is a play that illustrates stereotypes about girls and boys. According to the script, we run through the list of clichés: girls like pink, boys like blue; boys are messy, girls clean up after them; boy are defenders and warriors and shouldn’t cry, while girls are future mothers who dream only of getting married; girls and boys can never understand each other. This is presented on stage as a lighthearted dance. We try and show the notion that if a boy pulls your pigtail, it means he likes you is a step away from the idea that if a man beats a woman he must love her.

We continue by suggesting a solution. One of the boys dances, releasing his pent-up feelings as it were. The other boys follow his example, realizing that, whether they dance or not, it does not make any more or less guys. The girls share their dreams. One of them wants to be a businesswoman, while another wants to be a director. They recite the names of great women: the first woman to climb Everest, the first woman to win an Oscar, and so on.

Sophisticated audiences in the western half of Russia would probably find it quite naive, but in our city it is timely and relevant. For example, the other day, a local radio presenter, Tatyana Zhemerenetskaya, announced she planned to run for mayor. She was fired: her bosses were outraged by her excessively “unfeminine ambitions.” Women are supposed to stay home and make soup. In the final scene of our play, the kids say they are individuals. They have dreams and passions.

The funny thing is I didn’t even think about the connotation of the play’s title, which the police caught. One of our pupils came up with it. I have hung out with female LGBT activists, and none of them ever call themselves “blues” or “pinks.” They are just colors to me. Honestly, if I had had doubts, I would not have bothered using the words in the title.

Our actors are between six and seventeen, but the authorities fear us as if we were terrible dissidents. Miraculously, we found a woman interested in contemporary young people’s theater who was not afraid to provide us with a venue. We intend to hold the festival there as planned, on March 16 and 17. But we have nowhere to seat viewers: we cannot find people who will give us chairs. One person said yes, but later he was scared off, apparently.

“She Drew the Rainbow of Her Own Free Will”
The policewoman who came to my office could not say out loud the reason for the investigation. The complaint read that we were promoting homosexuality among minors. She showed me the complaint and blushed.

During my interrogation, I was told I was at the local department for extremism and terrorism prevention (Center “E”). Three complaints had been filed against me: for promoting homosexual relations among minors, for inciting hatred towards men, and for “extremism,” I think.

The interrogation lasted nearly four hours.

First, the officers gave me screenshots of various posts and photos from my personal social media page and the community page Dandelion Field, where I write about really simple things like contraception, HIV, and condoms, things that, unfortunately, not all teenagers know about. There was also stuff from Komsomolka, which deals with feminism. By the way, there I don’t write at all about men: it’s a community page about women.

One of the screenshots showed a workshop from last year at which a girl had drawn a picture, and there was a rainbow in her picture. I was forced to write two paragraphs explains that my underage female pupil had drawn the rainbow of her own free will. No one had pressured and coerced her to draw it.

Next, we got hung up on the phrase “gender stereotypes.” The police officer thought gender had something to do with transgenders. I explained to him what gender stereotypes were, what I meant by the term, and gave examples of stereotypes, as if I were sitting for an exam at school.

Then I was shown a screenshot of a post in which I had negatively assessed the “gay propaganda law,” and I had described the persecution of the lesbians in Chechnya and the “corrective” rapes to which they had been subjected.

The detective asked whether I engaged in propaganda. He asked was sex education was, and who needed it and why. He asked what feminism was. He asked what intersectional feminism was. Ultimately, I had to describe to him how I imagined traditional family values, what I thought about families. I wrote that I wasn’t against traditional family values like love, acceptance, and warmth. This ridiculous testimony took up four pages.

This was followed by the persecution of our children and personal attacks on them. There is no other way of putting it.

“The Police Have Come for You. Let’s Go”
The police officers running the investigation are clueless about the questions they have been asking, and this incompetence has only exacerbated the circumstances.

On March 10, they came for one of boys and one of our girls. It is not clear why they were chosen. There are seventeen teenagers in our theater, and they attend different schools. The police did not pick on our oldest and youngest pupils.

