Tag Archives: Russian gay rights

Calvin Klein Ad Investigated By Russian Authorities For Breaking ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law

Calvin Klein latest advert in Russia has sparked outrage, with Police in the north city of Arkhangelsk now investigating number of complaints.

The advertisement for CK2 – which feature two same-sex couples – has been reported to authorities for allegedly containing “elements of propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia”.


Complaints were made after a number of locals voluntarily watched the advert on YouTube in order to view the reported “propaganda”.

Arkhangelsk authorities say they are investigating to see whether the fashion brand has broken the law.

The ad features a same-sex male couple riding on a motorcycle shirtless, while a lesbian couple bare their breasts on a highway.

However, while both straight couples in the advert kiss in the video, the same-sex couples do not.

Calvin Klein described the advert as “embodying the thrill of life and celebrates the diversity of connections between two people”.

Should Calvin Klein be found guilty, the company could be made to pay $15,000 fine and have its business suspended in Russia.

Watch the ad below and decide if its “promoting” anything other than perfume.

Founder of LGBT Teen Support Website Fined Thousands by Russian Courts

Lena Klimova, the founder of an online community for LGBT teenagers in Russia has been fined under the country’s law against gay propaganda.

She was fined 50,000 roubles ($840 / £540) by a court in Nizhny Tagil concluded that Deti-404, which has pages on Facebook and Russian social network VK, was guilty of distributing “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”.

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Klimova said she would appeal against the ruling. She has already successfully appealed against a fine levied by a court in the same town in January.

Klimova website encourages young people to share experiences on how it feels to grow up as an LGBTI person. It is a much-needed resource, with teens forced to live under the strict ‘gay propaganda’ law that bans the promotion or discussion of homosexuality to children.

Over the past 18 months, Klimova has come under pressure for her website. In a 2014 charge filed by Vitaly Milonov, the politician that spearheaded the gay propaganda law, he demanded the social worker and journalist be fined, and her website shut down.

In November, Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had received more than 150 complaints from ‘citizens and organizations’ calling for the closure of Children-404.

Klimova called the country’s anti-gay laws ‘harmful’ and ‘ridiculous’, accusing the authorities of failing to provide support for LGBTI teenagers.

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This court ruling is just the latest to find the social worker ‘guilty’.

Reacting this week, Klimova said:

It helps to see how many good people around. It helps not to fall into the abyss.”

She also posted a drawing a young girl, who she called Unicorn, of her as a gay rights superhero.

Unicorn you made my day. All I need to do is get knee-high gold boots and a huge red cape and it will be exactly me. Thank you for the drawing! =)”


Documentary ‘Olya’s Love’ Looks At Lesbians Living in Russia

While it’s not ideal to be an LGBTQ person in any country in the world (homo and transphobia is still prevalent even in places where LGBTQ people have full human rights and protection within the law), in Russia it is particularly difficult. The country recently brought an ‘LGBT propaganda’ bill into law, which prohibits people from discussing pro-LGBT viewpoints in public for the fear of ‘corrupting’ children.

Not only does this law mean that Russia’s LGBT citizens aren’t allowed to put together things such as Pride events, or LGBT rights rallies, but it also leaves them vulnerable for other anti-LGBT persecution. For example, it’s a well documented fact that Russian law enforcement agencies will look the other way when LGBT people (or those perceived as LGBT) are being attacked, or they will even carry out these attacks themselves, asking for bribes to leave them alone.

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We hear about these stories in the news; general footage of protests and fights on streets, but it is very rare that we actually see the real effects of Russia’s intolerance. New documentary Olya’s Love wants to change that, as the movie follows dreadlocked Moscow activist Olya as she navigates the homophobic waters.

Some of the film follows Olya and her partner Galiya, with the two having gotten together after Olya had been engaged to a man, having wanted to stick to the norm. In some scenes together they are completely taken with each other and in love (in one particularly sweet moment, we see Galiya adjusting Olya’s dreads) but each is viewed with the realisation that they could be arrested for just being who they are. For example, the other side of Olya’s Love shows a private LGBT meeting being met with an anti-LGBT protest, in which the protestors chant that their identities are unnatural. In others we see violent scuffles erupt; horrifying scenes are activists peacefully walk with rainbow flags in their hands.

