Magazine article New Internationalist

Pride and Prejudice

Magazine article New Internationalist

Pride and Prejudice

Article excerpt

No-one knows this better than Nikolai Alexeyev (below), the gay human rights campaigner who risks his life to put on Moscow's Gay Pride every year. Having been arrested, intimidated and beaten up, he is still determined to launch the event again this summer.

'Every Pride is a massively nerve-wracking business for me because I have to take primary responsibility,' he says. 'In the run-up to the event I have to constantly change my location to make sure I'm not arrested in advance.'

But, somewhat surprisingly, the biggest threat to Alexeyev and the demonstrators is not the state: it's the loose and diverse network of extra-parliamentary far-right groups that exist throughout Russia.

'Sometimes we try to hide the location of Pride until the last minute to try to prevent the violence of counterdemonstrations, but that also means that a huge number of gay people can't participate. This year we decided the risk is worth taking.'

In Russia, as in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, there is also a religious element to the far right. The Russian Orthodox Church has added its call for one religion to the cries of those who want one nationality under one state. Video evidence from past Pride events has shown members of the Orthodox Church waving crosses and giving public blessings to those who have publicly beaten gay-rights demonstrators.

Russia's extreme Liberal Democratic Party has around 10 per cent in the polls. Its controversial head, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is quite open about his desire to make a 'last thrust south' and occupy Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran to recreate a Russian empire. Such aspirations appeal to thugs, skinheads and the religious right, who continue to enjoy the tacit protection of the state.

According to Andreas Umland, senior lecturer of political science at the KyivMohyla Academy in Ukraine, this toxic convergence of prejudice between state and citizen is particularly dangerous in countries in the east which have ignored rulings from the European Court of Human Rights demanding the freedom of assembly: 'The problem with these countries is not just their far-right tendencies, but the unconsolidated nature of their regimes,' he explains. …

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