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(en) Russia, Pride circus 2007 in Moscow

Date Mon, 28 May 2007 19:34:04 +0300

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






ur 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 girls?"

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 politized 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 misdemeanor 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 system.

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: http://www.avtonom.org/index.php?nid=1044)
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