Olya’s Love is a short documentary, however, as it’s just over an hour. But in that hour you get a personal look at what it’s like to be LGBT in Russia – minus the politics and the news headlines. It’s just an honest, albeit upsetting depiction of how Russian LGBT life really is.

Olya's Love 01

Olya’s Love has been airing at film festivals but it is also available on Vimeo On Demand.



Isabella Moore Documents Russia’s War On Homosexuality

Russia has become increasingly conservative country. The orthodox church is now one the most revered institutions in the entire country, is it really any surprise then, that homophobia is still rife?

The country only decriminalised homosexuality back in 1993 when the Soviet era collapsed, but unfortunately, the situation appears to be regressing again, and now, even the law is beginning to target LGBTs. There is now a rise in homophobic acts of violence and hate crimes.

Photographer Isabelle Moore recently travelled to Russia to compile a visual biography, accompanied by textual testimonials, which documents the tragic plight of gay people from St Petersburg to Siberia.

Sadly, in a country that once viewed homosexuality with tolerance, Isabella has found nothing but terror, sadness and distress in the LGBT community. The result is a touching collection of interview, portraiture and landscape photography which paints a brutal picture of gay life in Russia.

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You can catch more work from Isabella on her photography site.

Russia Sees Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes Increase as Discriminatory Laws Go Into Effect

While Russia has never had a great track record on the topic of human rights, this has become all the more apparent in recent years as the Vladimir Putin-led country has brought a series of discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws into effect.

The most notorious of these is the 2013 law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ in which Russia’s citizens are not allowed hold public LGBT events, promote gay rights or talk about LGBT identities with children, as the country deems these to be an attempt at spreading ‘LGBTness’ to the population.

Signed into law just this year is a piece of legislation that seeks to decrease “mortality caused by traffic accidents”. But despite its well-meaning description, the law is actually a thinly veiled excuse for more LGBT discrimination.

The law uses the World Health Organisation’s list of “mental and behavioural disorders”, which bafflingly includes transgenderism, gambling addictions, and voyeurism, to state who can and cannot drive.

There is obviously no proof that being trans has an effect on your ability to drive whatsoever and the law will be impossible to enforce as so few people are officially listed as trans* (they specifically avoid doing so to avoid anti-trans discrimination) but the fact that it exists is enough to tell Russia’s trans population that they are not welcome and they do not belong.

While it’s distressing enough that so many LGBT citizens of Russia are being denied their rights so blatantly, the government sponsored anti-LGBT opinions are spilling out into public consciousness. There are no official stats on it, but those within Russia say that they have seen a serious increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes as well as LGBT suicides since these laws came into effect and this viewpoint became so promoted.

For example, one Neo-Nazi group is notorious in Russia for identifying gay teenagers and proceeding to beat them up. Al Jazeera notes that the group’s leader Maxim “Tesak” Martsinkevich was arrested and imprisoned for five years for “inciting hatred” but the fact that his followers are still active throughout the country and little is being done to stop them is a reflection of how little those in power care.

So what is being done about Russia’s egregious human rights offenses? Things appeared to bubble up and gain some real traction in early 2014 when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

There were threats to boycott the event and LGBT athletes and visitors were also extremely concerned about attending but with so much money at stake and affirmations from Russia that LGBT people in the city for the Olympics would be left alone, little was done and many people turned a blind eye choosing to just enjoy the Winter-y sports instead.


There is also little other countries can do to stop Russia as the EU (European Union) is already imposing sanctions on the country due to its actions in the Ukraine (where Russia has reportedly been supporting separatist rebels). Russia’s economy is in the doldrums but the support for Putin and his party is at such a high that it’s unlikely that the country’s money woes will oust him and his anti-LGBT policies too.

According to reports from November, 2014, the Russian LGBT community may have found an ally in German chancellor Angela Merkel as after Putin told her that the West’s promotion of LGBT rights has led to a “decay of values”, she realised that Europe and America should abandon working things out with Russia altogether.

A source also revealed that “the chancellor has come to believe that Putin is driven by an ultra-conservative mindset that is shared by his inner circle and is based on a belief that Russia’s values are superior and irreconcilable to those of the West”.

