Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi
New Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Human RightsNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network March 6, 2018 Joy Neumeyer
In 2013, when the Russian State Duma passed a law banning the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors, some rushed to boycott Russian vodka. In Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (Bloomsbury, 2017), Dan Healey provides historical context for the law and cautions against the easy application of recent changes elsewhere. The Russian embrace of LGBT rights will be the result of cultural evolution from within society and not some off-the-peg downloading of a European formula, Healey writes. Decriminalized after the revolution, sodomy was re-banned under Stalin in 1933-4 and remained illegal until 1993. In a series of case studies, Healey examines same-sex relationships in the gulag, provincial criminal investigations from the 1950s, the diary of popular singer Vadim Kozin (who was sent to Magadan in the 1940s under the anti-sodomy law), gay cruising in Brezhnev-era Moscow, and pornography in the 1990s. What emerges is a complex portrait of gay and lesbian consciousness that belies Putin-era attempts to portray homosexuality as a foreign import. Healey also explores some of the difficulties facing queer history in today’s Russia, including a lack of information about prosecutions under Stalin and reluctance to include sexuality in the biographies of figures such as Kozin. The book concludes by examining current projects to mobilize queer memory, such as the Unstraight Museum in Belarus.
Joy Neumeyer is a journalist and PhD candidate in History at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation project explores the role of death in Soviet culture.