([Edited] out-take from upstart Vol 3, No. 1., March ’91)
(Whether this demonstrated arrogance or naivety – or is just journalism of interest to our readership (all three of them) – in a sub-provincial publication is up to the reader…)
Over the years from Gorbachev’s taking office in the USSR the official policy of glasnost or ‘openness’ has led to a situation where Gay people have come out in a quite unprecedented way. Even in the 1920s and ’30s Gay people were fairly cautious about proclaiming their sexuality in the Soviet Republic.
Today the situation is different, there are open groups in Leningrad [(now St. Petersburg – though the authorities hedged their bets by allowing the surrounding area, (it’s the size of Ireland), to remain ‘Leningrad’). The citizens of ‘St Petersburg’ want it to return to the name Leningrad. A demonstration by elders in the early 1990s, objecting to the name change, carried banners pointing out that they had defended ‘Leningrad’ during one of world-history’s greatest sieges. Citizens of Tsaritsyn, (formerly the drearily named ‘Volgograd’), have taken much the same line – they fought, starved and died defending ‘Stalingrad’. – upstart 2013] and Moscow. Moscow has a magazine called Tema. There was conference on homosexuality in Tallin, Estonia during summer 1990. There are probably other manifestations of “out” behaviour of which we are not aware.
Tema‘s editor Roman Kalinin who is also the founder of the Moscow Gay and Lesbian Union, and ten other people were summoned to a police barracks on December 17. They were accused of engaging in anal sex, which means a five year sentence in a prison camp. They were also accused of using — gasp — drugs.
The dear old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary [now PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) – upstart 2013]) used this excuse to arrest Gay people in 1977. The police-crater’s mind is a wonderful thing to behold. These charges have been dropped because Kalinin demanded to know how the police were going to prove them. Roman Kalinin was interviewed in a big circulation magazine about AIDS and HIV, apparently an “unbelievable” number of letters came in after this. Ordinary Soviet citizens are very worried about The Plague. Kalinin is now homeless because his landlord found out he was Gay and an activist – no doubt the KGB noised the latter fact abroad.
In Leningrad things are somewhat worse. Olga Zhuk, founded the Tchaikovsky Foundation for Cultural Initiatives and Defence of Sexual Minorities. Named after the composer, it thereby, in itself, exposes some myth making by the Russian Soviet Establishment. The Foundation and Olga have been harassed over the past few months, the KGB have now arrested Olga.
She has been arrested under Article 121.1 of the criminal law Code. This Article deals only with sexual acts between men.
Olga Zhuk was also accused of “gathering groups of criminals”. This harass-ment and arrest were the result of a meeting with the City Council, which refused to recognise the Foundation.
A Moscovite activist, Alexander Lukeshev, editor of the independent journal New Life, has been murdered. Possibly the KGB, but the racist group Pamyat, one of whose intellectuals Valentin Rasputin was seen on C4’s The Media Show last month (February 1991 – upstart 2013) describing Gays as “less that vermin”, would seem to be likely candidates too. Anyone who has been a guest of Her Majesty, or of The Nation must realise that keeping contacts with the outside world is very important. Isolated prisoners can be harassed and even killed in large prisons. So far as Gay women and men are concerned the USSR is a giant prison. That society appears to be falling apart means that isolated communities like the Gay community, which is only just emerging, are in danger of their liberties and even their lives.
[There followed a number of names and addresses of Soviet nomenclatura, which is no longer relevant. No doubt many of them found cosy billets in the States which seceded from the Union – all 16 of them – the largest being Russia – the ‘Russian Federation’. The RF is what was the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic). The ‘Federation’ is due to the fact that a number of ‘ethnic’ Republics operate within the territory. Some Republics are more independent than others, the Buddhist Komi Republic, has embraced capitalism with eye-watering vigour, while Tataristan hasn’t given up on Soviet values. Tataristan is Muslim in culture. The most famous citizen of Tataristan (the erstwhile Tatar Autonomous Soviet Republic) is [was – upstart 2013] Rudolf (his Mam was a fan of Valentino) Nurey[ev]. He was a great ballet performer. Whether he was as unambiguously a boon to ballet in ‘the West’ is despite excitable (non-dance) journalists’ scribblings a matter for debate. (This is not to say that he wasn’t a great performer, who excited audiences, even ones anæsthetised by the effect of television in telly’s ‘goldfish bowl’ days).]