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The world is always trying to become more liberal in some aspect or form of life. The biggest and most prominent example of this liberation is the big debate over race and racism, however, now we are dealing with more modern times. New issues that are being brought up in today’s society tend to deal with the LGBT community. Specifically, gay rights have been an underlying issue for quite a while that has finally just come into the spotlight in the last decade or two. People are starting to fight against religions and governments in attempts to bring about gay rights and equal laws for everyone, such as, same-sex marriage. Many countries are following suit with others and allowing rights for everyone, but Russia is one country that has been holding back. Russia is explicitly against homosexuals and continues to pass laws banning anything to do with them.

The way Russia approaches and handles issues having to do with homosexuals has to do with its historical background. It starts back hundreds of years ago with the Orthodox church which was against the idea of sexual pleasures and found them sinful. Even the act of marriage for love was a concept not widely endorsed. As history continued and Russia became a communist country, communist beliefs led to the outlaw of homosexuals and people were punished for embracing it. Almost every part of Russia’s history leads to them being against homosexuals.

The Orthodox church has always been a great influence in Russia’s history. So most people abided by the rules of avoiding sinful acts. To the Orthodox Slavs sexual intercourse between two people was considered an illicit act. It was considered and imperfection of the world. Many believed that the Devil was even the source of sexual desire. Therefore, when sinners were found out they were castigated immediately for their wrong doings.[1]

Only under specific conditions was it ok for two people to have sex for sexual intercourse was not a means of pleasure. If fact, sexual activities were more of a public affair rather than a private one. It was an act set up between families and either confirmed or threatened existing bonds between them. Sexual intercourse was also prohibited before and outside of marriage in order to protect the acts sanctity. If one gave way to sexual pleasures it was considered a cause for ritual impurities. People knew this would not eliminate the sinful acts completely, however, most people respected the church and worked together to follow its rules which guided many.

As history continued Russia became a communist nation. Communist ways tended to be pretty black or white, you either were  communist or a non-communist. And if you weren’t a communist than you were against everything Russia stood for. Many people, such as Aleksei Rykov, were removed from their official positions just because they outwardly opposed popular beliefs or methods. Higher ups made it a priority to keep dissidents in line. Communists made the rules, and everyone needed to follow them.[2]

So now, with this communist reign, sexual activity is legal, however, by law homosexual relations are not. During and after World War II (WWII) the government laid down strict laws against gay rights, put pressure on Russia citizens to conform to communist ways, and even moral crusades became popular to encourage the conforming. With all these intimidating events and actions homosexuals began to fear what could be done to them or even feel shame for who they were. Homosexuals felt trapped and it wouldn’t get better.[3]

Now in the history of Russia there was at least one incident where the lines blurred over homosexual relations. This happened to be in the Prisoner of War (POW) camps. In the camps, one form of entertainment was to put on plays for the other prisoners. But when it came to the all male camps, some men would end up playing roles as women. Many, if not most, of the actors to play female roles would actually keep up their role off stage as well acting as a beautiful women, and this didn’t stop in the bedroom either. Men that slept with them tended to feel as if they were not indulging homosexual relations because the actors stayed in character. It was a very grey area in a short time that was only limited to the POW camps.[4]

If we continue to present day, we still see that Russia is very much against gay rights and homosexual activities. Putin allowed the State Duma to pass laws that declare a ban on homosexual propaganda. Not only that but Putin also stated in an interview that Russia had no laws against people with non-traditional sexual orientation. Russians throughout history tend to downplay, hide, or lie about the truth of happenings in Russia.[5] It has always been a secretive country and is continuing in the modern day.[6] It almost seems as if they try to hide because they no the rest of the world is against their views, in this case about gay rights.[7]

Russia’s views on homosexual relations are not a new occurrence. Their ideas and views that have long been engaged into Russia history. It started with the Orthodox church and how sexual relations in general were sinful and unholy. Then as years passed and the nation became communist, ideas of homosexuality still being a sinful act as well as an illicit one as well. There have been extremely small cases here and there in time when lines blurred over gay relations, but those times were contained and limited. Russia has always been against gay right, even as the rest of the world starts moving towards legalizing things such as same-sex marriage, Russia holds strong to its beliefs that have been engraved into its past.

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Footnotes:

[1] Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 (Baltimore, MD, United States: Cornell University Press, 1989).

[2] Phelps, Christopher. “A Neglected Document on Socialism and Sex.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 1 (2007): 1-13. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30114199.

[3] Chamberlin, William Henry. “Russian Recollections.” The Russian Review 21, no. 4 (1962): 333-47. doi:10.2307/126494.

[4] Rachamimov, Alon. “The Disruptive Comforts of Drag: (Trans)Gender Performances among Prisoners of War in Russia, 1914–1920.” The American Historical Review 111, no. 2 (2006): 362-82. doi:10.1086/ahr.111.2.362.

[5] David Bonavia. “Soviet hope of free speech.” Times [London, England] 4 Apr. 1970: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=pull21986&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&docId=CS153186948&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0

[6] DAVID GALLAGHER. “Alexander Chakovsky: portrait of an orthodox Russian.” Times [London, England] 25 Nov. 1967: 23. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

[7] Russia: Russia’s reaction against gay rights starts in st. petersburg. (2013, Sep 18). Asia News Monitor Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1433066813?accountid=14902

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Geographic focus: Russia

Search terms: (Gay rights AND Russia), Soviet Russia, Homosexual, Homosexuality.

Historical questions: What could go wrong as Russia continues to stay close minded while the rest of the world embraces new outlooks?