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1359Bulletin 7:15 (2013)

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  • Andreas Umland
    Aug 11, 2013
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      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 15(203), 11 August 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 30 June 2013

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear. When quoting from an article found here, please, mention the RNB, as the source. Thank you!]

      I NEWS: 16 - 30 June 2013

      Human rights center of World Russian People's Council asks to recognize Judas and Jesus cartoon as extremist
      Interfax-Religion, June 17, 2013

      Moscow, June 17, Interfax - Head of the human rights center of the World Russian People's Council, Roman Silantyev, said he had called for the Russian law enforcement authorities to recognize Judas and Jesus cartoons as extremist and to delete it from the Internet.
      "The Synod department on relations of the Church and society and the human rights center of the World Russian People's Council have received appeals from citizens protesting against the appearance of a Western blasphemous cartoon called Judas and Jesus in the Internet," Silantyev told Interfax-Religion on Monday.
      Silantyev said he went to the police urging them to delete the cartoon from the Internet.
      "Fortunately, the precedent of recognizing foreign content as extremist has already taken place in Russia - it refers to Innocence of Muslims movie," Silantyev said.
      Judas and Jesus cartoon is made "on a similar artistic level", however it is insulting "to a much bigger degree," Silantyev said.
      The World Russian People's Council is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1993. The Council has become an all-Russian platform of public thinking. Representatives of all sectors of authority, security bodies, the highest clergy of Russian traditional religions, teachers and students, scientists and artists participate in the World Russian People's Council meetings. The Council is headed by Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. In 2005 the World Russian People's Council was given a special consultative status within the UN.


      Nationalists join, stage Russia Day celebrations in Moscow
      June 17, 2013

      On June 12, the day Russia commemorates its declaration of national sovereignty in 1990, a general opposition rally in Moscow took place in the form of a march leaving from Kaluga Square, heading down Bolshaya Yakimanka Street and ending at Bolotnaya Square. Nationalist activists were in attendance.
      Before the march began, Sova observers noticed about 15 people (some of them wearing Slavic Force shirts) with two banners: "Freedom for Georgy Borvikov" and "Udomlya is in trouble," referring to a town in the Tver region. Nikolai Bondarik of the Russian Party (not to be confused with the 'Russians' association) gave a presentation to those gathered who could hear him. This group left before the procession began, and one person in the group was arrested for lighting a flare.
      The following nationalist organizations attended the march: RONA (the Russian Joint National Alliance), with the banner reading "no retreat - the fight goes on," with about 15 people; the 'referendum initiative group' For Responsible Power (formerly Army of the Peoples' Will) with about 10 people; and the NDP (National Democratic Party) with about 50 people. NDP activists carried a banner reading "Russians against dictatorship." NDP leader Konstantin Krylov and 'Russians' association leader Aleksandr Belov joined the march. Some people were seen carrying the imperial tricolor.
      At the exit from Bolotnaya, about 15 people stood holding up imperial flags and raising money for "political prisoners," handing out calendars featuring the symbols of the Association of White Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War along with leaflets about joining the 'Russians' association.
      Additionally, in the south-east Moscow district of Lublino, another nationalist march 'For Legitimate Authority and Genuine Sovereignty' was held on on Pererva Street. The event, organized by Andrei Savelyev's Great Russia Party, was attended by (according to various estimates) between 100 and 300 people. Participants in the Lublino march lined up in columns, shouted nationalist slogans and marched to a drumbeat. As was expected, the most numerous faction in attendance was Great Russia, whose male and female activists wore black clothing decorated with Third Reich symbols and marched under the imperial tricolor. The procession's leaders periodically stopped to restore order.
      Next were members of the Will party and some other organizations.
      Participants carried banners reading "Down with criminal power," "The country is crashing into collapse - your fate is in your hands" (which rhymes in Russian), "Kosovo and Metohija are Serbia - Rus and Serbia are united," along with others previously seen at the Oktyabrskaya Metro stop, reading "Freedom for Georgy Borvikov," and well as "Udomlya is in trouble." Another read "National Socialism - to each his own."
      The demonstration lasted for about an hour and was accompanied by police, who demanded that Cossacks in attendance hand over their whips and Black Hundreds leaflets. No one was detained at the event.


