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RUSSIA

Likening Gays to Fascists Made Me So Furious

 

 

Commentary  by  Nikolai  Alekseev  of GayRussia.ru on his trip to Krasnodar

When I saw the slogan at the anti-gay protest in Krasnodar that organisers of next year’s Moscow Pride want revenge for fascist’s defeat over 60 years ago, I was not just amazed – I was furious.
 

 

Yet, as a reporter I am not supposed to let out this fury in my news report.  And as an activist I could also do nothing as it would have spoiled my mission to Krasnodar.

You can guess what I felt on Saturday evening when I was confronted by the placard proclaiming “Organisers of the parade of pederasts in May 2006 want to get a revenge for the defeat of fascists in May 1945” when I tell you that my grandfather was killed by the fascists in 1942.

He was also Nikolai and I was named after him.  I always thought about him and I cant even go to his grave cause no one ever knew where it is.  He helped liberate this country and not to have people like those taking part in the Krasnodar protest saying what there were.

It is, frankly, outrageous.  And this wingnut is comparing me, a gay man, with a fascist.

Little did I know on Thursday that I would be in Krasnodar on Saturday.  Around noon on Thursday I was checking the Russian news agencies when, on Yuga.ru I came across an item that there was to be a demonstration in Krasnodar against next year’s Moscow Pride Festival.

This jogged my memory.  Last month, the respected Novye Izvestia had reported on September 27 that “local organizations of Kuban (Krasnodarski region) “plan to conduct in October on the central street of Krasnodar a demonstration against the gay festival in Moscow”.

I took note of this report and the matter was discussed with others who are organising Moscow Pride.  We wanted to lodge an official complaint, but lawyers advised against this course.

But on Thursday, following the item on the Yuga.ru website, we put out a statement that said the right to meetings and demonstrations is guaranteed by the Constitution to everyone, but, in case of illegal actions, we will apply to the General Prosecutor.

This is the first case when the intention to persecute Krasnodar homophobes was officially announced.

In the statement of Pride organising group, it was said: “The mere fact of planning of such a march, the aim of which is incitement of hatred against particular groups of people as well as prevention to use their constitutional rights by other citizens raises the question of the legality of such an event”.

Then, five hours after the reports that “there will be a march and meeting against gay parade that will take place in Moscow”, came the news, again from Yuga.ru, that the “administration of Krasnodarski region [has] denied the organizers of the march against gay parade in Moscow the authorization to conduct the event.”

The official reason given was that: “Human rights committee “Presumption” (which applied for the event) was removed from the state register of public organizations by the decision of Kuban district court of Krasnodar dated 12 April 2004”.

Now, there was a “sensation” smell to the whole story!  Whatever were the real reasons to deny the authorization for the homophobic demonstration?  It was unlikely connected to the ‘tender feelings’ of local authorities towards gays and lesbians!

Such quick publication of information about the denial of the event gave us strange feelings.  Maybe all this mess was just done to attract attention? Maybe the protest organizers did not really plan to go on the streets and were quite satisfied with the local authorities decision?

What was also strange is that the news about the demonstration against the gay pride in Moscow and its banning was not republished anywhere else in the Russia.  Remembering a particular interest of Interfax news agency towards the planned gay parade in the Siberian city of Tumen, the information vacuum in connection with Krasnodar seemed at least strange.  It was also not covered by any more or less visited Russian LGBT sites.

On Friday morning came more information from Yuga.ru. that the militia will not allow the illegal “actions of patriots”.

It reported that a source in the main militia department had said:  “those demonstrating will be offered to leave peacefully. Though further actions by law enforcing authorities are not predictable, that is why they will act according to the circumstances”

This was another sensation!  Albert Gayamyan, head of the human rights committee “Presumption” said in the interview to Novye Izvestia in September that the “militia is definitely on our side. Once the first printing matter which published our bill proposal against propaganda of homosexuality was “Militia Newspaper of Kuban”.

Such confidence of Gayamyan was not surprising, to be honest.  It was much more surprising to hear the warning from law enforces authorities of Krasnodar that they will not allow a non sanctioned event to take place.  The organizers of the event said that they will do it even without the permit from the authorities.

It was now becoming clear that something was afoot in Krasnodar. An urgent needed to be made.

If the Gay Pride Festival in Moscow is to be an historic event for Russia, the homophobic demonstration in Krasnodar could become the first mass action of protest against this event in Russia, and will also go into history.

A thought went in my mind: “You announced the organisation of the gay pride, do be consistent, fly to Krasnodar to find out first hand who these protesters are and how many of them are there”.

I called “Aeroflot” immediately to know about the possible flights to Krasnodar.  The schedule was just ideal: the morning flight from Moscow and the evening flight from Krasnodar.

