The Politics of Pride: The LGBT Movement and Post-Soviet Democracy

By Underwood, Alice E. M. | Harvard International Review, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Pride: The LGBT Movement and Post-Soviet Democracy


Underwood, Alice E. M., Harvard International Review


Hoping to avoid violent conflict or confrontation after being denied an official permit to march through the streets of Moscow, a small group of gay and lesbian activists gathered peacefully at the entrance to the public park Aleksandrskii Sad on May 27, 2006 for the first gay pride event in Russian history. With the goal of undertaking a peaceful demonstration against homophobia and discrimination, they gathered for Moscow Pride as individual citizens, so as not to be charged with staging an illegal protest. However, they were over whelmingly outnumbered by police and protestors. As the marchers--some carrying rainbow flags or signs reading "Gay Rights," but most holding bouquets of red and white flowers--pressed together for safety, they were bombarded with verbal taunts that soon devolved into physical violence. While Russian Orthodox militants brandished ornate crosses and chanted, "Moscow--not Sodom," women bearing religious icons sang hymns and in termittently chided participants, "You will burn in hell for all eternity." In the face of intensifying violence, police looked on before making arrests--ultimately carting more marchers to the stations than violent protestors. As he was dragged to a police bus, primary organizer Nikolai Alexeyev shouted it was a victory.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What factors set the scene for this brutal confrontation that Western politicians and activists decried as an egregious breach of human rights? The Russian social scene tends to be antagonistic to the notion of organizing publically around issues of identity, particularly those of sexual orientation and gender identity. Official legislation decriminalizing homosexuality and allowing some social organizing after the collapse of the Soviet Union have by no means led to acceptance of gender non-normative people, or even, for many, a desire for visibility. Some activists' desire to stay in the shadows exists in conflict with the public endeavors by activists such as the organizers of Moscow Pride. An examination of the phenomenon of Moscow Pride and its proponents--particularly in light of the recent European Court of Human Rights ruling against the bans--can offer insight into the development of a human rights discourse in Russia and how this discourse connects to the country's developing civil society and disputed democracy. In undertaking this examination, it is first necessary to review the legal, institutional, and social factors stemming from the Soviet era that contribute to homophobia in Russia today.

A Culture of Silence

In 1933, the passing of Article 121 in the Soviet Criminal Code made sodomy a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison. The renowned Soviet writer Maxim Gorky hailed the new legislation as "a triumph of proletarian humanism," denigrating homosexual behavior as undermining the goals of revolutionary Communism. Homosexuality came to be reviled as a tool against the state, while proper heterosexual relationships were seen as both correct and patriotic.

The Russian attitude toward sex is often generalized with a reference to the Soviet woman's exclamation that Russia has no sex. Beyond the overarching enforcement of silence around sexuality revealed in this statement, an ingrained insistence on sexual normality was seen as key to furthering Communist ideals. Under these norms, the image of the good Soviet citizen was constructed as a hardworking proletarian, devoted to the Party, and absolutely and necessarily heterosexual. Because of static gender roles and the ideological responsibility of the Soviet couple to work during the day and produce children at night, homosexuality was perceived as defying both appropriate gendered behavior and the couple's responsibility to society.

In addition to the stigma attached to public discussions of sex and non-normative sexual behavior, the notion of organizing around identities was not accepted in Soviet society, largely because of the official line of negating the worth of the individual in favor of the collective. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Politics of Pride: The LGBT Movement and Post-Soviet Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.