      U.S. tops Russian 'most hostile' countries - poll
      Interfax, June 18, 2013

      The United States has overtaken Georgia as the state Russians consider the most hostile to their country even though positive overall perceptions of the US continue to outweigh the negative, according to a new opinion poll reported by the Russian news agency Interfax. Asked to list the top five countries they regard as being "most unfriendly and hostile" to Russia in an annual survey on international relations by the respected Levada Centre, 38 per cent per cent of respondents gave the US as their first choice - a slight rise from 35 per cent in the last poll in 2012. Georgia came second on 33 per cent of respondents in 2013, down from 41 per cent last year according to the poll, which was published on 18 June. The survey was carried out on 23-27 May among 1,601 people of voting age and with a margin of error of 3.4 per cent, according to the Levada Centre. The possible shift in perceptions comes as relations between the Russian and Georgian governments continue their gradual improvement since the election of the new Georgian Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, in October 2012. Since taking office Ivanishvili has sought to mend ties strained by the conflict between the countries over the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia in 2008. As in 2012, the Baltic states - Latvia (on 21 per cent), Lithuania (17 per cent) and Estonia (16 per cent) - occupied the next three places in respondents' "most hostile" list. Asked about their "attitude on the whole" towards the United States, 51 per cent of Russians said they had either "generally good" or "very good" views, compared to 38 per cent who answered "generally bad" or "very bad". Overall views of the European Union also continued to positive on the whole despite a slight fall in the number of those responding "generally good" from 60 per cent in 2013 to 55 per cent this year. As in last year's survey, Belarus again came top of the list of countries Russians consider to be the Russia's "closest allies and friends", being named by 46 per cent of respondents, up from 34 per cent. It was followed by Kazakhstan (31 per cent), China (20 per cent), Ukraine (16 per cent)and Germany (14 per cent).


      Russian Gay Rights Activists in U.S. Call for Sochi Boycott
      The Moscow News, 18 June 2013

      Gay rights activists from Russia and the former Soviet republics living in the U.S. are trying to convince athletes and spectators not to go to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The group is calling for a boycott of the games, saying the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is not safe in Russia - and they hope even those who are not gay will support the ban. "LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of the issue. If they feel strongly about human rights, they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi," said Nina Long, co-president of the Russian-speaking RUSA LGBT organization based in New York. "We really want the LGBT community to know it's unsafe to travel there," she said in an interview with RIA-Novosti. A statement from the International Olympic Committee did little to ease her concerns, Long said. The committee told RIA-Novosti in a statement that the IOC had a long commitment to non-discrimination against Olympic athletes, adding that "athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the games." "They have to put up the statement like that, otherwise it's an international scandal, but it's a lie … it's just to make it hush-hush and nice on some international level," Long said. RUSA LGBT has several hundred gay members from Russia and surrounding countries of the former Soviet Union who live now in the New York area, Long said. The group is planning to march and hand out flyers with information about the Olympic boycott in New York's upcoming annual Gay-Pride Parade, scheduled for June 30, which will feature a Russian float for the first time. Long and others say the issue of gay rights in Russia and CIS countries is more urgent now than ever before, with a growing conservative movement across the region that has led to new anti-gay laws and a growing homophobic environment. Laws that forbid the spreading of propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations to minors started in local communities but grew to larger cities like St. Petersburg in 2012, and passed Russia's lower house just last week.


