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We all know things are bad for LGBT people in Russia, right?
June 10, 2014 1:56 PM   Subscribe

In fact, we have no idea. "LGBT organizations declared foreign agents in one fell swoop, gays being blacklisted by banks, employers, and landlords—welcome to the new reality of being LGBT under Putin."

It used to be that queer organizations could appeal being forced to register as “foreign agents”, and sometimes they'd even win. However,
Now the government has the power to declare an organization a foreign agent as an administrative matter. In other words, what was once a matter of law, however imperfect, is now a matter of bureaucracy. With one fell swoop—and one that can come at any moment, without warning—a gay community center, or film festival, or support group can be branded a spy.
Employers, landlords, even banks are all being pressured by the government to dump queer workers and customers.
“I am going on leave, because you cannot be fired while on leave, but as soon as I return, I expect to be fired,” [Tatiana Vinnichenko, director of the Russian LGBT organization Rakurs and a professor of philology at Northern (Arctic) Federal University] said. How she will replace her lost income, especially as she is publicly blacklisted, she has no idea. Rakurs’s bank and landlord have come under similar pressure. Vinnichenko says all banks have been told that if they have any LGBT organizations as clients, they will lose their licenses...

Surprisingly, Vinnichenko—like other Russian LGBT activists I’ve spoken to—insists that Western pressure would be helpful, despite the obvious potential for backlash. “We’re going to lose anyway,” she said, with typically Russian fatalism. “The only question is whether anyone will know about it.”
Previously: Inside the Iron Closet (02/14), Russia's LGBT horror (08/13)
posted by FlyingMonkey (34 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
And Vinnichenko is calling for the United States to follow Canada in providing expedited and “favored” review to LGBT applicants for asylum.

Yes fucking please.
posted by Iridic at 2:05 PM on June 10 [32 favorites]


I suppose the next step will be to make LGBT persons wear special armbands so they can be identified. And then of course the camps.

It will be really fascinating to watch the next world war in which Germany allies with the U.S. and the rest of Europe to stop fascist Russia.

(Well, unless you're of draft age, I guess. Then you might choose some other adjective.)
posted by Naberius at 2:11 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


It will be really fascinating to watch the next world war in which Germany allies with the U.S. and the rest of Europe to stop fascist Russia.

Given that Russia still has a nuclear arsenal, I'm not sure fascinating is exactly the right adjective for any of us.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:20 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


You are sort of joking about camps, but make no mistake, Soviet Russian orthodoxy was that homosexuality was a mental illness that required cure. For instance, by a program administered at a special camp.
posted by prefpara at 2:20 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I'm not really joking about camps.

The parallels between Putin and the rise of Hitler are pretty frightening, and that's not changed by the kind of jokey, "you know who else?" air that we've applied to Hitler in recent years.
posted by Naberius at 2:26 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Given that Russia still has a nuclear arsenal, I'm not sure fascinating is exactly the right adjective for any of us.

We'll find out. If he's crazy enough to try for any more land grabs with MAD still in effect and NATO getting squared up again on the eastern front then we need some sprint sessions on missile defense prior to a draft.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:29 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Funny you mentioned armbands cuz I was just mentally comparing Putin to Hitler myself.

I think Hitler's Olympics were better organized but that makes me wonder if all the money provided for the recent Olympics went into the Olympics.
posted by Gwynarra at 2:31 PM on June 10


It will be really fascinating to watch the next world war in which Germany allies with the U.S. and the rest of Europe to stop fascist Russia.

It's only been 11 years since the start of the Iraqi War (and let's not forget Mosul recently in the news), are we really talking about invading another country again?
posted by FJT at 2:38 PM on June 10


this Putin/Hitler thing is (in a bad way) interesting.

i need to pay more attention.

the first article linked was a bit surreal. i find myself saying that about a lot of news i read lately.
posted by sio42 at 2:52 PM on June 10


My inclination has always been to see Putin as the next Stalin rather than the next Hitler, for reasons beyond the simple fact that he's an old KGB stalwart, but either way his regime is an unmitigated font of bad news.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:07 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


That's the thing. Armbands are not necessary. Camps, while still used, are not used for this. They are not trying to kill all homosexuals. That would be crude and undeniable. Putin, while kind of crappy at it, does his best to be covert and discrete. If I was one for psychologically profiling world leaders, I'd say it was due to his KGB routes. As it is, I don't know why. But look at Ukraine. There is no doubt that Russian troops were heavily involved with that. I suspect a good number of the anti-Ukrainian protesters were either SVR/GRU agents with military training, but no uniformed Russian troops showed up until the kabuki was ended.

