Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

17
Homosexuality in the Soviet
Union

After seeing the film, " Before Stonewall," so full of humanity and good humor, I thought about the necessity for the exchange of information between American and Soviet society, and how that would help overcome the conservatism and hostility between our peoples.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, writers, artists, and choreographers joined together in the group "Mir Iskusstva (World of Art)" and for the first time, raised alternative themes which in polite society were considered too delicate.Two unique couples stood out in this group: Viacheslav Ivanov and Zinovieva-Annibal, who more or less openly spoke about lesbianism, and Zinaida Gippius and Dimitri Merezhkovsky who spoke about gay communes.

I'd like to add a few more words about Zinaida Gippius, a bright and original personality, a poet.Physiologically, she was a hermaphrodite, with an attractive, more feminine than masculine appearance, dedicated her poems to male and female friends alike and dressed elegantly if not extravagantly.

After the Revolution, Soviet Russia was the first country which legalized homosexuality, and in the twenties there appeared among us a Russian Sappho — Sofia Parnok.Today there is more opportunity to familiarize oneself with the art of Zinaida Gippius and Sofia Parnok in the US than there is in the Soviet Union.By the 1930s, all that ran counter to the rigid confines and narrowness of Stalinism was either destroyed or hidden away.In the 1940s the war separated women and men, and couldn't help but aid the development of potential same-sex love.The war, eliminating people's hope and separating close ones, caused people to seek rare moments of peace; men walked arm in arm and women danced in pairs. It was natural. No-one called this homosexuality, but homosexuality existed.

The war took twenty million lives and since the soldiers were largely men,

-130-

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