Olympics | Russia | Sochi Olympics

The Why Behind Russia's Homophobia

What's odd about Russia's homophobia is how it stands in stark contrast to the rather liberalized values the country has regarding issues like divorce and abortion. While not a complete historical analysis, Masha Lipman at The New Yorker explains that the discrepancy, in part, is the rejection of the forced modernization by the Bolsheviks.

The early Soviet period involved a radical rejection of the ancien regime, a forced modernization by the Bolsheviks that included universal literacy and suffrage (along with the elimination of political choice, of course), as well as brutally imposed secularization, among other things. 

Despite the Russian government's apparent complacency with their treatment of homosexuals, it's creating problems both with international relations and within its own borders. A protest against Russia's laws collected over 300,000 signatures and the IOC continues its weak attempts to at least pretend to care by asking for clarification on how the law will be enacted on Olympic athletes and attendees. Speaking on Yelena Mizulina, chairperson of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Family, Women, and Children who framed the gay "propaganda" ban, Russian celebrity Kseniya Sobchak publicly mocked the "champion of high moral standards", 

"My husband and I … are thinking of filing our own suit against Mizulina for insulting our private family life. The phrase ‘oral sex’ is so firmly associated with Mizulina now that we no longer feel like having it any more.”

Andrew Sullivan offers his insight on the article and suggests that a protest is needed at the Sochi Olympics, one that protesters need to be prepared to be arrested for.

Unpack your rainbow flags! Get ready to be arrested! Expose the neo-fascist regime’s classic tactics to maintain popular support by demonizing an already despised and marginalized minority. Putin wants the attention of the world in Sochi. Let’s make sure he gets it.

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  1. Move the whole damn thing and screw Russia

    Posted by: bructer | Aug 12, 2013 3:08:54 PM

  2. actually, the 'forced modernization' goes back centuries before the Soviets! almost every czar since Catherine the Great (maybe before her) has tried to force modernization on the multiple nationalities that make up Russia. the imperialists all wanted to be considered European & a lot of them were European royalty when they came to Russia. Catherine the Great was actually German.

    Posted by: mike/ | Aug 12, 2013 3:09:41 PM


    Posted by: HYPOCRITES | Aug 12, 2013 3:17:25 PM

  4. I want to see rainbow flags everywhere at these olympics.. If you are going, bring a bunch of flags and pass them out! Let's get the spectators and the athletes all waving the rainbow!

    Posted by: Luke | Aug 12, 2013 3:23:34 PM

  5. The "WHY" was not answered in this post nor the linked article.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Aug 12, 2013 3:29:48 PM

  6. Why would anyone listen to Andrew Sullivan...?
    He has quite the knack for getting everything wrong. He was a MASSIVE supporter of the Iraq war. You would think the boy never read a history book about that area of thew world (probably still hasn't) --how can a "pundit" get it so wrong? Of course, people were paid by the Bush cronies to write pro-Bush policy essays during that period of time. Don't know if Sullivan was one of them... he's never said one way or the other so far as I am aware.

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Aug 12, 2013 3:33:38 PM

  7. HYPOCRITES: Don't scream, and frankly one thing not excludes the other.

    Russia mess with the world, you expect that from a third world country or one who is dominated by religion, not from one that want to be a modern country.

    It's obvious that the IOC don't have the guts to make the games be hosted by another nation, and it's obvious that some authorities crave more for the money than the human rights.
    But in a digital world there are backlash, and they are not liking it. They could ignore all, but they are not doing it, they are shouting and making justifications. Sooner or later they will realize that the civilized world just don't care about their stupid justifications

    Posted by: jjose712 | Aug 12, 2013 3:34:57 PM


    I want to boycott middle eastern oil and anything from any country that mistreats GLBTs! And I know a lot of people who feel the same way. So I think your statement is a bit overly dramatic, don't you?

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Aug 12, 2013 3:35:12 PM

  9. President Obama has said no boycott. Andrew Sullivan wants a big gay tantrum, that he can sit back and take credit for. I'm glad he has a life span.

    Posted by: PoorUs | Aug 12, 2013 3:57:56 PM

  10. I think the International Olympic Committee is getting deeper and deeper into a publicity nightmare. Their choice to move forward with a nation that has something to prove to the world is not good.

    Posted by: Hey Darlin' | Aug 12, 2013 4:04:06 PM

  11. If you go to, watch or participate in the Russian Olympics then you are giving Putin et al exactly what they want - your money and international PR.

    Boycott the Russian Olympics and any other international sport being broadcast from or held in Russia. The only people who want the Russian Olympics to go forth are people who have never really supported gay people. MSNBC is RENTING the cameras to broadcast the Olympics from the Russian media and there will be no broadcasting of Olympic participants waving rainbow flags or speaking out in support of gay people.

