New issue of Georgian bilingual LGBT magazine “Me” is out now. Main topic is the history of homosexuality in Georgia and former Soviet Union, touching also very current issues of cultural stereotypes, societal prejudices and bigotry by Georgian Orthodox church.
Magazine provides updates on Georgian LGBT NGO Inclusive Foundation work over the last few months. In particular, representatives of the NGO took part in various training seminars in European countries, as well as participated in Amsterdam Gay Pride. They also organised number of events for the local gay community in Tbilisi, such as film screenings, women’s club meetings.
Magazine also reports on the use of homophobia which was employed by some nationalist online Russian groups and internet spammers during the war in August. Back then, I posted about it on this blog:
In the meantime, Georgian LGBT magazine specifically notes solidarity expressed by many in Russian LGBT community. Next issue of the magazine “will feature an extensive analysis of wartime media reports.”
Below are extracts from the articles exploring historical references on homosexuality in Georgia and Russia/Soviet Union:
In pre-revolutionary Russia, homosexual relations were forbidden by law. A person convicted of homosexual rape would be sent to a labour camp in Siberia. When it came to consensual homosexual relationships, however, both the authorities and the church turned a blind eye, particularly when the matter concerned representatives of the aristocracy.In an article on homophobia, magazine pointed out the prevailing attitude in Georgian society to consider homosexuality as something “foreign”, imposed from the “outside”, and as such “homophobia rises to the rank of general xenophobia”:
At that time aristocrats, artists and poets would gather at Bohemian salons, which were relatively free from moralist dogma about sexuality. But the homosexual subculture was not limited to intellectual and artistic circles. There was another subculture, which brought together those engaged in prostitution. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were places in Tbilisi, just as there were in other large cities of the Russian Empire, so-called “pleshkas” , where gays could find sexual partners.
In Tbilisi, the Gardens of Ortachala and the Sulphur Baths were known as such places. Kintos, who were a part of this subculture, lived alongside urban subcultures (an interesting description of the Kinto subculture can be found in Ioseb Grishashvili’s “Old Tbilisi”; the issue is also tacked in modern writer Aka Morchiladze’s “Flight over Madatov and Back”). In addition, homoerotic themes were especially popular in Georgian visual arts in the 1920s. […]
Noted dissident Valeri Chalidze, in a work devoted to lifestyles of criminals and the establishment of social institutions of organized crime in the Soviet Union , wrote: “It seems that the Soviet leadership indeed considered homosexuality to be a political crime.” Chalidze came to this conclusion in part because, during Stalin’s lifetime, homosexuals were arrested and persecuted not by the police, but by the state security bodies (Cheka, NKVD, KGB).
[…] … the traditional attitude of Georgians towards homosexuality: it is largely an echo of the same cliches that characterize all patriarchal and Christian societies – “sin”, “perversion”, “deviance”, “immoral behaviour”, a “sickness”, and so on, but at the same time, there is one specific tendency which has not changed over the centuries, one which can be called “foreignizing” or attributing “otherness” to homosexuality.And here is an extract from the article on Parajanov:
This tendency acknowledges the existence of homosexual relations in Georgia, but at the same time underscores the fact that gayness is inherently un-Georgian, that it is foreign and unbefitting to the Georgian character. According to this notion, homosexuality is of non-Georgian origin and, when it does occur in Georgia, it always comes in from outside the country. These foreigners who place homosexual “investment” in Georgia are mainly Georgia’s enemies or people who are ethnically non-Georgian.
Examples of “sodomy” or the “sin of Sodom” first appear in Georgian ecclesiastical literature in the 10th and 11th centuries. In these texts, the church expresses concern over the spread of this phenomenon and demands that perpetrators be forbidden from taking communion for several years. In 1103, at the Ruisi-Urbnisi ecclesiastical conference, which was convened by King Davit the Builder, one of the main topics of discussion was precisely sodomy. The most sweeping provision of the resolution adopted at this conference, Article 18, dealt precisely with sodomy, which in 12th century Georgia was so widespread among both the clergy and laymen, that the state and the church both demanded that stronger measures be taken against it. But they spoke not only about enacting repressive measures, but also about the factors that conditioned the rise of sodomy. The answer was always unambiguous and unequivocal: this sin had been “implanted” from without, by foreigners or enemies. The identity of these “outsiders” varied with the times – sometimes they were Arabs, sometimes Byzantines, sometimes Turks, sometimes Armenians. For Orthodox fundamentalists and ultranationalists in modern Georgia, homosexuality comes from the secular and atheistic (or heretical) West and it is aimed at weakening Georgia and preventing it from fulfilling its spiritual mission. As such, homophobia rises to the rank of general xenophobia and homosexuality becomes either a component part or a manifestation of the “enemy” or “ill-wisher”.
Modern Georgian homophobia represents a combination of Christian notions from the Middle Ages and Soviet totalitarian stereotypes, the latter of which considered homosexuality to be deviant behaviour or perversion. It should be pointed out that, in the early days of the Soviet Union, homosexuals were not persecuted and that in the early Soviet period, their acceptance was even considered part and parcel of modernity. The law prohibiting homosexuality was approved only under Stalin, in 1934. […]
Art kept Parajanov going in prison: he would assemble collages from the most utilitarian and cheap objects. In almost every letter to his friends he asks them to send random, useless old objects. “I spent the best years of my life in isolation,” he would later say of his time in prison, where he wrote a total of 100 novellas, 3 screen plays and made 120 drawings and collages and endured true hell.
Yet Parajanov believed that it was necessary for an artist to endure all of this. After a pause of nearly 20 years, his films were just as colourful, just as full of life and unlimited freedom, just as full of symbols and just as “skewerless”. The rhetoric of “perestroika” accepted him, but now his Armenian background was unacceptable to some nationalist xenophobes.
To access the new issue of the magazine, click here.
For previous issues of the magazine, click here.
New LGBT Georgian website – Gay.ge
Previously, Gay.ge was effectively a forum, available in Georgian only. Now it’s been developed into a website. It is still not fully functional, but you may already access it. Gay.ge is now bilingual – Georgian/English.