Homosexuality

   The legal ban on homosexuality was repealed in the Russian Federation in 1993, and homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in 1999. Since then, Russia has seen an emergence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities, as well as the emergence of gay culture in urban centers.
   In the early Soviet Union, homosexuality was viewed as a sign of bourgeois decadent culture and was roundly condemned. Under Joseph Stalin, homosexuality was also used as a pretext for legal and political oppression. Homosexuals who had hopes to join the Communist Party, the bureaucracy, or the army were forced to hide their sexual orientation and commit to heterosexual marriages.
   Furthermore, those who remained single into middle age would raise suspicion among authorities as they would not conform to the official views on family life. This reflects the Stalinist project of nation building and the state’s emphasis on reproductive sexuality as a means to attain political world dominance through a growing workforce. Homosexuals were often imprisoned under Article 121 of the Soviet legal code, and sent to gulags where they were routinely abused by inmates. This resulted in further stigmatization of homosexuality in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), as it became associated with the criminal world. In the late Soviet Union, homosexuality was primarily used as an excuse for ideological prosecution of dissidents; for example, in 1973 the world-famous film director Sergey Paradjanov was charged with homosexual activities and sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
   The post-Soviet period is characterized by legal confusion, the increased visibility of gay culture, and the paradoxical combination of Russian mainstream society’s acute homophobia and intense interest in LGBT lifestyles and alternative gender identities. While same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized by the state, there are no legal restrictions preventing single individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation, from adopting children. Gay people can serve in the army; however, they are discouraged from displaying their sexual orientation in public.
   Homosexual relationships are often stigmatized because of Sovietera criminal connotations. At the same time, contemporary Russian culture, and especially television series, feature a number of highprofile LGBT individuals and present programs and films that display qualities and values of gay culture (though it is quite plausible many members of the audience interpret this type of content—for example, affectionate bonds between people of the same sex and cross-dressing— as merely eccentric). Unfortunately, these presentations do not deal with such important psychological and social issues as “coming out,” HIV/AIDS, or adoption; rather, they promulgate a stereotype of flamboyant gay individuals who typically distance themselves from social and political concerns. Such flaws in mediated representation partially account for the failure to build the LGBT phenomenon as a political concern.
   The struggle for equality and full legal rights continues in the cultural, rather than political, domain, possibly because the government is increasingly resistant to any form of political opposition. The mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, has consistently banned gay pride events, referring to such demonstrations as “satanic.” When collective action is attempted, the police quickly disrupt the protests, sometimes violently, and arrest the participants; however, no legal actions follow. It is not yet clear whether Luzhkov is solely driven by antigay sentiment or whether his actions affirm the course of disallowing any form of political activism in Russia’s capital. Nevertheless, the real criticism and danger to the LGBT community comes from ultranationalist and neofascist organizations, as well as ultrareligious groups, including Christian and Muslim organizations. On Runet, however, LGBT citizens are free to exercise their opinions and demand political rights, as well as articulate their sexual orientation and lifestyle preferences. The Russian portal www.gay .ru is a platform for all Russian-speaking LGBT people in Russia, the near abroad, Israel, Germany, and the United States. It provides information on the history of the LGBT movement in Russia and abroad, LGBT regional communities, health concerns, and other related issues, including coverage of gay icons such as the Soviet-era singer Alla Pugacheva, the Russian-Ukrainian drag performer Andriy Danylko (also known as Verka Serduchka), and the author and photographer Yaroslav Mogutin.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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