Last edited: December 17, 2004

Banging Fists Against City Hall’s Walls

Moscow Times, September 5, 2001
Ulitsa Vyborgskaya 16, Bldg. 4, 125212 Moscow, Russia
Fax: 7-095-937-3393

By Anna Badkhen

Mayor Yury Luzhkov this summer banned two shows that would have changed Moscow.

One was Portuguese bullfighting—a brutal show that involves blood, violence, and, in some cases, death.

In Portuguese bullfighting, the animal is stabbed with barbed darts. Portuguese bullfighting is considered more humane than its Spanish version, where matadors end the fight by slashing the bull with a 10-pound sword. The Russian capital, where brutality and pain are the order of the day, has never seen such refined cruelty before. Luckily for the bulls, it doesn’t look like it will see it anytime soon.

The other show Luzhkov outlawed was a Love Parade, which the mayor’s office equated with a Gay Pride parade.

What is there in common between a gay parade and bullfighting? Nothing, if you ask me. During a Gay Pride parade, gay women and men walk peacefully down some street announcing that they are gay. The only blood shed at such demonstrations—including the one that would have taken place during City Day festivities last weekend, had Luzhkov granted the permission—is menstrual.

A Gay Pride parade is a declaration of a right to love and an attempt to open the minds of prudish and homophobic creatures. Alas, Moscow’s homosexual community did not manage to overcome the prudishness of the capital’s narrow-minded and homophobic mayor. Homosexuality, in City Hall’s opinion, "goes against traditional moral values of most Russians, as well as the canons of the main religious confessions in the city." When the city’s gay community received this statement, they must have felt like they had been banging their bare fists against a brick wall.

The law of independent Russia doesn’t throw homosexual men in jail for five years, like the Soviet law did. (Gay women were never punished, perhaps because nothing women did apart from winning Olympic gold for figure skating and gymnastics was ever taken seriously in this country.) Still, gays are not considered equal members of society. When in his City Day opening speech Luzhkov said City Hall "does not forget for a minute about its responsibility before Moscow residents," he obviously didn’t mean the city’s homosexual men and women.

Another group of people Luzhkov apparently forgot when he made his speech were Moscow’s Chechens. And Georgians and Armenians and Azeris and Ingush—anyone who, to the city’s vigorous policemen, looks Chechen and who therefore gets harassed and even tortured every day because of the way they look.

Moscow’s Chechens probably chose to stay at home for last weekend’s holiday. After all, they had almost had their chance to demonstrate for their rights on Pushkin Square, in the heart of Moscow, in June. Unfortunately, Luzhkov banned that demonstration, too. The mayor said the grim topic of the protest—human rights—would have interfered with the festive mood of another event that was taking place in town: the 2001 Theater Olympics.

Welcome to Moscow, the 854-year-old city of fair-skinned, blond, straight people.

And happy, healthy bulls.

  • Anna Badkhen is a freelance correspondent based in Moscow.

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