Monthly Archives: July 2009

Petersburg TV: Homosexuality Is An “Abomination”

TV’s ‘Bridge of Freedom’ Describes Gays as ‘Abomination’
By Sergey Chernov
St. Petersburg Times
July 14, 2009

A chief editor at a local television channel called homosexuality an “abomination” in a caustic reply to an open letter written by an insulted viewer. The viewer, St. Petersburg resident Maria Yefremenkova, had earlier held a one-woman protest against what she described as a “homophobic” broadcast that “discriminated” against sexual minorities.

Valery Tatarov, the editor of 100TV’s public affairs talk show “Bridge of Freedom,” refused to apologize for the broadcast, as requested by Yefremenkova. Instead, he informed her, in an e-mail dated July 1, that he would not apologize unless a court ordered him to do so.

In closing, Tatarov expressed “the deepest disrespect for homosexuality and other abominations” and wished Yefremenkova “the best of luck in studying the law as well as civil rights and liberties.”

The program that sparked Yefremenkova’s campaign was broadcast on 100TV on May 22. [It can be viewed in full here.] The topic debated by the show’s in-studio guests was “Is homosexualism [sic] a crime against childhood?”

The Hip Priest: Kurayev

The Hip Priest: Kurayev

The phrasing of the topic was inspired by a statement made by the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox priest Andrei Kurayev, one of the church’s most visible public figures. When asked about a planned gay pride event in Moscow in May, Kurayev slammed what he called the “propaganda of homosexuality.”

During the course of the fifty-three minute program, anti-gay guests and interviewees argued several times that the aim of gay rights protests was to recruit minors into the homosexual community by making homosexuality “fashionable.” “Is homosexuality a fashion or a psychiatric disease?” one of the presenters asked a guest.

The terms gomoseksualism and gomoseksualist, seen as inappropriate by gays because they suggest that homosexuality is a disease or a form of deviancy, were used consistently throughout the entire program.

Yefremenkova found remarks made by journalists and guests, as well as pre-recorded video sequences aired during the program, insulting to sexual minorities.

“As a member of Russian society, I am deeply outraged by this instance of discrimination against sexual minorities. It’s intolerable,” Yefremenkova said by phone last week.

In a letter she wrote to 100TV’s general director and editor, Andrei Radin, after she received Tatarov’s response last week, Yefremenkova alleged that the “hosts and creators of this program violated the rights, honor and dignity of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.”

She also wrote that the presenters “spread rumors disguised as reliable facts; [they] presented information on homosexuality in such a way as to demean this category of citizens, ignite intolerance and contribute to the rise of hatred in society.”

Yefremenkova accused the show’s hosts of “fabricating facts” and allowing the program’s guests — Igor Knyazkin (introduced as a doctor of medicine), political analyst Alexander Konfisakhor of St. Petersburg State University, and historian Yury Sokolov — to threaten and insult sexual minorities.

“Don’t write on your t-shirt that you’re a faggot, and nobody will touch you,” said Knyazkin, who also described homosexuality as a “social disease.” Konfisakhor seconded him: “In my youth, you would get punched in the face for [openly expressing homosexuality] — long, hard, and so that it hurt.”

In response to a post on the channel’s web forum that read “Gay culture is being exported from abroad. The goal is the destruction of Russia,” Sokolov said, “Strange as it may seem, this might be true.” ”That’s right,” an off-screen voice was heard to say in reply.

Moreover, guests repeatedly compared homosexuality to bestiality, necrophilia and pedophilia.

Although there were two speakers on behalf of sexual minorities in the studio, the show’s general tone was hostile. When Valery Sozayev, an activist with the LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out) asked his opponents and the presenters to imagine how they would react “if [their own] children turn[ed] out to be gay,” presenter Svetlana Malinina sarcastically retorted, “God forbid!”

Journalist Andrei Klyushev concluded the broadcast by remarking that a person should not speak publicly about his or her sexual orientation.