They are trying to stuff out of the closet homosexuality back into the bottle it emerged from after the fall of the USSR. They don't really care about people being gay, and in fact, I suspect periodic raids on gay clubs is probably good for instilling a moral panic. Think the US, pre-Stonewall. Instead, they do not want them agitating for rights, they do not want them visible at all. They should all go home, marry someone of the opposite sex and get over this silly gay business. Otherwise, bad things will happen to them.

This is enforced conformity, not extermination. It is a step up from Uganda, but a not a large one.

I think comparing Putin to Hitler is useful, as it shows how Russia is becoming more and more fascist, but I do not think that he would actually engage in an open war with the West. I think that Russia, right now, is missing the last ingredient for a true fascist society, (according to Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism), which is "the right of the chosen people to dominate other without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess within a Darwinian struggle." The rest are there, the crisis, belief that one's group is a victim, dread of decline, desire for a purer community, need for a national chieftain, etc.

Russia is almost there. But I think that Putin recognizes that trying to exert Russia control via force beyond the semi-covert tactics that I mentioned above is a losing strategy. Look at what happened in Chechnya. The best thing that a modern army can do these days against a guerrilla insurgency is declare victory and go home. How many of the people you kill before doing so is really the only question. And once the people being killed are not dark skinned Muslims, then problems with the west will become insurmountable.

So I think we'll see more of this. More low level terror of minority groups. More calls for the purity and strength that Russia once possessed (at some point in time, not exactly sure when that was, maybe 1812?). But he is not going to invade Poland, the Czech republic or try to redivide Germany.

It's a new form of fascism for a new century.
posted by Hactar at 3:10 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


We'll find out. If he's crazy enough to try for any more land grabs with MAD still in effect and NATO getting squared up again on the eastern front then we need some sprint sessions on missile defense prior to a draft.

The problem is that NATO is overextended in the East, and, should Russia decide that it wants a land corridor to Kaliningrad or the Baltic states back, has little scope for any action between grumbling loudly and freezing a few bank accounts but otherwise letting it slide and accepting the facts on the ground a few months later on one hand and an all-out thermonuclear war on the other (which is, of course, unthinkable). And in a few years' time, we may well see Russia, having digested the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, test this and see whether it can reclaim bits of the actual EU.
posted by acb at 3:11 PM on June 10


The Russian Orthodox Church has been extremely active in whipping up public animosity toward gays. Patriarch Kirill has said that gay marriage is a sign of the apocalypse. The Church helped lead the charge toward recriminalization of homosexuality after the Soviet anti-sodomy law was repealed in 1993. They seem like a bunch of real sweet guys.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:13 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I'm curious the legal ramifications of registering as a "foreign agent." The one Daily Beast articles says "spies, basically" but I think actual spies probably do not register with the government, it would greatly reduce their effectiveness.


From the strategy of those seeking to suppress homosexual advocacy, it's 1) cutting local groups off from any world-wide network and 2) supporting a rhetoric that real Russians aren't gay, it's something that only exists as the result of outside influence.


I wasn't initially reminded of Hitler, but of local history on the Winnipeg general strike, where the unions were often blamed on bolsheviks, for similar rhetorical purposes. Britons would never have resorted to a strike.
posted by RobotHero at 3:18 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


The Putin/Hitler comparisons really write themselves, and why not -- the guy seems like he's reading right out of the same playbook, in terms of annexing adjacent territory populated by cultural-ethno-linguistic minorities that aren't unhappy with the annexation. At the same time, internal power is consolidated through the manufacturing and demonization of an alleged fifth column. In both cases there seems to be a sort of cavalier "play it by ear" attitude that makes it difficult to predict future actions in their exact details, because there isn't a plan per se, just a series of actions to which other actors on the international stage are forced into responding to, constantly on the defensive, creating the illusion of invincibility.

And today, as in the late 30s, there does not seem to be the international appetite to do anything about it so long as the oppression remains a domestic matter and the territorial ambitions are limited to the (questionable) 'liberation' of neighboring culturo-linguistic enclaves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:26 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


> but I think actual spies probably do not register with the government, it would greatly reduce their effectiveness.