      Putin's Fantasies About Georgian Terrorists
      By Yulia Latynina
      The Moscow Times, 18 June 2013

      During an interview on RT television last week, President Vladimir Putin made a truly sensational statement by revealing the real reason for the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008. Apparently, Russia delivered a preventative strike to liquidate international terrorists who were sent by Georgian forces to penetrate Russian territory. Putin said the terrorists advanced to positions 30 kilometers south of Sochi before they were eliminated. "About six or seven years ago when we had to attack Georgian territories, those were not just strikes on Georgia. We targeted militant groups that came very close to Sochi. … Georgian police vehicles were transporting the militants to the Russian border. So we had to take some pre-emptive measures. And I informed the president [Dmitry Medvedev] about this," Putin said. First of all, Putin's timeline is all wrong. Russia's war with Georgia was five years ago, not six or seven. There were no other military conflicts between the two countries during Medvedev's presidency except the five-day war in 2008. This is not the first time that Putin has a made a surprising statement intended to show how well-informed Russia's intelligence agencies are. Instead, however, everyone was left wondering, "What are those people smoking?" On June 21, 2004, when U.S.-Russian relations were good, Putin decided to present a gift to his friend, U.S. President George W. Bush, and told him during their summit in Astana that Russian intelligence agencies had warned the U.S. that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was "preparing a terrorist attack on U.S. territory." Bush purportedly personally thanked the Russian agents for the information. But the U.S. State Department said it had not received such information from Moscow and that Bush had not thanked Russian intelligence agencies. By 2011, when U.S.-Russian relations had already soured, Putin told viewers of his annual call-in show another mind-boggling story meant to show the amazing reach of Russian intelligence: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was not killed by rebels but by U.S. agents as part of a special operation. But Putin's revelation about the Russia-¬Georgia war tops them all. The question is why Moscow did not complain to the United Nations that Georgian forces were transporting international terrorists to Russia's borders near Sochi. Why did Russia maintain such stoic silence for the last five years, a silence that apparently would have continued had Putin not unexpectedly lifted the veil of secrecy to the reporters from RT? At the start of the Russia-Georgia war on Aug. 8, 2008, Georgian aircraft bombed Russian tanks as they neared the South Ossetian city of Dzhava. But Dzhava is not 30 kilometers from Sochi; it is 900 kilometers away. A distance of 30 kilometers from Sochi is essentially on Russia's border. Putin's remarks creates a completely absurd picture. According to Putin, Georgian forces transported international terrorists 200 kilometers across Russian-controlled Abkhazia to Russia's southern border near Sochi. Rather than block that caravan and exposing those terrorists to the world, for some reason Russia sent tanks to Dzhava in South Ossetia, a full 900 kilometers away. And Putin recalls this whole scenario for the first time only five years after it all supposedly happened. George Orwell himself could not have come up with a better piece of dystopian fiction.


      Ban on adoption of Russian children by gays is Russia's sovereign choice - Russian Orthodox Church
      Interfax-Religion, June 19, 2013

      Moscow, June 19, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate has called for a ban on the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and gay propaganda among minors.
      "The decision to protect Russian children from such experiments is a sovereign choice of our state and society, which have a right to make it without dictation from anyone," Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Synodal Information Department, was quoted as saying by his press service on Wednesday.
      Legoyda believes the comprehensive changes in the Russian legislation aimed at protecting children's rights "are a result of a vital need."
      "The crisis of family values, which has largely affected our country, requires urgent decisions aimed not only at improving the legislation, but also at changing people's attitude to family, children, and parental duties," he said.
      In some countries, changes occurred not only in legislations, but also in people's minds in the past few years, 'which essentially destroyed family in the sense in which it was a pillar of the European civilization," Legoyda said.
      "The recent recognition by some countries of same-sex unions as equal to families, which envisions the right to adoption, is the final accord of the lengthy process of giving up the concepts of chastity, abstention, and fidelity," he said.
      Societies are conducting "a horrible experiment" on children," Legoyda said. "Both believers and all sensible people oppose such things because such adoptions may give children mental problems which have not been studied yet," Legoyda said.


