An unfolding of events in Russia's gay
rights movement threatens to bring tensions to a dramatic climax at a popular
European singing contest.
The annual Eurovision Song Contest
and gay pride events will coincide this year in Moscow. Gay
activists say they will ask Eurovision performers to wear lapel pins
to show support for gay rights in a city where authorities have
banned gay pride.
In December, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov
as much as warned gay pride organizers not to stage their May 16 gay
pride and march celebration.
During a press conference to welcome
Eurovision to the city, Luzhkov said: “Sexual minorities, they are
free. We do not allow gay parades. ... Entertain yourself, no
problem, but not on the streets, squares, marches and demonstrations.
We never introduced any limitations in their [gays and lesbians]
respect except public actions.”
Luzhkov has denied gay activists a
march license since a 2006 event turned violent between marchers and
“Gay pride public
action during the final of Eurovision will take place in any
circumstances,” Gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev told
gayrussia.ur. “We are not going to surrender our right to freedom
of assembly and expression because it is given to us not by Mayor
Luzhkov, but by the Constitution of this country.”
Moscow Police Chief
Vladimir Pronin says he backs the mayor and told the Interfax news
agency that gay pride parades were “unacceptable.”
unacceptable – gay pride parades shouldn't be allowed.”
agree with the Church, with the Patriarch, politicians, especially
with [Mayor] Luzhkov, who are convinced that man and woman should
love each other. It is established by God and nature,” he said.
Being gay is not
illegal in Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church has strongly
condemned gay rights groups and anti-gay sentiment appears to be on
Last May, four
activists were arrested by police in an apartment after participating
in two brief gay rights demonstrations in Moscow: They chanted “No
to homophobia” and held pride flags outside the famed Tchaikovsky
music conservatory and hung a banner that read “Rights for Gays and
Lesbians – homophobia of mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted” near
And in October, authorities in St.
Petersburg shut down a gay and lesbian film festival as it was set to
open by declaring the nightclubs (The Place and Sochi)
where the films were to be screened fire hazards, festival organizer
Irina Sergeeva told gayrussia.ru.
It's believed that authorities also
pressured the state-run Cinema House and a private theater to cancel
their commitments to host the event, which pushed the first-ever
festival into bars and nightclubs.
State Artist of
Russia Nikoli Burlyaev had urged authorities to ban the gay film
festival, calling gays “perverts” and “ill.”
activists claim authorities have shut down 167 gay-related events.
Luzhkov has also
linked the gay pride parade to the spread of HIV: “We have banned,
and will ban, the propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions because
they can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection,” the
mayor said at a December 4 conference in Moscow titled HIV/AIDS in
It now appears gay
activists in Moscow are positioning their movement for its most
public display yet – the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest –
and another near-certain clash with authorities and protesters.