That is the purpose. It makes spying illegal without having to write laws that forbid spying. Because then you don't have to define what spying is, you can simply, when needed, drum up charges of being a spy without a permit.
posted by ardgedee at 3:32 PM on June 10


Jesus. Makes me realize I'm very lucky to live where I do, where the worst I'm faced with is a friend telling me she wouldn't miss my wedding for the world cuz it would be awfully "gay".
posted by triage_lazarus at 3:36 PM on June 10


The most effective thing the US could do in this situation is allow LGBT Russians to get on a fast track to asylum. It has the benefit of being something where ordinary folks may be able to exert some influence (Congress, the State Dept.) And it's a lot healthier than fantasizing about World War III.
posted by Cash4Lead at 4:24 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The parallels between Putin and the rise of Hitler are pretty frightening [...]

This is actually more a Russian technique than anything else, and it has been used by successive Russian governments since the days of the Tsars. The first stage is to define an enemy, in this case LGBTs. Then you assert that LGBTs are a tool of Russia's external enemies. This implies that anything done to support LGBTs is really attacking Russia. In fact, even trying to defend someone against this charge is an attack on Russia, because it excuses LGBT-influenced actions and it makes Russia look weaker. Declaring your own guilt, in this case, would be the right thing to do, because it would strengthen the State and weaken its enemies. This is why you had Bolsheviks (i.e., the group that "won" the Russian Revolution) sincerely declaring that they were enemies of the state and had been working for its downfall: they were actually loyal to the Party, but perhaps they hadn't been loyal enough, and in any event to defend themselves would be to attack it: Darkness at Noon.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:29 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Or that comment from the Sochi mayor or Ahmadinejad saying “in Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

They like to imagine that homosexuals came from somewhere else, that without the dreaded western influence they would remain 100% straight forever.
posted by RobotHero at 4:35 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


> The Russian Orthodox Church has been extremely active in whipping up public animosity toward gays. Patriarch Kirill has said that gay marriage is a sign of the apocalypse. The Church helped lead the charge toward recriminalization of homosexuality after the Soviet anti-sodomy law was repealed in 1993. They seem like a bunch of real sweet guys.

The Church is no more a single entity than Russia itself is. There have been extremely courageous Orthodox priests and monks who stood up for human rights both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. If I recall correctly, the Church protested the first Chechen War. But just as in all other aspects of Russian life, Putin is closing down alternatives, rewarding those who kowtow and making life increasingly difficult for those who object or protest. Since there has always been a strong caesaropapist strain in the Orthodox Church (and since lots of people in any organization are willing to do whatever it takes to get and retain power), naturally the official Church position is as repugnant as the swill that pours forth from the TV stations (some of which were once fairly independent). But to demonize the entire Church is to practice Putinism in reverse.

Also, this is nothing new; there was the same tension within the Church over a century ago when the official Church condemned and excommunicated Tolstoy despite the fact that a lot of priests and believers admired him.
posted by languagehat at 4:52 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The Living Ghosts of Moscow
By MASHA GESSEN
A new kind of conversational shorthand has appeared in Moscow: “What’s your month?” people ask one another. They mean the month for which you are signed up for an interview at the Israeli embassy to receive initial immigration documents. The nearest available slot for people booking an appointment now reportedly is in November, but most of my friends have appointments in August or September.

Not everyone has Jewish ancestry, or wants to live in Israel, so other options are discussed. Latvia is a European Union country that will grant residency in exchange for a relatively modest investment in property. Germany has a program for absorbing people of outstanding achievement — as does the United States, but Germany’s is reputed to be easier to navigate and to be particularly beneficial for artists. Distance is a recurring concern, albeit an illusory one: Running away to Europe seems somehow less catastrophic than running away to the United States, as though a five-hour difference in flight times from Moscow made a difference.
Jeez, get out now.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:23 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


From Golden Eternity's link:
The big question is whether to comply with regulations the Russian Parliament has just passed, requiring all citizens who have a second passport or residency abroad to report this fact to the authorities; noncompliance will be a criminal offense. The rationale behind the law is that as a country at war, Russia needs to ferret out potential spies and traitors.
The choice is basically get out now - if you have that choice - or stay and wait for regime change. Which might be a while.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:25 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


This is really disturbing.
posted by homunculus at 11:46 PM on June 10


BBC4's documentary Hunted. Vigilante gangs target gay men and women in modern Russia.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 AM on June 11