      Pussy Riot ask Britons to flood Russia with letters of supportTwo members of punk collective on world tour to raise awareness for plight of colleagues jailed in remote prison camps
      By Alexandra Topping
      The Guardian, 22 June 2013

      Members of the anti-Kremlin punk collective Pussy Riot have called on people to flood Russia with letters of support for two of its members jailed in remote prison camps by the Putin regime.
      Two Pussy Riot members - who cannot be identified for security reasons - have visited Britain on a world tour to raise awareness for the plight of their colleagues, meeting British MPs and visiting parliament.
      "The conditions in Russia are very inspiring to activism," wryly noted one member calling herself Schumacher. "We are here to tell people what is happening in Russia; what happened and what continues to happen […] these laws are connected to Pussy Riot because they are aimed at the issues we stand for: LGBT rights and gender equality."
      The group is particularly concerned about a raft of new legislation from the Kremlin. NGOs which receive funding from abroad have been forced to label themselves as "foreign agents" and earlier this year were subject to a series of raids. This month the Russian parliament unanimously passed a federal law banning gay "propaganda", a crackdown critics argue has led to a sharp increase in anti-gay violence, while also approving a new law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for "offending religious feelings".
      Two members of Pussy Riot are serving sentences in separate camps after performing an anti-Putin "punk anthem" in a Moscow cathedral in February. Maria Alyokhina, 24, is serving the remainder of her two-year term at a women's prison camp in Perm, an area in Siberia known for the harsh conditions of its camps. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, is in Mordovia, a region that also hosts a high number of prisons. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released earlier this month after being given a suspended sentence.
      A group member known as Serafima urged supporters to continue to write to the women, even though it is thought that they are not yet receiving letters written in English. "It is their legal right to receive letters, so activists should continue writing," she said, adding that letters translated by automatic software may stand more chance of getting to the prisoners more quickly. On a tour which has so far encompassed Washington DC and New York, the pair had been overwhelmed by messages of support, they said.
      "We are beginning to understand that it is not just a group - it is becoming a movement; we are inspiring people around the world and they are inspiring us. Everyone can become Pussy Riot if they share the same ideas," said Schumacher.
      Pussy Riot had gained popular support in Russia after hosting a protest in Red Square, but many of their countrymen found the protest in a Moscow cathedral a step too far. "We were aware and prepared for how it would be seen," said Seraphima. "But there can be no compromise - it is our way of following the things we believe in."
      Schumacher added: "We love our country, its history, its culture but we want to help improve it and make life better there than it is now."


      Russian Church slams rights group's alleged pro-Western ideas
      Interfax-Religion, June 24, 2013

      St. Petersburg, June 24, Interfax - The public relations chief of the Russian Orthodox Church has accused Russia's For Human Rights group of blindly espousing Western values and slammed it for ignoring "the right of the people of Russia to have an independent vector for their life."
      "Many here insist that the law must be obeyed and that everyone must obey it," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, told a news conference. "No one, human rights organizations that think they can lecture others or anyone else, must be immune from the law."
      He made his point in comments on Saturday's eviction of For Human Rights from its headquarters in Moscow. The group was forcibly thrown out of its office in a predawn raid by police and city officials because of the alleged expiration in February of a lease agreement.
      "I have been arguing with this organization a lot and for a long time," Father Vsevolod said. "And I have known Mr. [Lev] Ponomaryov [head of For Human Rights] for a long time as well. I usually meet with him at receptions at the American Embassy, and I've been meeting with him in court as well."
      "In the Soviet period this movement often stated correct things, but it didn't defend the right of the people of Russia to have an independent vector for their life then, any more than it does now," the priest said.
      He accused For Human Rights of blindly sticking to Western values and ideals.
      "We have a complete right to organize life in our society without trying to copy the West or the East. There are those who say that we have no such right, that we must copy one civilization only, the Western one, but in my opinion, that civilization is receding into the background not as a winner but as a loser in the historical dispute. It is not just the rights of the individual that are important - the right of a nation to independently choose its historical path is no less important," the priest said.


