Elton John Explains Why He Went to Russia and Spoke Out for Gays, Urges Others to Do the Same

Elton John explained why he went to Russia in a statement posted today to the Elton John AIDS Foundation website:

JohnThere was a lot of speculation about whether I would go to Russia this year. Many people outside the country thought I should boycott Russia because of its new homophobic legislation. Others said I must go to challenge the government.

I decided in the end to be guided by what Russian people wanted me to do. The message, from even the most marginalised Russian groups we work with at the Elton John AIDS Foundation, was ‘please come’. If you don’t come, AIDS workers and LGBT activists told us, we will feel isolated. We will miss having your voice in our debate. It might be interpreted that you don’t care. Or we may be blamed for keeping you away.

In Moscow I spent hours with gay activists, Federal doctors, human rights lawyers and people living with HIV. They told me that since the new legislation has been adopted it’s getting harder and harder to deliver basic HIV information or healthcare to gay men for fear of seeming to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which is against the law. Gay people lie even to their children about their sexuality, in case it jeopardises their families.

That night at my concert I made a statement, directly to the audience, about how sad, shocking and isolating this new law seemed to be. A young woman with a rainbow banner cheered. I realised then, with thousands of Russians cheering for a man they knew to be gay, that I had made the right decision. I believe the Russian people are decent and will be persuaded – but they need to hear us, and see we are human. They can’t do that from a distance of two thousand miles.

A number of celebrities have recently declined to go to Russia, some for fear that it is unsafe. But I say to my friends – we all owe our freedoms to people who took risks with their safety for us, and faced far greater dangers than those confronting a Western artist in Russia. Freedom is worth taking a risk for. Saving people from HIV is worth taking a risk for, and there is nothing that fuels the AIDS epidemic more effectively than stigma and isolation. We’ve learnt that over 20 years of funding HIV programmes around the world, including Russia.

As the Winter Olympics approaches, I know lots of sportsmen and artists are facing the same choice that I faced. I realise not everyone will share my view. But personally I hope and pray that prominent people will go to Russia and challenge the wrong thinking of this law. It breeds isolation, mistrust and hate, and cannot be how Russia wants to be known by the world.

Thank you to everyone who came to my concerts. And thank you to the people who gave their time to talk to me about HIV and gay rights while I was in Russia. We will continue to support your important, life saving work.“

If you missed the video of Elton John speaking out from the stage in Moscow, you can watch it HERE.


  1. RonCharles says

    This should be the standard to which all celebrities who go to Russia should be held. If they are going to go there, they should be morally obligated to speak out against these anti-gay laws. Kudos to Sir Elton John for setting an example for all to follow!

  2. YSOSERIOUS says

    I had the good fortune to meet Sir Elton a time or two when I lived in Atlanta, and he is an intelligent, thoughtful guy.

    I saw his comments to the crowd at his concert and was moved by his eloquence and bravery. Putin is, for all intents and purposes, insane and therefore not someone to provoke, but even someone as unhinged as Putin is he must have some folks around him who told him to not arrest Sir Elton (though he rightfully could have been arrested and put into prison for his actions).

    My great fear is that after the Olympics Putin will have no reason not to round up LGBT folks in Pogroms and ‘disappear’ them. I am also fearful for the folks who attended his concert – will they be seen as law-breakers?

    The days when Russia looked like it was becoming more Democratic (small dig: when you see someone moving out of a crushing regime they NEVER are becoming more Republic). I doubt Putin’s death (which could not come soon enough) will signal a return to sanity.

    But we cannot ignore this, or pretend not drinking vodka is going to address this.

  3. says

    I’ll consider Sir Elton courageous when I hear that he’s donated the proceeds of his concerts in Russia toward organizations working to make Russia free. In the final analysis, talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

  4. will says

    Yes, I’m getting really sick of people who’s strategy is: boycott Russia, boycott the Games. It’s a defeatist strategy and these people propose nothing in its place.

    Go there and fight. Go right to the boundary where you’re not putting yourself in physical danger or in danger of getting locked up and SPREAD THE NEWS. Otherwise, the only information the citizens hear is the information the government and anti-gay proagandizers want them to hear.

  5. JAYCE says

    Stuffed Animal, don’t you think making a statement like that at risk of government prosecution and detention is an act in itself? Those weren’t just words and those words didn’t come cheap. Sometimes, it’s not just about money being coursed through certain channels. It’s about finding the right platform to make the most courageous stand against something. That’s what he did. I don’t find anything wrong with gay people boycotting Russia. That’s their prerogative. But comparing that simple and safe choice of boycotting versus standing there and speaking out against that ridiculous law…I’d have to go with Elton on this.

  6. AlexBH says

    @Stuffed Animal – What Elton did is brave regardless of what he does with the money – for example, firemen can still be paid and be brave – if he donates the money he will be both brave and magnanimous. Good job Elton!

  7. Program says

    I’m very glad to see that Elton John spoke up. Thanks to him for that.

    I think Elton John’s encouragement to go and take a stand was primarily directed towards celebrities and western artists.

    It seems that there are two acceptable ethical options; boycott Russia or take a stand there.
    It seems unethical to go there and not take a stand (status-quo), or to participate in its Anti-Gay-Games sponsors.

    It isn’t within my means to go there, and I certainly don’t have a public platform to speak out, but I probably will buy a Principle 6 t-shirt and hoodie. No more coca-cola, panasonic, samsung, etc until if and when they do something.

  8. xyz says


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