VICE: Young And Gay In Russia.
posted by hippybear at 12:27 AM on June 11


should Russia decide that it wants a land corridor to Kaliningrad or the Baltic states

Russia is essentially a kleptocracy. That system of government is not going to deliver adequate results for the majority of people in the short or long term. So if you cant give people good government, you give them red meat ; the reclamation of Ukraine was one example. The subjugation LGBT groups is the second. As a citizen if western europe I don't feel too threatened by Putin. As a human being with a sense of compassion, I am terrified by him.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:29 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The most effective thing the US could do in this situation is allow LGBT Russians to get on a fast track to asylum. It has the benefit of being something where ordinary folks may be able to exert some influence (Congress, the State Dept.) And it's a lot healthier than fantasizing about World War III.
Absolutely. But can you imagine the US culture war fireworks that would set off? We're already discussing how resistance to immigration reform is the Republicans' strategy for upcoming elections, on the dubious basis of "resisting invaders" from south of the border. Can you imagine if the new talking point became "and NOW Obama is about to import hordes of gay asylum seekers from Communist Russia!"

Polarization possesses its own feedback mechanisms and can operate across national boundaries. Scary times.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:31 AM on June 11


Not everyone has Jewish ancestry, or wants to live in Israel, so other options are discussed.

Not having Jewish ancestry wasn't necessarily an obstacle in Soviet times; documents can get lost, and with institutional anti-Semitism having been a thing, roots can get suppressed. Apparently there was a roaring black-market trade in combination backyard circumcisions and Yiddishkeit 101 courses for people wanting out.
posted by acb at 4:49 AM on June 11


Absolutely. But can you imagine the US culture war fireworks that would set off? We're already discussing how resistance to immigration reform is the Republicans' strategy for upcoming elections, on the dubious basis of "resisting invaders" from south of the border. Can you imagine if the new talking point became "and NOW Obama is about to import hordes of gay asylum seekers from Communist Russia!"

Scandinavia could be a destination for them; their cultural panic is about unassimilated Muslim migrants in high-rise estates, and large numbers of gay Russians could be seen as a counterbalance if anything.

Also, future Eurovision potential.
posted by acb at 5:13 AM on June 11


I'm sorry acb, that's like George Will saying that victimhood is "a coveted status that confers privileges". People in the former USSR didn't pretend to be Jewish; they did their best not to have that fact stamped on their internal passports and so forth because Jews were subject to all sorts of official and unofficial discrimination. I know Jews who got out of the former USSR; it was a very difficult process that typically started with losing their job and often involved the loss of their residence permit and having their kids publicly denounced at school as the children of traitors.

You might be thinking of people who have allegedly made false claims of Jewish ancestry to get into Israel, but that was (a) after (or just before) the fall of the USSR; and (b) never involved backyard circumcisions. Why would it have? Circumcision for non-medical purposes was illegal in the former USSR, and you don't need to be circumcised (or even be Jewish) to migrate to Israel under the Law of Return criteria.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:26 AM on June 11


they do not want them agitating for rights, they do not want them visible at all.

This reminds me of something a Chinese gay rights activist once told me. It's not too bad there now for gay activists, but when it was, the rationale was "if anyone protests anything, for any reason, it will turn into another Tiananmen, so we have to snuff it out NOW before that happens." After all, Tiananmen began as a simple gathering to mourn a beloved public official- it wasn't even a protest at first.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:42 AM on June 11


You might be thinking of people who have allegedly made false claims of Jewish ancestry to get into Israel

Sorry, that's what I meant. While nobody in their right mind would have wanted to be seen as Jewish by the Soviet authorities, the version I heard was that the Israeli immigration authorities didn't or couldn't check Jewish ancestry claims well enough to eliminate spurious applications (or, indeed, why should they, if nobody in their right mind would pretend to be Jewish in the USSR), which resulted in some people falsely claiming Jewish ancestry to get out of the USSR and into Israel, and usually onto the USA/Europe/elsewhere not long afterward. (The bit about backyard circumcisions must have been an embellishment that got stuck to the story somewhere along the grapevine.)
posted by acb at 6:51 AM on June 11


My God. I have never been more thankful to live in an actually free country.

Maybe everyone who's queer in SSM-legal places but isn't married could start marrying queer people from Russia to get them out? I'm willing to volunteer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:29 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


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