      Leader of "Russian Obraz" Arrested in Serbia
      SOVA, June 25, 2013

      On May 9, 2013, the Mass Media reported that counterintelligence BIA arrested one of the establishers of "Russian Obraz" Ilya Goryachev (born in Moscow on May 30, 1982) in Belgrad. The reason of the arrest is unknown.
      The coordinator of the legal organization "Conservative human rights group" Evgeny Valyaev reported that Goryachev was arrested under the pretext of breaking the visa regime in Belgrad airport where he was meeting his friends. He was able to call his parents.
      Readers will recall the nationalist had testified in court regarding the case of murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova against the co-establisher of "Russian Obraz" Nikita Tikhonov. Later, Goryachev left Russia and made an announcement that he had slandered the "comrade" under the investigators' pressure and repudiated his testimony.
      ICR reported that in the course of the investigation concerning Goryachev, he was accused in accordance with Part 1 of Article 282.1, Part 1 of Article 209, paragraphs "a", "g", "h", "k" of Part 2 of Article 105, and Part 3 of Article 222 СС (participation in an extremist organization, organization of a gang, murder, illegal weapon trade)
      On May 13, 2013, it became known that the head of the BIA press-service Jovan Stojić announced that Serbian intelligence agencies do not have any information regarding the arrest of Goryachev. He noted that the nationalist could have been arrested only by the Serbian MHA's officials.
      On June 12, it became known that a court in Belgrad ruled to extradite Goryachev to Russia. His lawyers lodged a complaint about this decision.
      According to the ICR press-release, the case was brought "in regards to the organizers and participants of the extremist organization "BORN" (Goryachev and Mikhail Volkov, who was arrested in Ukraine) on charges of gangsterism, illegal trade of weapons, ammunition, and explosive devices, the murder of the Moscow City Court judge Edward Chivashov, lawyer Stanislav Markelov, leaders of so-called anti-fascist movements Fedor Filatov, Ilya Dzhaparidze, and Ivan Khutorsky, Muay Thai world champion Muslim Abdullaev, residents Salakhedin Azizov, Rasul Khalilov, Soso Hachikyan, attempted murder of Ramazan Nurichuev and member of law enforcment agency Gagik Benyaminyan".
      Ilya Goryachev established "Russian Obraz" in 2002. The mass media would report that the organization "was suspected of ties with the Kremlin in the context of so-called project of "managed nationalism". The concept of the organization was taken after the Serbian movement "Obraz", which was established by the monarchist Nebojša Krstić. In 2010, at the first all-Russian convention of "Russian Obraz" Goryachev resigned from his position as head of the movement.


      Wahhabism expansion in Russia leads to growth of Islamophobia
      Interfax-Religion, June 25, 2013

      Pyatigorsk - The fear of Islam amid the expansion of Wahhabism is typical in some parts of Russian society, representative of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee Nikolay Sintsov said.
      "The expansion of Wahhabism with its preaching of religious intolerance, jihad and religion-motivated terrorism - all this has led to the growth of Islamophobia and xenophobia aimed against people who practice Islam," Sintsov said on Tuesday at a conference in Pyatigorsk.
      "Namely the fear of Muslims, the fear of Islam has become typical of some parts of Russian society and this leads to corresponding consequences, opposition included," Sintsov said.
      That is why Russian Muslims should be oriented in Russian religious centers such as Kazan, Ufa and Grozny, Sintsov said. "The experience shows that foreign religious influence does not offer anything good for Muslims in Russia," he said.


      Russian upper house passes bill to punish offense to religious feelings (updated)
      Interfax-Religion, June 26, 2013

