Russian Filmmakers Trying To Re-Write History, Make Tchaikovsky Straight

TchaikovskyPeter Tchaikovsky, composer of influential ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, was almost certainly gay, according to historians. A new article published in The Atlantic Wire details several pieces of evidence, from multiple historians, that the composer very much preferred men. But Russian filmmaker Yuri Arabov, screenwriter of the upcoming 2015 biopic Tchaikovsky, does not believe any of this historical evidence to be accurate. 

“It is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual,” he said to a Russian newspaper. “Only philistines think this, what philistines believe should not be shown in films." Arabov is best known as the screenwriter for the Russian director Alexander Sokurov. Together, the two of them have made films about the lives of Lenin, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito. Arabov called Tchaikovsky a man who “is marked by rumors and suffers greatly from this.” He also said that he would “not sign my name to a film that advertises homosexuality. Not because I don’t have a gay friend, but because this is outside the sphere of art.”

According to the New York Times, this most recent interview by Arabov confirms a fear outlined by British actor Stephen Fry in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. In the letter, Fry wrote:

“Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment.”

ArabovArabov claims that his stance is primarily due to his own personal views, and not due to the country's anti-gay propaganda laws. As it stands, the law is not exactly clear if portraying Tchaikovsky as a homosexual would qualify as pro-gay propaganda. Novertheless, the Times does make note of the fact that "Russia’s culture ministry has stressed that it is interested in patriotic films that will help Russia’s image." The upcoming film's director, Kirill Serebrennikov, is one of the most successful stage and film directors in all of post-Soviet Russia. NYT describes him as a director who "managed both to criticize the government and to secure state financing."

"'The true story of the tragic love and death of the brilliant Russian composer,' in which he runs into his first love at a ball only to find that she is married. When she finally leaves her husband, the composer dies of cholera with her at his side."

Let this go on record as one of the many instances of filmmakers taking creative liberties with history in order to make historical figures appear straight to audiences. 


  1. Joseph2 says

    Actually, Ken Russell’s “The Music Lovers” portrayed Tchaikovsky as bisexual; in response to this film (released in 1970), the Soviets made their own Tchaikovsky film that portrayed him as thoroughly straight.

    I would love to see one of the American TV networks or an American studio make a GOOD miniseries/film about Tchaikovsky that accurately portrays him as a man comfortable with being gay — which is how historians now view him.

  2. Hey Darlin' says

    I think Russia should just remove Tchaikovsky from their history books completely. He would probably feel much more comfortable that way, instead of adopting his new self. The world can teach itself about him, we already have the information, no need for them to “cover up” his true life.

    They should also go ahead and remove anything else the government disagrees with while they are at it. It should lead to a cultureless and uneducated society but they shouldn’t let something trivial like that stand in their way.

  3. says

    ALMOST certainly gay??? You need to talk to a musicologist about this. There are questions about Schubert’s sexuality but Tchaikovsky’s same sex history is well documented. There’s no reason to hedge on this. It’s only a controversial issue to anti-gay bigots who want to ignore the evidence.

  4. Hey Darlin' says

    It’s sad that a Russia of 200 years ago was a more interesting society to be in. He wouldn’t even be allowed to be Tchaikovsky in today’s society.

  5. bobbyjoe says

    I just wrote “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and now I’m going home to have sex with my wife.

  6. BRAINS says

    Behind the Iron Curtain those Russians return, thanks to their KGB Agent Putin. By the time he dies and they reappear the rest of us will be light-years ahead of them .

    They will need to converse with their equally ignorant African buddies!

  7. Thomasina says

    Up next on his docket: a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. starring Tom Hanks as King; a remake of Schindler’s List in which Schindler is instead nice to a group of slightly disadvantaged Presbyterians; and, through the magic of CGI, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” with an all-Johnny Depp cast.


    Life threatening reasons to conceal your sexual orientation hidden are still in force in Russia. Some countries seem chained to their past.

  9. SeanInSeattle says

    It was Larry Kramer who angrily pointed out how our own gay history is systematically stolen from us.

  10. Rick says

    “I would love to see one of the American TV networks or an American studio make a GOOD miniseries/film about Tchaikovsky that accurately portrays him as a man comfortable with being gay ”

    Tchaikovsky was not “comfortable with being gay”. He was chronically depressed, often contemplated suicide, and found no true love in his life (as is the case with most gay men, past and present). And all this melancholy is reflected in much of his music, which has a distinctly somber tone, as anybody really familiar with it knows.

    So, while it is right to criticize a filmmaker who is trying to propagate a lie about Tchaikovsky’s sexuality, it is not right to try to “pink-wash” the reality of his life either to make it sound as though he thought being gay was a great thing. Maybe his depression was due to the homophobia of the society around him–or maybe it was due to the unpleasantness of gay life, itself…..then, as now, it is sometimes hard to separate one factor from the other with unhappy gay men…..

  11. Hagatha says

    I’ve never understood why people thought the Nutcracker was all that. Even as a child I thought the premise was weak.

  12. Joseph2 says

    Rick, please don’t project your own self-loathing onto others, particularly those who lived in the past.

    And, while you’re at it, why not read the biographies of Tchaikovsky written by Roland John Wiley and Alexander Poznosky, who examined the composers letters, which revealed a man who alternated between grief over his situation and genial acceptance.

  13. jjose712 says

    Well, american directors do this all the time, A beautiful mind is a good example of this. And we’ll see if the new biografy of Alan Turing doesn’t end the same way

  14. jarago says

    Ken Russell’s ” The Music Lover” had at least a bisexual Tchaicovsky- The Evil Empire is becoming a truly stupid state.

  15. says

    The USSR may be dead but the absurd, surreal disjunction between the reality painted by the powers that be and reality is back with a vengeance. As others have said, there is no ambiguity about Tchaikovsky’s sexuality, except in the imaginations of Russians keen on rewriting history.

    Rick, speak for yourself. Your life may be loveless, but that’s not true of the rest of us.

  16. Keith says


    Intelligent Russians must be so ashamed to be ruled by Putin with his new cult of personality!!

    And no communism to blame any more!

    History will mock these idiots.

  17. Neil Hunt says

    Seems there’s always a few so-called ‘artists’ willing to lick the greasy-butts of would-be-dictators & (semi)-despotic totalitarians who -certainly in Czar Putin’s case -have not exactly concealed themselves under sheep’s clothing!
    Yes & while we’re on the subject of that former KGB ‘leopard-who-never-changed -his-spots!– I STILL want to know–& will continue to–what gross-evil possessed him to order–as he so obviously did–the assassination by stooge-gunman of activist Anna Politkovskaya in her apt bldgs lobby in 2006!
    That crime joined many other frequent ‘disappearing’s’ (at best intimidation) of political rivals & truth-tellers. For all their sake’s & those with guts to resist – I truly hope I live long enough past my 70 yrs to see a court of the people of Russia order that scumbag be frog-marched outside to the nearest public-place (Red perfect) to be summarily shot! -as was that other despotic-pig Ceausescu back in the ‘European Spring’! THEN it actually seemed that such evil-rulers might be finally be gone in that part of the world. But then hero-Yeltsin became a useless drunk & handed the keys of the Kremlin to one of the slipperiest neo-fascists of our age!. – and so it goes!