Time: Russian President Vladimir Putin “Person of the Year”


Time named Russian President Vladimir Putin its “Person of the Year” for 2007. As should be noted, that’s not necessarily an honor nor an endorsement. The image above is certainly not the cover Time chose, although it’s probably the most-published image of Putin all year.

Putin2Time wrote: “It is ultimately about leadership—bold, earth-changing leadership. Putin is not a boy scout. He is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years. Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather prepared blinis—who himself was twice TIME’s Person of the Year—or like Peter the Great, the historical figure he most admires; whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression—this we will know only over the next decade. At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, he has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power.”

On that note, let’s take a look back at what gay people in Russia endured under Putin in 2007.

Luzhkovroad.jpg Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov in January branded gay people “Satanic”, vowing that a Gay Pride parade would never take place in the capital city. Said Luzhkov: “Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as Satanic. We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future…Religious thinkers throughout the world have said that the West has reached a crisis of faith. Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children.”

Russiahazingroad.jpg In February, it was reported that conscripts in the Russian military are often forced into prostitution by their superiors who demand the money they earn from it. CNN took a closer look at the story.

road.jpg In March, the mayors of London, Paris, and Berlin criticized Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s stance on gay people, though the two openly gay mayors, Bertrand Delanoe and Klaus Wowereit were criticized themselves for not going far enough.

Safin3road.jpg In April, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin died. Yeltsin’s Russia was arguably kinder to gay people than Putin’s. In order to get in the good graces of Western nations in order to become a member of the Council of Europe, Yeltsin joined post-Soviet republics Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine and decriminalized homosexuality in April of 1993. The move did away with a law that put gay citizens behind bars (and subjected them often to torture and correctional therapy) for up to five years if they were discovered.

road.jpg In May, some government officials supported organizers of the gay pride parade scheduled for May 27th in Moscow. However, their message of support was drowned out by protestors at the panel who warned that if the parade went forward, “Moscow will drown in gay blood.” No comment from Putin. Two days later, officials reiterated their ban.

A3road.jpg In late May, organizers attempted to hold the parade with international activists in attendance. It turned bloody and violent. British activist Peter Tatchell and Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass were assaulted on camera. Tatchell and Fairbrass were both then arrested, along with Italian MEP Marco Cappato, German MP Volker Beck (who was assaulted at last year’s rally), the leader of GayRussia, Nikolai Alexeyev, and dozens of other activists. Thirty people were detained in all at what began as a peaceful demonstration meant to mark the 14th anniversary of the decriminilization of homosexuality in Russia. As soon as the demonstration began, a group of attackers, made up of ultra-nationalists and members of the ultra-Orthodox Russian church, set angrily upon the group. Activists were arrested while attackers walked free, and sources close to the activists told media outlets “[It is] becoming very clear that orders are being given to court and militia directly from [the] Kremlin.”

Plevnaroad.jpg In June, Orthodox Russian youth groups began patrolling known public gay cruising spots in Moscow, in an attempt to deter gays from meeting with one another. The patrols were seen as a litmus test for broader ultranationalism.

road.jpg Later in June, gay activists were detained at a sanctioned demonstration outside the European Union in Moscow. They were assembling to call on the European Union to impose a travel ban on Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov over the human rights violations he has committed against gays and lesbians. Police used unnecessary roughness in arresting the protesters.

road.jpg In July, a party cruise in Moscow was stopped momentarily by paramilitary police.

Putin1road.jpg In August, photos of a bare-chested Putin fishing in the countryside were published (see above) that were seen as sensational propaganda intended to make Putin look like a macho man, but they drew comparisons to Brokeback Mountain. London’s Daily Mail reported: “Yesterday, the Russian mass-market newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published a huge colour photo of the barechested president, under the headline ‘Be Like Putin’. The picture illustrated a guide to the exercises needed to build up a torso like that of the Russian leader…Russian gay chatrooms and blogs were particularly intrigued by the photos. Some claimed that Putin, by stripping to his waist, was pleading for more tolerance of homosexuality in Russia – where gays and lesbians are for the most part forced to remain closeted.” They should be so lucky.

road.jpg That same month, activist Nikolai Alekseyev was interrogated after suggesting that deputy of the State Duma Alexander Chuev, member of pro-Kremlin party Fair Russia, was a ‘gay, a coward and a hypocrite’.

Moscowactivistbloodroad.jpg In September, Ten people, including the leader of Moscow’s Gay Pride movement, Nikolai Alekseyev, demonstrated outside the Ministry of Health and Social Development building in Moscow, and seven were arrested. The activists were protesting Russia’s law prohibiting the donation of blood by gay men, a policy echoed by various governments around the world, including the United States. Russia Today reported: “Mr Alekseyev says its unfair to compare gay men to drug users and sex workers, pointing out that there is no law preventing gay women from giving blood. He added that the health service is desperately short of blood, yet it is ‘stopping people giving blood for reasons that are incomprehensible.’…Mr Alekseyev questioned the legality of the arrests, saying there was no trouble at the demonstration and that the protesters ‘didn’t interfere with anyone.’ Alekseyev added that the protest was in no way connected to politics or the inflammatory Gay Pride parade, which takes place in Moscow every summer. He insisted Friday’s action was meant only to show the discriminatory nature of the law.”

road.jpg In October, Patriarch Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, offered his opinion of gay pride to the Council of Europe, comparing homosexuals to kleptomaniacs.