      Moscow - "Causing offense to the feelings of religious believers" would carry a punishment up to three years in prison under a draft law passed by Russia's Federation Council on Wednesday.
      "Public acts that manifest patent disrespect for society and are committed with the aim of offense to the religious feelings of believers" would be punishable with fines of a maximum of 300,000 rubles or the offender's salary for a maximum period of two years, compulsory labor for up to one year, or a maximum prison term of one year if such acts are committed outside places of worship or other religious sites.
      If they are committed on religious sites, penalties would be higher under the planned law, which needs presidential endorsement and is expected to come into force on July 1.
      Maximum fines would go up to 500,000 rubles or an equivalent of the offender's salary for up to three years, the maximum period of forced labor would be three years, so would be the maximum prison term, and there may also be post-imprisonment restrictions on one's freedom for up to one year.
      All these would be mandated by draft amendments to Article 148 of the Criminal Code, "obstruction of the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship."
      Another part of the bill deals with "deliberate public acts of vandalism" against religious literature, "items of religious veneration" or religious symbols, deliberate damage to them or their deliberate destruction.
      Such acts would carry fines of 30,000 to 50,000 rubles or compulsory labor for a period of up 120 hours for ordinary people and fines of between 100,000 and 200,000 rubles for officials.
      The planned law would also raise the maximum fine for the obstruction of religious activities as allowed by Article 148 to 300,000 from 80,000 rubles.
      Those who use their official position for committing such an offense would be fined a maximum of 200,000 rubles or an equivalent of their salary for a maximum of one year, or would face "corrective labor" for up to two years or a maximum prison term of one year.


      Interfax: Assange, Manning, Snowden are new dissidents - Pushkov
      InterfaxJune 26, 2013

      Alexei Pushkov, the head of the State Duma committee on international affairs, considers former CIA official Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the U.S. authorities, a dissident.
      "Assange, Manning and Snowden were not spies and released secret information because of their convictions, not for money. They are new dissidents, fighters against the system," Pushkov said on Twitter on Wednesday.
      Julian Assange, the founder WikiLeaks, has been hiding on the territory of the embassy of Ecuador in London for over a year. U.S. Private Bradley Manning was arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of having provided to WikiLeaks a scandalous video of an attack on Reuters journalists from a helicopter, which occurred near Bagdad in 2007
      Snowden, who provided to the press information on secret surveillance programs of the U.S. special services, earlier asked for political asylum in Ecuador.
      Snowden left the U.S. for Hong Kong in May and arrived in Moscow last Sunday.
      Russian President Vladimir Putin says Snowden remains in the transit zone of the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport.
      The U.S. demands that Russia extradite Snowden. The Russian authorities allege that he has not crossed the Russian border and therefore is not on the territory of Russia.


      Putin: sexual minorities are not discriminated against in Russia in anyway
      Interfax-Religion, June 26, 2013

      Turku - President Vladimir Putin has asked representatives of foreign countries not to interfere in the way Russia deals with the issue of propaganda of homosexuality among minors.
      "It is not a question of introducing some sanctions against gays, it is a question of protecting children from relevant information," Putin said at a press conference following his talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
      Some countries, Finland, for instance, don't think children should be protected from such information, he added.
      "Don't protect them. We don't intend to interfere in your affairs. But we will protect because State Duma deputies have decided so. And we ask you not to interfere in our regulations," Putin said.
      He stressed that the rights of sexual minorities in Russia are not restricted in any way.
      "They are full-fledged members of our society and are not discriminated in any sphere," Putin said.


      Moscow City Court refuses to quash sentence for Pussy Riot member
      Interfax Religion, June 27, 2013

      Moscow - The Moscow City Court has refused to stop the criminal case against Yekaterina Samutsevich, a member of the Pussy Riot punk group, who received a suspended sentence for the scandal-making performance in the Church of Christ the Savior.
      "To decline the oversight protest of Samutsevich against the sentence and cassation judgment," the text of the ruling of judge Yelena Rotanova says, a copy of which was obtained by Interfax.
      The ruling says that the court sees no reasons for commuting or quashing the sentence. "The punishment for Samutsevich was chosen in compliance with the provisions of the law considering the nature and degree of public danger of her offense, all of the information about her personality and extenuating circumstances were taken into consideration and the punishment was not overly severe, therefore the court does not consider it worthy of commutation," judge Rotanova ruled.
      "Considering that the actions of Samutsevich were less dangerous to the public compared to the actions of her accomplices, the judicial board, considering the case by way of cassation, changed her sentence to that of a suspended one," the ruling says.
      Five Pussy Riot singers wearing masks staged a "punk prayer" at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012. The action caused a public outcry. Three band members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina - were detained on hooliganism charges. In August the court sentenced the three singers to two years in a medium security penitentiary.
      In October the Moscow City Court upheld the sentence on Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina and ordered a suspended sentence for Samutsevich. The defense filed supervisory appeals, but the court declined them.


