At the end of last month, just two days before the infamous May 31st Triumfal’naia Square rally, Russian gay rights activists conducted a small, brief march down Staryi Arbat. Thirty people participated, all of whom, the organizers reported relievedly, “successfully escaped arrest.” The police did close down the road at the end of Arbat, to prevent the march from continuing on, but the protesters would have dispersed anyways, cutting their loses and counting their blessings, happy to have walked a few blocks without being attacked.
Just this last weekend, more than 600 thousand people gathered in Berlin to watch the 32nd Gay Pride Festival. This year, a group of as many as sixty LGBT Russian expats joined in the parade for the first time. (See some of their amazing pictures here.)
That’s right: twice the number of Russians marched for gay rights in Berlin last weekend than did Muscovites in May.
The expats in Germany have devised the clever tactic of using the Putin-Medvedev bromance photo ops to advocate gay rights, implying a certain “untraditional” orientation behind the ruling tandem. This playfulness was somewhat absent on Staryi Arbat, where the slogans were: “Gays for equality without compromise!” “It’s as simple as ABC, you have to fight for your rights!” and “Freedom isn’t free: gays are ready to fight!”
What is the fate of gay rights for Russians? A vivid reminder of just how far away LGBT rights remain came in the form of Oleg Kozlovsky, who stormed the comments section minutes after organizers posted photos and a summary of the Moscow rally. He was angry that they claimed “representative(s) of Solidarnost’” had attended the march. “A correction,” Kozlovsky writes, “representatives of the Solidarnost’ movement couldn’t have been there. If someone affiliated with Solidarnost’ attended, it was exclusively in a personal capacity — not as a representative. Correct [the text], please.” Kozlovsky then quoted the dictionary to hammer home his outrage.
Why is it that, throughout history, Russians accomplish such marvelous feats in Berlin and Paris, but so rarely at home? Also, is there any chance we might all start referring to Oleg Kozlovsky as Kozel Oglovsky, instead?