It’s said that she would like the EU to become a united front against Russia and although we can’t verify how true that is without a statement from the Chancellor herself, Germany is one of Russia’s most important (and most wealthy) allies and so rumblings from its leader could very well change the tide in the LGBT community’s favour.

Russian LGBT Leader To Challenge Anti-Gay Politician For Seat in St.Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly

A leading Russian gay activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, has announced he will run against a prominent anti-gay politician for a seat in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly.

For years, Alexeyev has been the most outspoken and brave of Russia’s small group of gay activists. Head of the group Moscow Pride, he has tried repeatedly to stage gay rights marches in the Russian capital, only to face attacks by police and fascist thugs.

Alexeyev successfully sued the city government in the European Court of Human Rights; in response, Moscow banned gay pride parades for 100 years. He has been a constant presence in the Western media, talking about the plight of gays in Russia.

He has now said in an Instagram post that he has decided to run for the seat currently held by Vitaly Milonov in the 2016 election.

Milonov is one of the most outspoken anti-gay activists in Russia. He is also the author of controversial legislation that bans the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors, a version of which was adopted in St. Petersburg before it became a national law in 2013.

Alekseyev said in his statement that he hopes to “once and for all release” the people of St. Petersburg from Milonov by defeating him in the election.

Russian Lesbian Stands Strong After Loosing Her Job as A Teacher Due to Being Outed By Hate Group

Its been reported that young Russian woman in St. Petersburg has lost her job as a music teacher for special education students, because of her sexual orientation. This came about after she was outed to her superiors by homophobic activist Timur Isaev – a mouth-breathing troglodyte – who wants to make living in Russia “hell” for all gay people.

According to LGBTI group Coming Out, the St. Petersburg teater is the first to fight her termination and defend her rights. When given the opportunity to voluntarily quit or be fired for violation of Article 81 part 8 of the Labour Code of Russia – “Performing an immoral act by the employee in education that is incompatible with the continuation of such work” – despite holding several distinctions and awards for the excellence in employment, the unnamed woman chose to be fired.

She said:

“Working with children is a part of my soul. All these years I have given myself to the job I loved, nurtured the love of art and music in children. Taking into account the abilities of our children, who have moderate or severe delays in mental development, I have tried to make each lesson interesting, bright, and encouraging.

I was fired because someone thinks my sexual orientation harms children. This is not supported by any law and I have not done anything wrong. I am determined to seek justice to the end!”

Coming Out is providing legal support to the young woman and will seek recognition of the discriminatory nature of her dismissal in court.

Matthew Shepard’s Parents Travel to Russia to Spread Their Message of Tolerance and Acceptance

Matthew Shepard’s parents are traveling to Russia on Friday to spread their message of tolerance and acceptance in a country where anti-gay policies and attitudes are widespread.

The centerpiece of their five-day trip is a gay film festival in St. Petersburg at which the documentary film, “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” will be shown and discussed. The film’s director, Michele Josue, a high school classmate and close friend of Matthew’s, will be accompanying the Shepards on the trip.

The Shepards also will visit Moscow, and are hoping to meet with Russian parents who have gay or lesbian children.

“This is about families loving their kids, no matter who they are. If families would recognize that, everyone else would recognize it.”

Judy Shepard

The Shepards said they’d been briefed about current conditions in Russia, where gay activists often have been attacked or harassed in recent years and where a 2013 law outlawing the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors is widely viewed as a warning signal to the gay-rights movement. They have been cautioned that disruptions could occur at the film festival, and that the authorities might be monitoring those in attendance.

The Side by Side film festival has been an annual event in St. Petersburg since 2008, when it was held in secrecy after the planned venues were ordered closed. The featured films last year included “Milk,” the story of pioneering American gay politician Harvey Milk.

The festival has been denounced by Vitaly Milonov, a St. Petersburg politician known for his anti-gay statements. In comments carried by Rusnovosti news service, he called the event “socially unnecessary” and suggested that its sponsors be sanctioned. Milonov was the sponsor of a local anti-gay law in St. Petersburg that became the model for the national law signed by President Vladimir Putin last year.

Matthew Shepard, at the time of his murder, was a 21 year-old student at the University of Wyoming. His death became a rallying cry for the U.S. gay-rights movement and was a factor in the passage of federal hate-crimes legislation in 2009.

