[fyeg_gen-l] Critique of Russian Pride event from inside Moscow radical movement

Markus Drake markus at fyeg.org
Tue May 29 14:53:59 CEST 2007

Heya! I thought you might want to have this view of what went on in Moscow at
the Pride... The writer is very well renowned, extremely active, reliable, and
quite radical. Worth knowing how the thing looked from "the inside", so to say. 



Pride circus 2007 in Moscow

This year Moscow LGBT NGO elite wanted to repeat spectacle of the last year. It
came to pretty close Marx's thesis that history will repeat it self, but second
time will be a fiasco. Exactly speaking in last year it was pretty much a fiasco
as well, but this year it was more gross.

This year some of us (anti-authoritarians) were rather optimistic of
perspectives of working together with LGBT NGO's - after all, we are not too
many and we were facing a united front of orthodox Christian fundamentalists,
Nazi football hooligans, OMON riot police and Moscow mayor, last of whom had
announced that he will ban any demonstrations related to Moscow pride. But this
was of course stupid naivety from our side, and apparently NGOists were playing
double game of "good cop bad cop" from the beginning - where person
communicating with us was Mr. nice guy, but final decisions were done by
inaccessible self-appointed chief of all-Russian gays, lesbians, bisexuals and
trans people - Nikolay Alekseyev.

Fortunately more realistic anarchists had their way, and eventually our
anti-homophobic action was organized completely independently from NGO's (except
for their good it must be said that they borrowed us a big rainbow flag - these
are a lot of work to sew!).

But it turned out, that for vast majority of Moscow anarchists homophobia is not
an issue worth of demonstration. Fortunately hippies from Russian Rainbow
movement joined us and saved us from a disaster, and we could stage of a 20
strong march in Friday 25th of May, where hippies where almost as many as
unaligned anarchists and members of Autonomous Action. Support promised by third
organizing group, "Left Anti-fascist Front" turned out to be a balloon, as only
one of them joined us.

So we formed column in Gazetniy side street, marched in sidewalk of Tverskaya
until mayor's office where sea torches were lighted to protest ban of the Pride,
then turned to smaller side streets and walked to metro station Kuznetskiy most.
We shouted "We will hit sexual prejudices with a social rage!", "World is full
of colors, not brown!", "Freedom to LGBT!", "Love is not a crime!" and "Down
with the police state!". We had anarchist red and black diagonal flags and a
rainbow flag, and we were distributing leaflets to passers by. We had also two
banners, with texts "No to discrimination of LGBT!" and "Love is not a crime!",
and smaller placates in form of pink triangles with text "Homophobia = fascism".

Our march was prepared with usual security measures necessary in Moscow, where
all marches are banned - press-release was only sent the same day, convergence
point was announced only to trusted people, not to journalists - these were to
see march only when it was already launched. We could march half an hour without
any interference from side of fascists or police, passers by had various
reactions but more positive than negative - one even joined us. But for sure we
got little coverage, as we were not using the "Moscow pride"-brand, monopolized
by NGO leadership of the movement. Which just underlines the point, how much
this all is about spectacle only and not at least like any kind of a real
movement with a mass support - I doubt there were in the end much more people
from the movement in the statue of Yuri Dolgorukiy next to Moscow mayor's office
two days later, but as they were VIP persons,

media reaction was something completely different.

Pictures from our action: http://www.ikd.ru/node/2949






Our small but autonomous action in Friday left a good mood, but Saturday was
full of shit. First hours of speeches of EU deputies, EU country
parliamentarians and NGOists in super-posh Swiss Hotel of Moscow, They had come
to crusade against barbarian values of the East. And besides all ridiculousness
of these "activists" in suits, they did had some guts - one of the European
politicians had been beaten up by Nazis last year, and pretty much the same was
expected this year as well. Politicians are not sitting on our backs all year,
spectacle is merciless for them as well - it may demand a broken nose from you
to make it to the telly.

I was there for a "consultation", which was promised to be organized about plans
for 27th for activists interested to join- definitely not enough for a period to
plan anything reasonably, but I was still expecting to look at their plan and to
voice some concerns to make it better. Hope in vain - after this "conference"
(100% speeches, 0% discussions) a press-conference was promptly gathered, where
boss of all Russian queers Nikolay Alekseev was to announce his plan to some 30
TV cameras - to ballot to Duma in elections of next autumn.

Next to him was sitting Aleksey Mitrofanov, a deputy of Zhirinovsky's Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia. Surprisingly few people in Russia and abroad know,
that Zhirinovsky is a bisexual and most of the deputies of his party are closed
gays or bisexuals - apparently Mitrofanov as well. And it is nothing to be
surprised about this - it is rather clear that ideas of a person have no
correlation whatsoever with his sexual orientation. Bisexual tendencies in
Mitrofanov's party are one reasonable explanation for him coming out to support
Moscow Pride, as other reasons are hard to come by. This support for sure gives
to him and his sinking party a plenty of media attention, but support of Pride
is politically such a suicidal position, that every single liberal state and
Moscow Duma deputy has avoided taking such a position. In another hand,
Zhirinovsky is all about spectacle, and people have stopped voting him for
political reasons a decade ago, and do it just to make politics less boring. He
is funny to watch, but his party never votes against Kremlin in Duma in any real
issues. Mitrofanov himself is famous for comments such as "Tatars are alien
people in Russia" - referring to offspring of Turkish and Mongol tribes who
settled to central Russian plains  in the middle ages, not long after the Slavs
came around.