    FORCE the IOC to move the Olympics to another country NOW before it is too late.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Aug 12, 2013 4:20:50 PM

  12. @Dan -- Not to turn this into a Sullivan debate, but you want to crucify him because he was wrong ten years ago, when most of the country was also wrong? And without even noting he's spent much of the last ten years repenting for that, publicly and repeatedly?

    Re the others ... boycott Middle Eastern oil? Sorry, it's just not possible. Firstly, you can't pick and choose where your oil comes from. It comes from a tanker. And even if you could, we suck up too much of it to write off anything coming from the Middle East, especially since you'll of course want to boycott any oil coming from Russia as well.

    Sullivan apparently isn't the only one who wants a big gay tantrum.

    Posted by: JamesInCA | Aug 12, 2013 4:21:34 PM

  13. Putin and Russia are UNCLEAN. BOYCOTT BRAND RUSSIA!

    Posted by: vince quackenbush | Aug 12, 2013 4:30:45 PM

  14. I think the behind is behind Russia's homophobia. All these queens screaming about Russia. I hope all the talk makes them feel better. Reading a lot of "Little Big Man" rhetoric. Gays can be very threatening behind a keyboard. Let's risk our lives for a seven second orgasm. Fighting for a cause takes our mind off our lousy marriages, which was the last fight.

    Posted by: Beebs | Aug 12, 2013 4:41:09 PM

  15. It's great that Andrew S. is brave enough to allow someone else to get arrested and beaten in an Olympics gay rights protest! He's quite a guy!

    What everyone is hoping for is that this controversy peaks early and dies out before the games begin, and that's what's likely to happen.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2013 5:08:03 PM

  16. But will the Russian thugs dare to display their evil anti-gay tactics in front of the entire world?!

    Posted by: jarago | Aug 12, 2013 5:18:33 PM

  17. The Communists in Russia were very anti-gay. This current state of affairs is just a continuation of Soviet policy. Somewhat ironically, the Tsar's government was more lenient. The prince who assassinated Rasputin was gay or bi-sexual. The famous classical music composer Tchaikovsky was also a "blue man," as it was called. Unfortunately, publicity does have its drawbacks.

    Posted by: Ernst Rhoem's Ghost | Aug 12, 2013 5:19:07 PM

  18. Why?
    Putin is why. He's deliberately taking an oppositional stance to Obama and the West. Putin is anti-American and anti-Obama. If Obama drank a Coke, Putin would drink a Pepsi just for spite.

    Posted by: Kev C | Aug 12, 2013 5:21:26 PM

  19. The Russians need to provide clear answers to some questions.

    1. What happens if a married gay couple goes to the games with their child (whether via adoption or a previous marriage)? Would they be arrested upon showing their passports and stating that they are married? Would the Russians take the child from them?

    2. Would a gay athlete's boyfriend be treated identically to how his girlfriend would have been treated if he were straight?

    If they can't provide straightforward answers and promise that such gay visitors would be treated the same as everyone else, then the games should be moved.

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 12, 2013 5:52:36 PM

  20. No--Putin is not the "why" behind this. As in most cultures, the religious history is the principal agent responsible for a society's sensibilities around such things. Even a very ugly anti-Semitism has re-surfaced in the Orthodox Church. Not that I'm surprised by that. Long after a people has ceased to be significantly or overtly religious, the attitudes hang on and on--look at our country's puritanical attitudes about sex--the fruit of puritanical protestantism and janesenistic Irish Roman catholicism. In the case of Putin, he's a leftover--a throwback--in addition to being a vulgar boor.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Aug 12, 2013 5:56:25 PM

  21. let's not forget that the soccer World Cup is also in Russia in 2018... and that it will be held in... Qatar in 2022, where gay rights are even worse than Russia.
    The FIFA president already warned that "gay couples" had better be careful if visiting the Qatar World Cup. FIFA seems to care even less than IOC...

    Posted by: Pat | Aug 12, 2013 6:04:09 PM

  22. Sully could have been on better footing had he called for a boycott of all media sponsors of the Olympics. However, that would conflict w his corporatist philosophy. Why are the sponsors of the Olympics being excused?

    Posted by: mikeflower | Aug 12, 2013 6:11:08 PM

  23. Sponsors are not forgotten. Every few days the Olympic partners list is up.


    Please write as many as you can and ask them to publicly denounce the new human rights violating anti-gay and religious defamation Russian laws.

    Sullivan is wrong.
    Russia doesn't have a First Amendment because free speech is built into their constitution. Along with assembly, protest, and separation of church/state.

    Kseniya Sobchak. Sending you much LOVE.

    Posted by: JONES | Aug 12, 2013 6:40:54 PM

  24. Don't bring your god damned "children" to the Olympics. Gay rights in America created a monster and physical violence against gays in Russia. While our President golfs in Martha's Vineyard.

    Posted by: GB | Aug 12, 2013 6:53:55 PM

  25. @Beebs

    stop projecting your own misery on us & go f*ck yourself.

    Posted by: Gretyl | Aug 12, 2013 7:24:41 PM

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