The 15-year-old girl was summoned after school from her house and grilled for two hours by five adults: two police officers and three female school employees. They put the screws on her and descended into semi-insults. They quizzed her about LGBT. Did she know what it meant? they asked. How had she found out? Was I promoting homosexuality? Did I encourage girls to sleep with girls, and boys with boys? The subjects they discussed were such that they would have earned an 18+ rating, but the interrogation took place without the girl’s parents present.

pic_7bc908930662b55a0cdbabb1976b5037Photo from the Merak Activist Comedy Theater’s page on VK 

The 13-year-old boy was kept after school. He was summoned to the headmaster’s office. “The police have come for you. Let’s go,” he was told. No one had the presence of mind to call his parents. The police officers showed him the likes I had awarded a post I no longer remembered, but they were showing this to a child! The absurdity was off the charts. They asked the boy and the girl about each other. Maybe they had picked the through the list of  numbers in their telephones.

When, the next day, they came for another of our boys, we warned him to call his parents immediately. He called his dad, who works as a beat cop, so he was not grilled for two hours, but twenty minutes, and the conversation was more polite and less biased.

Everyone is scared. Naturally, it is frightening when you’re interrogated for two hours. For now, no one wants to quit the theater, because everyone is aware of my work. They know I am opposed to violence, and I treat boys and girls equally. But, first of all, the subject itself scares the kids, because they are still kids and not tuned into all these issues. Second, they feel the pressure: they are afraid to say something wrong and inadvertently throw me under the bus.

Their parents and I have now been trying to understand the legal grounds of why we have been persecuted. We have been poring over the laws.

“Rewind to Fifty Years Ago”
Until recently, everyone really loved our theater and told us how cool we were. We did two productions wholly in English about the history of the English language, which were unprecedented in our city. At the Drama Theater, we did a dance performance about the problems of teenagers entitled Evolution. It was about how society puts pressure on carefree kids, but ultimately their friends help them and their problems are solved. This was all performed to poems written by one of the girls involved in the production. The show was a benefit for disabled children and the local organization Lighthouse of Hope. Not a bad track record for a single year!

Children grow up, and the problems they face get more complicated. First of all, they deal with domestic violence. I have had whole black months when it was one story after another, and I cried because I felt so helpless. It’s really scary: dad’s beating mom, dad’s beating me, dad’s beating my brother. Gender stereotypes are also something our kids deal with up close and personal. My fifteen-year-old female pupils are already pestered now with questions of when they are getting married and having kids, and why they should bother with careers. Homophobia is also a force. I know there are LGBT teenagers out there, and I cannot imagine how hard it is for them to cope alone. The streets in Komsomolsk are a really dangerous place, just as in most typical provincial towns, I would guess.

Komsomolsk is one half a factory town, and one half a gangster town. When you hear about us, rewind to fifty years ago. It is not the twenty-first century here, but the twentieth century. I think what really spooked the police was that I had been talking about activism and feminism. These words scare people.

Our local feminist community consists of two volunteers and me. I have an audience of a thousand some subscribers on our community page, but between two and twenty people in Komsomolsk itself. That is the number of people who come to our events. Unfortunately, that is our audience for the time being. It is a infantile scale.

But there have always been plenty of haters. When I decided to do a lecture on abuse, there were threats: we will come and show you what real violence is like, I was warned. Instead, a group of women showed up who sabotaged the lecture by insisting victims had only themselves to blame or something of the sort.

Even our women’s tea party was disrupted. We wanted to make it women-only, without men, so we could talk about our problems. Men wrote to us that they would come and show us what feminism was. There were so many threats that even the young women themselves got scared, along with the venue where we had scheduled the tea party. They asked us not to come.

I have stopped responding to death threats. Now, as we have been chatting, I have received three messages from a young man. The only word in the messages you can print is the word “you.” Yesterday, a man wrote on the community page of our theater workshop threatening to kill us for “perverting children.” This the general background.