His parents formed a foundation named after their son to promote acceptance and civil-rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In their role as activists, they have made numerous trips abroad in the past several years, many with support from the U.S. State Department. Destinations have included Poland, Jamaica, Mexico, Latvia, Singapore and Taiwan.

During their visit to Poland, a group of parents were so moved by the Shepards’ story that they founded a parental advocacy group, Akceptacja, to campaign against anti-gay bias. The Shepards hope for a similar response in Russia, and they also hope their message reaches some of the Russians with virulent anti-gay attitudes.

As much as they hope to make an impact, the Shepards aren’t expecting rapid change in Russia.

“Putin has made it so unhealthy to be LGBT or an ally. It will take at least a generation to clean up the mess he’s made and get some acceptance.”

Dennis Shepard

As Putin Leaves Argentina, Gay Russians Marry in Buenos Aires

Marina Mironova and Oxana Tomofeeva had been raising their son Nikolai for over a decade in Russia as the policy trend has advanced further against gays.

When authorities eventually threatened to seize Nikolai because of their relationship, the two women left for a better life in Argentina. Now pursuing asylum with the government in Buenos Aires, they finally married last Wednesday as Argentina celebrated the fourth anniversary of its nation-wide legalization of same-sex marriage.

This follows a similar story of a gay couple wedding in February of this year who also sought asylum from Russia, reports the Buenos Aires Herald.

Argentina legalized same-sex marriage for foreigners in 2012, two years after President Christina Fernández Kirchner signed equal marriage for citizens into law. Repression in Russia has amplified since 2013 inaugurated the infamous propaganda law which banned most public activism for LGBT rights.

The anniversary of the 2010 victory has been much celebrated but there is still social backlash against gay peoples and same-sex marriage. Despite this, La Nacion reports over 7,500 gay couples have been married in Argentina since the passage of the law.

This has been in large part due to the efforts of activist groups in Argentina, including the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans (FALGBT) who was present to celebrate the union of Mironova and Tomofeeva. Claudia Castrosín, vicepresident of the FALGBT said of the marriage

“With much joy and pride we will accompany Marina and Oxana in their marriage. They have escaped the laws that criminalize sexual diversity in Russia for our country’s guarantees of legal equality and the right to be.”

The anniversary comes days after Russian President Vladamir Putin met with President de Kirchner in Buenos Aires. There was protesting in the capital by supporters of Ukrainian sovereignty and LGBT equality, however LGBT topics were not raised.

“The New Jews”: LGBT Activists Forced Out of Russia

Earlier this year 31-year-old Russian gay rights activist Slava Revin flew from Moscow to Washington, DC to seek political asylum. After receiving a death threat online from a man he believed was a police officer, Revin knew he couldn’t stay in a country increasingly dominated by widespread homophobic violence and anti-gay legislation.

Since arriving in the US, Revin has formed close links with the Russian LGBT expat community and stepped up his criticism of Vladimir Putin’s government. He has campaigned to end Philadelphia’s sister-city relationship with his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod and appeared in advocacy videos for Freedom House.‘I can’t just come here and keep my mouth shut,’he says.

Since Russia announced her controversial prohibition of “gay propaganda”last year, a huge number of LGBT Russians have contacted US Immigration to inquire about relocating to America. A record 44 such cases are being considered right now. In the last few months, asylum has been granted to eight exiled Russians.

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However, there are no guarantees that Revin will be able to stay in his adopted country. His case is currently being considered and he hopes that the Center Global, a project run by The DC Center for the LGBT Community, will successfully represent him. He is also being advised by the Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association, whose founder and co-president Yelena Goltsman has this to say about Revin and dissidents like him: ‘People don’t just get up and leave their country. LGBT people are basically [the] new Jews.’

Revin takes the anti-Semitism analogy further when discussing Russia’s persecution of LGBTs. ‘Everyone forgot about the Jews in Germany in 1939. They intimidate and beat people and arrest activists.’

Although it hasn’t been easy for Revin to start a new life in a new country, he appreciates the American tolerance of LGBTs. He now lives in Dupont Circle, Washington DC’s famous gay quarter, where same-sex couples are free to hold hands and kiss in public. ‘Nobody cares here,’ says Revin, ‘unlike in Russia.’


Let us not forget how homosexuals where once persecuted by the Nazis. We do not need history to repeat its self.