Thursday, 8 May 2008

Russian pride?


Prominent Russian gay rights campaigner Nikolai  Alekseev comments in Guardian:

Tomorrow, Russia will mark the anniversary of its 1945 victory over fascism. Meanwhile skinheads and neo-Nazis roam the streets

May 9, 1945, is a great day not only for Russia but for the whole of mankind. We defeated fascism, which threatened the destruction and humiliation of mankind, but the day was both joyful and bitter. Many people lost their beloved to this war. Every year, my grandmother would be invited to official celebrations of our victory but she never went. For her, in the words of a famous Soviet song, it was always a victory "with tears in the eyes". She lost her husband and could not save her little son's life.

My grandpa perished in April 1943, at the age of 31. He has no grave that can be visited by his relatives and I've only seen him in photos. It is hard to believe that he was just months older than I am now. I was named Nikolai in his honour.

Not so long ago, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree for the establishment of a unified computer database containing information about the soldiers who died or went missing in the "great patriotic war". Several days ago I found the name of my grandpa in this very database which is available on the internet. More importantly, I also found one of his last letters home dated February 10, 1943. He was an artist by profession and he saw beauty in everything. In this letter to my grandma he wrote: "Katya, how good it is in Ukraine! You cannot even imagine these small thatched houses, painted in white and surrounded by little orchards, one could only desire to live here in summer." [...]

Luzhkov is not just a mayor serving his people. He is basically the owner of Moscow. He is the husband of the richest woman in Russia who, according to his own words, became rich not because of the high-ranking position of her husband but thanks to her unique business talents.

During his stay at the helm of Moscow, Luzhkov has not lost a single court case. He is allowed to build whatever and wherever suits him. He has the right to move people from their houses and flats according to his will. The system of kindergartens has been dismantled during his stay in office and parents can now only get a place for their child for huge money. He is allowed to ban any public demonstrations in Moscow. For the third year in a row this man has deprived me and my fellow activists of the right to go on the streets with human rights slogans in support of sexual minorities, openly branding us as satanists and weapons of mass destruction.

Two years ago, as part of the first Moscow Gay Pride, I tried to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier next to the Kremlin wall as a sign of our fight against fascism. I was allowed to go no further than the closed doors of Alexandrovskiy Garden where fascist extremists of contemporary Russia pulled the flowers out of my hands and crushed them while I was arrested by militia as a criminal. The next day Mayor Luzhkov said that gays wanted to be irreverent about our sacred place and "they were justly beaten".

My grandpa wrote in his letter home: "A few days and hours are left to receive an order from General Headquarters to get into battle with this gang of fascists. One can hear the shots of our heavy weapons which hit the fascists and drive them from our native land. The end will be soon, and we will live again a happy life."

If only he had known 65 years ago, when he wrote those lines, that Russia would eventually cultivate its own fascism. Hundreds of people are killed in contemporary Russia every year at the hands of skinheads and neo-Nazis. Only because they are different - of a different skin color, of a different nationality, of different religious beliefs or different sexual orientation. The Russian authorities do not consider it necessary to fight this kind of fascism. Is it a healthy country in which foreigners are scared to walk on the streets for fear of becoming a victim of young thugs, who will later get a suspended sentences from court for hooliganism? Mayor Luzhkov bans the human rights marches of sexual minorities but at the same time allows the marches of nationalists who are calling to destroy all non-Russians. The latest example was a nationalist demonstration during the May 1 holiday.

Tomorrow, May 9, a "victory parade" will proceed to Red Square in Moscow. There has not been an event of this scale in the history of contemporary Russia - even for the 50th anniversary of the great victory in 1995.

I am often asked during our Gay Pride parades what we have to be proud of. Today I have a similar question about this military parade. What is Russia going to be proud of when its tanks and troops parade on the streets of Moscow? Controlled courts? The dismantling of democratic freedoms that were won with blood and sweat? The highest levels of corruption in the history of our country? Millions of homeless kids on the streets of Russian cities? The sale of babies from orphanages?

Or maybe thousands of soldiers who are dying in the army in peaceful times? Maybe the uncontrolled sale of the country's mineral resources? Or shameless ignorance towards the rise of xenophobia and nationalism in our country?

It looks as if this military parade is needed by the political elite in order to raise the very low feelings of its people. Alas! The necessity to demonstrate strength usually comes to the mind of the one who feels his weakness. [...]

The most terrible thing is that the anger towards German fascists, who killed my grandpa, melted in time. The ideology of fascism was fully defeated. Germany admitted the crimes that were committed and apologised to its victims. Today, there is much more anger against the authorities of Russia and Moscow who have led their own nation into lawlessness and hopelessness. It is horrifying that none of the representatives of these authorities will answer for these crimes nor even find the strength to apologise.

*photo - via Guardian

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