Mitrofanov's part was perhaps the most hilarious in the press conference - his
main argument for lifting the ban on Pride was that it hurts Russian image, and
may result Russia not being allowed to host winter Olympic games of 2014 in
Sochi. Anarchists and ecologists have been campaigning for months against huge
devastation Olympic development would result to Northern Caucasus. Another
argument of Mitrofanov for tolerance: "Even more people hate rich than gays. So
what, should we repress them as well? Take away from Prohorov all his houses and

Some human rights activists who had supported Pride last year withdrew their
support as they learned that Mitrofanov will be among the supporters. Biggest
among these was probably Moscow Helsinki group. Activists of youth human rights
network "Groza" attempted to distribute leaflets against participation of
Mitrofanov in conference, but were banned from doing this. Eventually when
Mitrofanov began his speech, three of them raised a banner "MitrofanOFF No
Pasaran!", and scanned against nationalist deputy. They were removed by the
hotel security. One of the co-organizers of the Pride from LGBT rights-group
called these activists "fascists" and invited human rights organizations to
"purge their ranks".

Eventually some of the human rights groups refusing cooperation with this years
Pride organized a small, legal picket in Saturday against discrimination of LGBT
people. These were joined by ultra-moderate "LGBTnet", a staunch critic of Pride
from the beginning, they always considered it too radical. LGBTnet has
constantly accused organizers of Pride for provoking public against LGBT people,
which has according to them resulted increasing repression against LGBT culture,
they have also sabotaged efforts of Pride organizers by setting up "alternative"
events not in the streets.

t.A.t.U. defended the argument that in reality everyone is a bisexual.
Archbishop Aleksiya of Russian Orthodox church said that church should not turn
away from any human being, but was not too specific on the question which
position church should take in regards to LGBT struggle. Liberal Boris Khramov
from Russian section of Transnational Radical Party (EU parliament deputy from
their Italian mother party was also there) made a point, that event reflected
end of the old political divisions as we know them, and appearance of new ones.
I would doubt this, and claim that it was just one milestone in longstanding
development of end of all politics, it getting replaced by spectacle alone.

Next day all of them gathered to statue of Yuri Dolgorukiy, with the expected
guests - Nazi football hooligans, religious bigots and police. Hippies were
there to support deputies and few grassroots politicized LGBT's who showed up.
Fascists were maybe 3 times less than last year, but still outnumbered
supporters many times. Eventually most of the VIP persons (not Mitrofanov) got
arrested while attempting to pass a letter to Mayor, at least three persons got
beaten quite heavily by fascists (two of them deputies). Right now it seems that
arrested will be charged with misdemeanour charges of illegally crossing a
street and organization of an illegal meeting.

It was obvious, that it was important to defy ban, but I must say organizers did
this without much regard to safety of the participators. For example a
preliminary meeting and moving to Mayor's office together would have made it
more difficult for fascists to jump LGBT supporters moving alone. But organizers
did not had any willingness to take any considerations of others except
themselves into account, so eventually anarchists did not joined the action. It
was clear that action was risky, but this does not mean that measures should not
be taken to avoid people getting hurt.

Bureaucrats lost the original application of Pride organizers for the event.
Eventually they managed to pass organizers documents banning the event, but by
mistake they were dated to last year. This legal pretext may be favorable in
European court of human rights, but for sure did not meant anything for the
police. However as picket organized by a mish-mash of "Pride discontents" the
day before was legalized, it is well likely that next years Pride organizers
will rather opt for a legal picket, as ban of all oppositional street marches
has been generally adopted practice in Moscow for a year already, not only LGBT
activists suffer from it. This way LGBT movement (if you may talk about a
movement which is just a handful of NGOists) would be finally co-opted to the

But no matter how pissed I am now with the Pride organizers, it must be said
that they have made a big effort of making this an issue in Russia, with costs
of big personal risks. It is unlikely that anarchists or any human rights or
leftist organizations would have raised the issue without them.

Reasons of lack of any real grassroots LGBT movement in Russia is a complicated
issue. Big Russian cities have a developed gay club culture, whose overall
reaction to Pride was overall negative  the last year already. Actually opinions
of Moscow mayor Luzkhov were in unison with them - he made an open statement in
spirit of "you have your clubs, so stay there".

In a sense, development of the Western LGBT culture to "post-political"
pro-consumerist and pro-capitalist phase is backlashing against development of
the movement in rest of the world. When average Russian thinks about pride, he
does not think about a repressed minority, but about a half-naked dancer shaking
his tight ass on a sound system. Career of Pim Fortuyn is also reflected in
Alekseev's political ambitions, alliance with Mitrofanov and total disregard to
any other human rights than those of his specific group. This may result a
backlash against LGBT rights among those, who have suffered from fierce
nationalist tirades of the LDPR party.

Some LGBT people may need something more than just clubs, or do not need these
clubs in the first place. Thus with all the comic and even disgusting features
of the Pride, they may give a push to something which some day becomes something
like a movement, or at least we could hope so.


(From http://www.avtonom.org/index.php?nid=1045)

(Another anarchist point of view, in Russian:

Markus Drake
markus at fyeg.org
+49-176-64270024 (mobile)
+49-30-23186468 (landline)

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