- Right Said Fred Singer, Richard Fairbrass (left) -
The first sign that Russia's march toward freedom was on a downward spiral came on June 16, 2001, when George W. Bush said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
It turns out that Bush's judgment on Putin was only eclipsed by his decision that fateful summer to add "My Pet Goat" to his reading list at the exclusion of a memorandum titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
Sixteen years after the collapse of communism and only seven years after Putin's coming to power, Russia is headed in the wrong direction. Putin's crooked authoritarianism threatens to set off a new Cold War and erase the hard-won era of peace. Indeed, Alexei Bayer, a guest columnist in the St. Petersburg Times, said Putin's rule is noted for its "endemic corruption, rollback of democracy, blatant confiscation of private property and murky political murders."
The Committee to Protect Journalists described Russia as one of the 10 countries that had seen the greatest decline in media freedoms during the past several years. Since Putin came to power, at least thirteen journalists have been whacked, turning Russia into a "Soprano-state."
In any dictator's playbook, the way to justify grotesque abuses of power and gain legitimacy is to wrap oneself in the flag and claim to be the great defender of traditional morality. Thus, it is perfectly logical that gay pride marchers were met with deplorable state-sanctioned (or at least supported) violence last week in Moscow.
A rule of thumb is that the less freedom a nation offers, the more a regime cracks down on its gay population. The more liberty enjoyed by gay citizens, the more freedom shared by the general citizenry. With Putin's regressive Russia having little to offer other than fiery nationalism, it should be no surprise that flag waving hooligans confronted the brave gay men and women that stood up for their civil rights.
The chaotic scene at the unauthorized Moscow rally was an appalling example of naked right wing brutality. The peaceful marchers were met by neo-fascists and loving churchgoers who hurled insults, Bible verses and eggs. Several of the demonstrators were slugged on film, while the police sat by idly. When they finally did get off their totalitarian asses, it was to arrest the innocent gay rights advocates, while the attackers were allowed to waltz off into the sunset.
Many of those arrested (and punched) were foreigners who came to support Russia's oppressed gay community. The contingent included British singer Richard Fairbrass, of the band Right Said Fred and London activist Peter Tatchell. Also arrested were German Green Party MP, Volker Beck, and a European Parliament deputy from Italy, Marco Cappato.
Watching the gay rights activists get beaten boiled my blood. In essence, an estimated one hundred violent anti-gay punks were intimidating an entire population of gay Russians with the message: Stay in the closet or face violence. I'm traditionally for peaceful protests, but we can't forget that Stonewall included fighting back. A part of me thinks we should show up next year in larger numbers with the idea that we are going to finally put our overpriced gym memberships to good use.
Of course, my retributive thoughts are tempered with the realization that after Stonewall, the rebelling drag queens were not iced with polonium-210, like former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Nor, were they gunned down in cold-blood like journalist Anna Politkovskaya. A Russian Stonewall might very well end up as a row of headstones, in remembrance of dead activists.
The blame for this melee rests at the feet of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who had banned the march and previously called such demonstrations "satanic," as well as Putin who has increasingly turned his nation into a KGB-style police state. While it is easy to pigeonhole this brawl as a fight over gay rights, it has much broader implications and is indicative of future relations between Russia and the West. On one side of the divide rests civilization that respects basic human rights. On the other, an emerging bellicose monstrosity that is a witches brew of past Soviet repression, combined with a new taste for unrestrained greed fueled by oil wealth.
Until the gay pride flag flies proudly in the shadow of the Kremlin, relations between Moscow and the West will remain shadowy. In the modern world, we simply don't find free countries that brutalize their gay citizens. If Moscow wants to go the way of Zimbabwe or Iran, their gay populace will suffer, but so will all Russians who will lose their membership in the economically and culturally advantageous world of civilized nations.
Fucking Commonists will never change.A bunch Vodka swigging drunkards.Fuck the Commonists. They just have get over the fact they are losers who bothced the Cold War.
Gandhi said that you can judge the moral character of a society from the way they treat their animals (I agree), but I would also add women and gay people to that list. I'm not surprised that bush saw a kindred spirit in Putin's eyes. I'm sure bush would be acting the same way here as Putin, if it weren't for the tiny shreads of the Constitution that we still have left to protect us. Gary (NJ) Is it 2009 yet?
posted by Anonymous, at
5/29/2007 11:43 AM
Both Russian and Poland are extremely regressive and backward countries to boot. What I find disturbing is that the mainstream media isn't covering any of it. If it were any other non-Gay group, there would be international uproar.
I think the EU should kick both Poland and Russia out of the union altogether and also not to allow Turkey to join either, another country that has questionable dealings with its own Gay population. What Russia and Poland are doing is already in contravention of EU laws on the right to peaceful demonstration across the EU, among other violations. It would happen here if the right wing zealots had their way, nobody would give a damn either. They all want us to shut up, go away, disappear altogether, make no mistake about that.
posted by Anonymous, at
5/29/2007 12:42 PM
Putin showed up to his first meeting with George W. Bush wearing a cross around his neck, and, most predictably, our own village idiot says he "saw his soul" and likes the guy. Did you ever believe that it would be that easy to fool an American president? I guess when the American president in question is a fool himself, such things are bound to follow. I hope we make it to January 2008. God only knows what threats lurk around the corner, threats that this buffoon is completely unequiped to handle. Hey, there's always prayer, right George?
posted by Chris L., at
5/29/2007 5:58 PM
Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. also showed up for the parade. Gays might bristle at the mention of their name because they first developed their image in the early '00s as a lesbian pop duo and later recanted - but years afterwards, they remain VERY close to each other and continue to support "love without boundaries." They took time out of their recording an album in L.A. to go to Russia to support the parade. Both said they were shocked at the violence and behavior by those in opposition. One of the girls even said that you can't have democracy without gays. I think it's funny that that was reflected in this post.
posted by Emily K, at
5/29/2007 11:30 PM
It looks like the Nazis reconquered Poland and Russian. Seems like old times.
Bush said he looked into "Putins eyes and got a very good sense of his soul." What a phony piece of work Bush is. He can't see the forest for the trees and here he tells us he can look into a mans eyes and see his soul. It was just like seeing him stand on a battleship in full "drag" well for him it was, and say "Mission Accomplished!" Bush couldn't see that mans soul any more than he can see the end of the war for us in Iraq or any more than he can see into his own soul, it's too black and corrupted.
Richard Florida, the business school prof at Carnegie-Mellon who wrote "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "The Flight of the Creative Class" did a pretty good job of showing how gays serve as a kind of 'canary in a coal mine' indicator of repression.
The poisoning in London with radioactive polonium should certainly settle the issue. It is produced in a nuclear reactor, not something you buy from the hardware store, or pharmacy. The KGB used radioactive thallium to try to poison a Soviet defector in West Germany in 1957. (He survived, although he was left bald and scarred by the attack.)
If only Saddam Hussein had the wit to claim an overnight conversion to Christianity, then our bone-headed president might have left him alone.
posted by Diogenes, at
5/30/2007 6:03 PM