Friday, August 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin Provoking Homophobia Rather than Reflecting Intensely-Held Russian Attitudes, Moscow Blogger Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 30 – Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBT policies are often explained as an effort on his part to tap into the attitudes of the Russian population, but a Jewish blogger in Moscow says that in fact, like Soviet and Russian Imperial leaders before him, the current Russian president is provoking homophobia rather than reflecting it.

            Anton Nosik, who blogs regularly for Ekho Moskvy, says that the situation in present-day Russia with regard to LGBTs very much reminds him of the situation he and his fellow Jews faced in Soviet times in that the Kremlin is making the problem much worse for its own ends (

            Nosik writes that he “was born in the USSR and lived 23 years, half of [his] life in that country. During that time,” he says, he “did not encounter a single conflict connected with his nationality, neither in school, nor in the institute, nor in the neighborhood, nor in hospitals” where he worked.

But at the same time, “at the state level,” the communist leadership “practiced rampant anti-Semitism: prohibiting Jews by profession, limiting their numbers in senior posts, and setting quotas in higher educational institutions,” he notes. “Every Jew felt this one way or another. But this policy didn’t “translate” to the streets, although it did not win the Soviets “points” with Jews.

            “The very same thing is occurring regarding gays,” Nosik says. “During 16 years of life in post-Soviet Russia,” he continues, he has “not heard about any pogroms, labor conflicts or other manifestations of homophobia ‘from below.’” The population remains largely indifferent to what the powers that be are saying. Only those “in the power structures” care.

There is a distinction, however. “In the USSR, anti-Semitic norms and quotas weren’t advertised widely. But in Putin’s Russia, homophobic norms are very widely promoted via public relations efforts.” That, Nosik calls, recalls what the tsarist authorities did regarding the Beylis case just before World War I.

Their calculation about Jews “did not work in 1913,” Nosik says, and the current regime is likely to find that a similar calculation about LGBTs now won’t work either.

          Nosik’s argument is incomplete reflecting as it does his experience among more urban and educated Russians rather than society as a whole where there were regular reports of anti-gay actions even before Putin’s campaign began. But it is a useful corrective to those who want to let the Russian president off the hook by claiming he is only responding to popular bigotry.

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