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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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