After I was interrogated for four hours by the police about feminism and sex education, I felt I had a claim to the hashtag #FeminismIsNotExtremism. Six months ago, I would insert in posts in connection with the case of Lyubov Kalugina, when I was not even remotely in harm’s way. It is one thing to read about persecuted activists, but it is another thing to become one of them. People keep asking why I do it. What is the point?  My run-in with the police makes me think hard about the kind of country we live in. But I can name at least twenty-one people for whom what I do is not pointless. I can name even more people, actually.

pic_55145f4a6ff0238f1689b54bfaa9dccbPhoto from the Merak Activist Comedy Theater’s page on VK 

What scares me most is the kids think they did something wrong. I ask them, You believe in what we do? Yes, they reply. Do you see anything bad about it? No, they answer. But the whole situation puts them under psychological pressure. It is a really terrible precedent, because the kids have been rapped on the knuckles as it were. They really work their butts off staging our plays. They invest a tremendous amount of energy in them. They are sincerely looking for ways to change the world for the better. These kids are really delicate and sensitive, and they are close to each other as group. They volunteer their time, they visit orphanages, they support other social projects. They are totally maxed out: they try and get straight A’s at school, and they are involved in academic competitions. In the midst of all their activities, they manage to come to four-hour-long, physically draining rehearsals.

But then adults tell them activism is bad, activism is evil, without even fully understand what activism is. And when these adults show up a week before our festival and tell us to get lost, both the kids and I are stressed out. They are really worried.

I have not slept or eaten for three days. I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I have been summoned again to the extremism prevention department. The phone is tapped, and calls with my lawyer are cut off. But I dream of opening a women’s crisis center in our city and an alternative independent school where the children would be not be bullied and hounded, and continuing to move the theater forward. In late spring, we are doing a production based on Svetlana Alexievich’s book Last Witnesses, about children during the Second World War, and in the summer we are staging a new English-language production.

Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader.

UPDATE. DVHab.ru reports that, despite the fact the local authorities ostensibly canceled Merak Theater’s Color of Saffron Festival, the festival went ahead way anyway at “closed” venues. DVHab.ru included a full video of Merak’s performance of Blues and Pinks in its article. I have reproduced it below.

Is There Life on Mars?

OSIRIS_Mars_true_colorOne of the joys of the web is being able to catch glimpses of life on different planets.

Gieselman dumped the girlie name bestowed at birth, asked friends and teachers to use Rocko, the tough-sounding nickname friends had come up with, and told people to use “they” instead of “he” or “she.” “They” has become an increasingly popular substitute for “he” or “she” in the transgender community, and the University of Vermont, a public institution of some 12,700 students, has agreed to use it.

While colleges across the country have been grappling with concerns related to students transitioning from one gender to another, Vermont is at the forefront in recognizing the next step in identity politics: the validation of a third gender.

The university allows students like Gieselman to select their own identity — a new first name, regardless of whether they’ve legally changed it, as well as a chosen pronoun — and records these details in the campuswide information system so that professors have the correct terminology at their fingertips.

—Ulie Scelfo, “University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral,” The New York Times, February 3, 2015

__________

Russia Blacklists LGBT Teen Online Support Group
The Moscow Times
February 2, 2015

A Russian web site that served as a support group for LGBT teenagers has been blacklisted by the authorities and will likely be blocked within the country, news reports said Monday.

The site’s name Deti-404 (Children-404), after the online HTTP error message for “page not found,” may prove portentous if Russia’s Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor considers the site to be in violation of a federal law that regulates online content.

Russian news site Ura.ru reported on Monday, citing Roskomnadzor, that the Deti-404 web site will be blocked because it disseminated information on committing suicide.

Deti-404.com and as its eponymous groups on social networks Facebook and VKontakte were still accessible in Moscow at press time Monday evening.

Ura.ru published a post contained on Deti-404’s Facebook page showing a young woman’s scratched-up arm with the numbers “404” writing in black ink. The caption reads: “I want to die, to disappear, so that I simply never existed.”

Deti-404’s founder, Yelena Klimova, said last week that she was fined 50,000 rubles ($780) for violating Russia’s controversial law against the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” The site’s blacklisting may be linked to that case.

Roskomnadzor opened a case against Klimova last November after it claimed to have received some 150 complaints from “citizens and organizations” about Deti-404’s pages on social media networks.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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