But one final thought.  I should email a regular visitor to our website, GayRussia.ru.  We are calling him “Alexey” to protect his identity as he lives in Krasnodar.   I asked him whether he can meet me and guide me around the city I had never been to.

The reply came quickly.  “Of course”, he said.

Just after 7pm that evening, I left the Aeroflot office with the return ticket.  It was raining.  Autumn has finally arrived in Moscow.  Refreshingly cool after a long ‘golden summer’.  So I was in high spirits as I walked down the street covered in a yellow carpet of leaves to the Okhotnyi Ryad metro station and returned home.

I might have been going on a 3,000 kilometre round trip.  But there were no bags to pack.

On Saturday, I awoke early and made Sheremetyevo-1 Airport in good time for flight SU763 which left on time.

During the flight I managed to talk about the Krasnodarski region with my travelling ‘neighbour’, who told me very many interesting things about life of the region.  There was also the crying of a little boy with the foreign name Richard who was flying with his mum, probably from abroad, to the relatives on the South of Russia.

This child had time during the flight to run barefooted in the plane, jump on his seat and talk to the people surrounding him as well as to through some of my papers.

In other words, a normal flight.  But in Aeroflot terms their in-flight service was not the usual one expects on internal flights – it was akin to the service on an international flight.  Even so, the 2hours 15 minutes in the air seemed an ‘age’ to me.

On landing, I sent a text message to ‘Alexey’.  He would meet me outside the terminal building, which I reached quickly – only a day trip so no waiting at baggage reclaim where your baggage always seems to be the last to appear!

We shunned the ‘special deals’ offered by the army of taxi drivers and opted for the trolleybus.  We talked extensively on the journey about gay life in Russia, Krasnodarski region, the Black Sea resorts which are very close, same-sex partnerships in foreign countries – everything that came to our minds.

The trip seemed very quick and we left the trolleybus in the centre of Krasnodar.  The first “place of interest” which attracted my attention was the nice and restored building of the prosecution department of Krasnodarski region.  I could not just pass by and not take a photo. After that, there was Pushkinskaya Square with the monument to the great Russian poet.  It does not look like the square with the same name in the centre of Moscow.

During the day I saw several marriage ‘corteges’ in the city – well, it was Saturday after all when many people prefer to wed.

Turning to the local central street Krasnaya, the first thing I saw was the book shop of Albert Gayamyan “Derzhava”.  There, one can find a full range of nationalistic and patriotic literature. There are also homophobic.  To be honest, this shop which reminded me of a cooperative stall in early days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did not impress me at all.

I was expecting to see something more grandiose.  But at the entrance there was advert with the nationalistic flag that guided into the shop.  As ‘Alexey’ told me, it is very unusual to see this flag here.

We continued walking.  And suddenly we both had a surprise!  All Krasnaya street was having a real festival.  People were dancing and singing.  The authorities of the region decided to conduct a festival “Labour reserves of Kuban”.  All along the main street there were stalls with the achievements of different schools and local craftsmen.  There were many masterpieces of local art and of gastronomy.  Many people were singing famous songs with karaoke.

It was a real celebration which surprised even ‘Alexey’.  He could not even remember when he saw something similar in the city before.  Taking into account the scale of the event and the number of the participants, I had a thought: the authorities might have decided to wreck the homophobic demonstration with something grandiose.

We passed by the building of the Administration of Krasnodarski region with very well arranged lawns with flowers. Very soon we reached the main point of my destination – the monument to the Black Sea Kazak Army.

Nothing hinted on possible demonstration against the Moscow Gay Pride.  But Krasnodar did not stop to surprise with its contradictions in terms of homosexuality.  When we were sitting in the park a group of young guys passed by showing their fingers at us with the words: “pederasts”.

And then, walking along the central street we stumbled upon the posters stuck on the walls on which same-sex couple were depicted, with the words: “No to propaganda of homophobia! Our private life is our private business”.

I had not seen anything of the kind even in Moscow. It is unclear just who was responsible for these posters, that in Krasnodar gays and lesbians are also fighting against homophobic extremists.

After having lunch in a typical Russian restaurant in the centre of Krasnodar (typical in cuisine, but far cheaper than I would have to pay for in Moscow), ‘Alexey’ and I continued our discussions on various topics, including the matter of whether the planned anti-gay demo would actually take place and if it did, what would be the reaction of the authorities.

We did not have to wait long... 

[For report on the demonstration, click HERE for separate report previously published]

As the demonstrators heeded the warning of the militia and dispersed, ‘Alexey’ and I went to the stylish yet cozy Café “Kvartira where we reviewed the day and the demo, checking that the photographs and video had all recorded properly.

This done, we walked awhile as it started to get dark.  Then a taxi ride to the airport – a journey of about 30 minutes and 150 roubles (£3), which was cheap by Moscow standards.