“In the U.S. army […] they have arrived at a very simple slogan — ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ That is, sexual orientation is everyone’s personal affair, but you shouldn’t speak about it publicly. I think that is a rather healthy idea,” Klyushev said.

What Klyushev did not mention, however, was that the Pentagon’s controversial ban did not extend to civilians, and that several recent surveys have shown that the vast majority of Americans are against the ban.

Last year, during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to work with military leaders and Congress on repealing the law that bans openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

At the end of the broadcast, the results of a viewer call-in poll were shown on screen. Those who agreed that “homosexualism” was a “crime against childhood” outnumbered those who disagreed by an overwhelming margin — 7,263 to 1,298, or 85 versus 15 percent.

On Monday, the program’s web site showed that a video of the controversial broadcast had been viewed over 13,000 times since the May 22 airing. Other recent broadcasts in the series, which airs three times a week, have garnered just over a thousand online re-viewings at most.

Maria Yefremenkova

Maria Yefremenkova

Yefremenkova wrote that the facts she cited in her letter constitute “evidence of discrimination against sexual minorities by employees of 100TV” and were thus violations of Russian and international law.

On June 6, Yefremenkova held a picket near 100TV’s studios, near Petrogradskaya Naberezhnaya. She held up a placard that read, “Against discrimination toward sexual minorities in the media. 100TV is a homophobic channel.” She also distributed leaflets in which she demanded that the channel apologize to the LGBT community.

Under the Soviet legal code, male homosexual acts were criminal offenses, punishable by terms of five to eight years in prison. This law was abolished in 1993, two years after the Soviet Union collapsed, during the administration of President Boris Yeltsin. During Soviet times, the subject of homosexuality was strictly banned from print and broadcast media.

Speaking by phone this week, LGBT rights activist Sozayev talked about what he called the “lack of professionalism” of 100TV’s journalists.

“In a debate, the hosts should not take sides, whatever their personal views are, but these hosts demonstrated their homophobia in a very obvious way,” he said.

“Many thoughtful people I spoke to, people who are able to think for themselves, said the program had the opposite effect on them,” Sozayev added.

“If the editor wanted to use this program to incite homophobia, he failed. As one woman wrote in her blog, ‘For the longest time I couldn’t explain to my husband why LGBT rights have to be protected. After watching this program he understood why.”

Radin, who heads 100TV, said he had not received the letter when called on Monday and declined to comment.


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Petersburg Police: Music Fans Are Extremists

Chernov’s Choice
The St. Petersburg Times
July 17, 2009

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office has admitted that local music fans are under police surveillance—officially as a measure to counteract “extremist activities.”

The city’s Primorsky District police “have organized the exposure of members of informal entities, whose activities may have an extremist nature, on a permanent basis,” the web site of the Prosecutor’s Office reported on July 2.

According to the report, the district’s criminal police have identified and included on a register “88 people who attribute themselves to informal entities such as ‘Skinheads,’ ‘Aggressive Football Fans,’ ‘Punks,’ ‘Emos,’ ‘Black Metallers,’ ‘Fans of [the band] Kino,’ ‘Alternative Rock Fans,’ ‘Anarchists’ and others.”


Viktor Tsoi, Leader of a Russian Extremist Group

Viktor Tsoi, Leader of a Russian Extremist Group

Kino was a local 1980s pop-rock band influenced by The Cure and Duran Duran, and is still popular with young people in Russia, though it split up when its frontman and sole songwriter Viktor Tsoi died in a car crash in 1991. Plans to erect an official monument to Tsoi are underway in the city.

The report said that apart from the criminal police, “this work” is also conducted by neighborhood police inspectors and juvenile police departments.

Once exposed and registered, the music fans and members of the other “informal entities” are the subject of “preventive work” conducted by the district’s police officers, the district’s administration officials and educational institution staff to “prevent crimes, including those of an extremist nature.”

