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A History of Homophobia

Published: March 28, 2012 (Issue # 1701)



  • Modern Russias homophobia can trace its roots from the rise of Stalin.
    Photo: FOR SPT

Russian laws against homosexuality have a long history. Orthodox clerics condemned sex between men and youths. They also condemned men who shaved, used make-up, or wore gaudy clothing as devotees of the sodomitical sin.

It was only with Peter the Great in the late 17th and early 18th centuries that Russias first secular law against sex between men was adopted, in his Military Code of 1716. Relations between men in the army and navy were punished by flogging, and male rape, by penal servitude in the galleys.

Later in the 18th century it was proposed that this law be extended to civilians. This was not done, but new research by St. Petersburg historian Marianna Muraveva shows that church and military courts actively prosecuted sodomy cases.

In 1835, Tsar Nicholas I formally extended the ban on male same-sex relations to wider society in a new criminal code. He was supposedly motivated by reports of vice in the Empires boarding schools. Men who engaged in voluntary sodomy (muzhelozhstvo) were exiled to Siberia; sodomy with minors or the use of force netted exile with hard labor. This law remained in force until 1917. There was no law against lesbian relations.

The authorities in tsarist Russia avoided enforcing the law against upper-class homosexuals. There was no major homosexual scandal in pre-1917 Russia to match those of Britains Oscar Wilde, Austria-Hungarys Colonel Alfred Redl, or the German Prince Eulenberg. Powerful supporters of the Romanov dynasty, and members of the tsars family, were flagrantly gay, and received patronage and immunity from the throne. Yet when the government drafted a new criminal code never to be adopted in 1903, it continued to criminalize male homosexuality.

When revolution came in 1917, the Provisional Government wanted to enact the 1903 criminal code, but lost power to the Bolsheviks, who abrogated all tsarist law in November 1917. Until 1922 there was no written criminal law.

During this interval successive codes were drafted and discarded. All of these drafts, beginning with the first written in early 1918 by the Bolsheviks coalition partners, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, and continuing with versions drafted in 1920-21 by Bolshevik jurists and a consultant from the Cheka, decriminalized homosexuality. The first Soviet criminal code of 1922 and the revision of this code in 1926 both confirmed the legality of voluntary same-sex relations.

Modern Russias homophobia can trace its roots from the rise of Stalin and his henchmen. In September 1933, deputy chief of the secret police Genrikh Yagoda proposed to Stalin that a law against pederasty was needed urgently.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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