Saying goodbye to ‘Alexey’, I thanked him very much for all he did for me in Krasnodar. Without his participation I, a Muscovite, would hardly have been able to learn so much about this southern Russian city in just one day – and even to feel myself at home there.

On the flight back, I  read the inflight magazine Ves Mir and stumbled upon the thoughts of Irina Hakamada, a Russian politician and one of the leaders of ‘democratic forces’ in Russia who earlier lent her support to the Gay Pride Parade in Moscow.  In this article she said that she liked very much Paris quarter Marais where there are whole areas and many places for gays.

This was like a balsam for my soul after such a difficult but very exciting trip.  In just a week Paris is waiting for us where a press conference dedicated to the first conference of IDAHO and Moscow Gay Pestival is taking place.

This press conference will take place virtually in the Marais district.

It was 11 pm when the lights of Moscow appeared far below and I slipped Ves Mir into the pocket of the back of the seat in front of me. We were about to land at Sheremetyevo-1 Airport.  Saturday had just become Sunday as I arrived home after an exhausting, but fruitful day.

To be honest, I did not believe that just two days before I did not even consider the trip to Krasnodar seriously.  But so many things happened in one day that it seemed to be I had not been at home for eternity.

The anger that as a gay man I am akin to a fascist in the eyes of some people in Krasnodar is still there. Now, I have to decide just what to do about this …

Exclusive photo gallery of one day in Krasnodar by Nikolai Alekseev is available on the GayRussia.ru website.  Click on this link for direct access to the gallery.

■  See also Krasnodar’s Anti-Gay Protest Turns Out Low Key Under Watchful Eye of Militia, by Nikolai Alekseev.  Yesterday’s anti-gay protest in Krasnodar was banned by the authorities on the technicality that one of the groups organising the demonstration had been ordered by the courts to be closed down.  So there was one obvious question I had when I arrived at the monument to the Black Sea Kazak Army in the city and found the local law enforcement officers there.

LINKS

 

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October 16: 
Russia: 
Krasnodar’s Anti-Gay Protest Turns Out Low Key Under Watchful Eye of Militia, by
Nikolai Alekseev.  Yesterday’s anti-gay protest in Krasnodar was banned by the authorities on the technicality that one of the groups organising the demonstration had been ordered by the courts to be closed down.  So there was one obvious question I had when I arrived at the monument to the Black Sea Kazak Army in the city and found the local law enforcement officers there.

October 15: 
Russia: 
Anti-Gay Protest Goes Ahead in Krasnodar Despite Ban - Only 30 Turn Up.  Anti-gay protestors defied a ban imposed by the Krasnodarski region authorities and rallied as promised in Krasnodar today.  Earlier in the week, organisers of the “patriots-homophobes” demonstration had predicted that 500 would turn up to protest the staging of a Gay Pride in Moscow, some 1,500 kilometres away.

October 14: 
UK - Northern Ireland:  
Gay Group Invites Foes to Talk About Civil Partnerships A gay group in Northern Ireland has offered to meet anyone in the Province who is against Civil Partnership for same-sex couples.  The legislation that recognises gay partnerships comes into effect in December.

October 13: 
Russia: 
Anti-Gay Demo in Krasnodar Banned by Authorities.  Authorities in the Krasnodarski region of Russia have said this evening that they will not authorise the anti-gay demonstration in Krasnodar on Saturday.

Russia:  Protest Against Moscow Gay Pride in City 1,500 km Distant. A demonstration against the proposed first-ever Moscow Gay Pride festival, scheduled to be staged in May next year, will take place on Saturday (October 15) in Krasnodar, some 1,500 km (950 miles) from the Russian capital and close to the Black Sea.

Italy:  Pasolini Murder Case Shelved, by Doug Ireland.  The investigation into the 1975 murder of the great gay Italian poet-film director-novelist-playwright-essayist-literary critic Pier Paolo Pasolini – which had been re-opened in May after the hustler originally convicted of the murder recanted on television his confession of three decades earlier – has been definitively shelved, it was reported in Rome yesterday.

October 12: 
Uganda: 
Uganda’s Targeting of Gays and Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Condemned.  The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemned today the recent decision by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to ban same-sex marriage.

Turkey:  Turkish Court Not to Hear Case to Closedown Gay GroupGays in Turkey have today claimed a victory in their bid to save the closure of Kaos, the gay and lesbian human rights group.

UK:  Alleged Assaults on Gays In ’Derry Taken to Court.  A 26 years-old man, Stephen Lee Wright, is due to appear at Londonderry Courthouse tomorrow, Thursday October 13, on charges relating to a widely reported assault on a Rainbow Project Volunteer in July 2004 when the gay man was attacked and bitten in the face outside a chip shop in the Waterside area.

 

Posted: 17 October 2005 at 09:30 (UK time)

 

 

 

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