Since then-president Vladimir Putin signed the Law on Extremism in 2006, the law has reportedly been used indiscriminately by the police to persecute oppositionists, human rights activists and artists such as Novosibirsk-based artist Artyom Loskutov.

On what grounds have the police and prosecutors decided that fans of music groups and people united on common philosophical grounds such as anarchists could be involved in extremist activities, Maxim Ivantsov, coordinator of the Youth Human Rights Group asked in a letter to the district’s prosecutor and police chief.

He also wondered what “informal entities” are meant by the word “others.” Finally, Ivantsov inquired whether such activities by the Primorsky District’s criminal police are lawful.

Earlier this year, an unidentified police detachment stopped a concert at the local club Arctica and detained some 400 fans for hours, fingerprinting and taking photos of them, which can only be done with a person’s consent under Russian law.

Indeed, when so many departments and police officers are busy dealing with artists and music fans, criminals can walk free.

The city’s big international shows this weekend are Nick Cave (Stereoleto, Lenexpo, Friday), Britney Spears (Ice Palace, Sunday) and Buena Vista Social Club (Oktyabrsky, Sunday).

Don’t get caught.

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Solidarity with Seva Ostapov!

July 18 is a Global Action Day in support of Russian student Seva Ostapov!

No love is lost between the Russian population and the cops: facts of police terror are brought to light with disturbing frequency.

SevaslistomOn April 4, 2008, Moscow cops beat up and arrested seven young men near Sokolniki metro station in Moscow. The reason for this was the attempt made by these kids to prevent the illegal arrest of their 19-year old friend Vsevolod “Seva” Ostapov. Once at the police station (Sokolniki Precinct), the “law enforcers” decided to show the “smartasses” the error of their ways: for several hours, the cops viciously beat up and tortured our friends with tasers (electroshockers). As they did this, the cops made lots of chauvinistic and racist remarks. (It is common knowledge that many Russian cops are very supportive of neo-Nazi ideas.)

Moscow anarchists reacted with a campaign that succeeded in attracting public and media attention. The top police brass was forced to publicly comment on the issue. The cops decided to go on the offensive. They charged six of the young people with a minor offense—participation in a public brawl—a brilliant move to cover up the the wounds the cops inflicted on their bodies. The seventh young person involved, Seva Ostapov, has been charged with a felony—assaulting a police officer. Seva faces a long prison sentence (Article 318.1 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code stipulates a maximum five-year sentence) if convicted, although the CCTV records and numerous witnesses indicate that the charge is completely fabricated.

Each and every part of the state machine of repression has acted in concert in this case. Medical personnel at various hospitals refused to examine and document the injuries the detainees had suffered while in police custody. (The Russian healthcare system is subservient to the state.) The prosecutor’s office ignores eyewitness testimonies submitted by Seva’s friends, while fake “accidental witnesses of the assault on the police officers” have started to appear out of nowhere; by some quirk of fate, they turn out to be cops as well. As events unfold, the criminal case opened against the police department for the illegal arrest and torture of Seva and his friends has stalled in spite of the huge amounts of evidence. The prosecutor “loses” different documents regarding the case or sometimes he just “forgets” to make the next logical step in the investigation.  This is typical for Russia as well.

It is obvious that the state takes this issue very seriously: either Seva goes to prison and the torturers in police uniform are thus absolved of all charges, or the state admits that the ranks of its police officers—“sworn to serve and protect”—include numerous torturers and fascists.

seva0We ask you to support the Global Action Day of solidarity with Seva Ostapov on July 18. Carry out solidarity actions near the Russian embassy or consulate in your country (or any other Russian office if your town is lucky enough to have no Russian embassies in the vicinity)!

More information in English:



Filed under activism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

Tariq Ali: Obama and Empire

Video of a lecture by Tariq Ali at the Marxism 2009 festival in London, “The American Empire in Crisis: Obama at Home and Abroad.” Filmed by Ady Cousins. The video can also be viewed at the Counterfire website.


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