Kissingcopsroad.jpg October also saw the ban of gay art. Russian cultural minister Alexander Sokolov banned an image of two policemen locked in a romantic kiss from appearing in an exhibition scheduled to go on display in Paris. The Guardian reported: “Mr Sokolov described the photo as political provocation and said he was pulling it, together with 16 other works, from a show at Paris’s Maison Rouge exhibition hall. The exhibits were all displayed in Russia this year at Moscow’s state-owned Tretyakov gallery. The minister also banned another work by the same irreverent group, Blue Noses, that shows Vladimir Putin, George Bush and Osama bin Laden cavorting on a double bed in their underpants.”

road.jpg Finally, just this month, gay activists were arrested while protesting anti-gay Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov during the elections in Russia. The activists were detained for a period of three hours after which they were released.


Let’s hope for better things in 2008.


  1. the queen says

    honey, if i have to look at that horrible putin picture one more time, i’m gonna scream…

    as far as prostituting the troops, its a great idea, we should do it here and tax it, great revenue for the country, it just might help the deficit and keep the republicans out of the toilets …

  2. ryan says

    Yet again another stupid choice by Time for person of the year. At least this time it wasn’t “Us”. Obviously Al Gore was person of the year. It was a no brainer.

  3. GM says

    Andy: Thank you so much for your time and effort and great work — not only in this compilation of stories out of Russia in 2007 but for keeping your readers abreast of a whole year’s worth of current events. You are an asset!

    That said, the picture of Putin that Time has chosen for its cover is SCARY!! If I believe in the theistic eschatological nonsense of the Book of Revelation, I would say that the man looks like a representation of the Anti-Christ.

    Why does that country scare me/us so much? Is it just a hangover from a youth spent in the midst of the Cold War? Or is there really something dangerous and inhumane in their worldview?

  4. says

    OMG…The CNN report was disturbing. The violent beatings those youngins have to endure. And the poor lad who had to have his legs and genitals removed. I’ve seen such atrocities with my own eyes (being done to relatives), but they don’t cease to make my skin crawl. What pushes human beings to such extremes, one has to wonder…

  5. Brent says

    Everything listed in this post is true. I was there. I was at the march this year when gay activists were arrested while the protesters beat them up and the city police stood by watching. I was there in the park at Kitai Gorod (China town) where gays cruise. I saw the youth groups going around harassing everyone.
    There are no civil liberties in Russia. There never will be. Not while the country is run by the mafia. It’s ironic too, because all of Russia’s favorite singers and actors are gay, but it’s okay to be gay in Russia as long as you don’t say you are. You can act it all you want, but if you have a wife, then it wouldn’t matter if you dressed like RuPaul, you’d still be considered straight.

  6. whatever says

    It’s always upsetting when they make someone person of the year and that person has not gotten the honor for something good. Putin is a very dangerous man and is going to do nothing but cause trouble in the future.-

  7. Sebastian says

    Ugh, that picture of him and his pallid, odd looking body should have come with a warning since I’m having lunch now, YUCK, and to Time for making him their “man” of the year, and, for his politics, the only good thing coming out of that is he is one of the few on earth who does not cower down to Bush and, the fronting off of Connie Rice.

  8. Thomas says

    Read “The Future of Freedom” by Fareed Zakaria and you’ll understand that in developing countries it sometimes takes the strong will of an autocratic leader to develop economic security at the temporary cost of individual freedoms.
    Greater democracy given to a population that isn’t ready for it spells disaster. Note that Adolf Hitler was DEMOCRATICALLY elected.
    My best friend in the country I live in (not the USA) is Russian and her mother is a doctor managing to make enough money to send to her daughter so she can afford to live here and get a better education. This is the kind of stability and economic credited to Putin. Building a middle class in Russia is far more important than gay rights, because when a middle class exists, then individual liberties follows.

  9. says

    I work at a human rights institute, and I just ended up writing a big report about Russia. Trust me, it gets WAY worse than this. No civil liberties, state-run media, 13 disappeared (i.e. murdered) journalists this year alone, continuing repression in Chechnya, appalling treatment of migrant workers and ethnic minorities, no labour rights whatsoever, skinhead beatings performed with impunity, the list goes on.

    I know what Time is going for here (It’s supposed to ‘honor’ the person who affected world events the most this year, right?), but I wish they would have started out by saying that Putin is bad for Russia and bad for the world, rather than this ‘bold, earth-changing leadership’ crap.

  10. el polacko says

    oh for heaven’s sake… another time cover and everyone’s in a tizzy again.
    for years now, this ‘person of the year’ crapola has been a publicity stunt that has worked like a charm. c’mon, what does it matter who is on the cover of some silly magazine ? get a grip, folks.

  11. KevinVT says

    The Time text is rather troubling: “whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression—this we will know only over the next decade” — we already know he is an autocrat and something of a control-freak. While he may be less openly homophobic than Luzhkov (he hasn’t said much himself on the topic), he’s definitely no friend of multiple voices or dissent, and gay populations are easy targets for marginalization.

    “imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it” — that’s absurd! Stability, not to say stagnation, has been the rule in Russian history, only occasionally interrupted by brief periods of revolution. Stability was what the Soviet Union was all about, and it’s what Russians have always chosen over “democracy,” which they tend to equate with chaos. From the late 50s into the 80s even the price of bread didn’t change. Everything stayed mind-numbingly the same across all 11 time zones and from decade to decade.

    And a small quibble: it was May, not April, of 1993 that the government announced they were doing away with Paragraph 121. May 27, if I remember correctly.

  12. matt says

    every time I read something like this I pray for a disease spread solely by penis-vaginal contact that wipes out 75% of the hetero male population. Then and only then will the tide begin to turn in our favor.

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