      Snowden's presence in Russia provoked by somebody - Russia's Human Rights ombudsman
      Interfax, June 28, 2013

      Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin does not think Russia should grant political refuge to CIS intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, and he sees his emergence at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport as not accidental.
      "Should we grant him political refuge? I can't answer this question by saying 'Yes' or 'No.' I have doubts," Lukin told Interfax on Friday.
      "I don't think Snowden is a proper figure to be supported or pitied for the only reason that Americans don't like him," he said. "Is it in our interests - national and human - to keep Snowden in our territory? I am not sure. He did not commit crimes against Russia. But refuge is not granted to all people who have not committed crimes against Russia."
      Snowden's emergence at Sheremetyevo Airport was largely provoked, he also said.
      "This man was in Hong Kong. Why did he fly to Russia? In fact, a Chinese problem has become ours. Someone has created a situation where we are compelled to deal with this problem. We could have done very well without this situation, but we are dealing with it. I see a serious problem here," Lukin said.


      Putin signs law introducing fines for homosexual propaganda among minors
      Interfax, June 30, 2013

      President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill "On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development," according to a posting on the legal information portal. From now on, fines will be imposed on persons "popularizing non-traditional sexual relations among minors by disseminating information encouraging minors to adopt nontraditional sexual behavior, distorting the concept of social equality of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or forcing information on nontraditional sexual relations on minors, or inciting interest in them." If such actions do not carry criminal liability, the private individual at fault will be fined 4,000 ($122) to 5,000 rubles ($153), official 40,000 - 50,000 rubles ($1,220 - $1,530) and legal entity between 800,000 ($24,450) and 1 million rubles ($30,570), or the offender's operations will be suspended for 90 days. If such actions have been undertaken with the use of mass media or information or telecommunications networks, including the Internet, a private individual will be fined between 50,000 ($1,530) and 100,000 rubles ($3,057), official between 100,000 ($3,057) and 200,000 rubles ($6,114) and legal entities up to 1 million rubles, or the offender's operations will be suspended for up to 90 days. If the same actions have been carried out by a foreign national or a person without citizenship the fine will amount to between 4,000 ($1,530) and 5,000 rubles ($153) and the offender will be ousted form Russia, or he will be arrested for up to 15 days and subsequently ousted from Russia. If such an offence is committed by a foreign national with the use of mass media or the Internet, the offender will be fined 50,000 ($1,530) to 100,000 rubles ($3,057) and ousted from Russia, or his will be arrested for 15 days and ousted. The law will take effect the day it is officially published.



      Russian Nationalists Obsessed with Islamic Extremism are the Real 'Fifth Column,' Tishkov Says
      By Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, June 16, 2013

      Russian nationalists obsessed with the supposed spread of Islamist extremism across the Russian Federation represent a real "fifth column," whose works can best be described as "provocations" that threaten to provoke what their authors say they most fear, the disintegration of the country, according to Academician Valery Tishkov. To prevent that from happening, the director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says, genuine scholars need to speak out about the distortions and other shortcomings of these works lest many come to accept them as true and act accordingly, driving ever more Muslims into the arms of the radicals (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/225549/). Tishkov's remarks, to a June 5 roundtable organized jointly by the Central Museum of Contemporary History and the Historical-Philological Section of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were published only on June 14. They were in response to the appearance in mid-May of a 54-page report by the Moscow Institute of National Strategy. That study, entitled "A Map of Ethno-Religious Threats: The North Caucasus and the Middle Volga," purported to show that radical Islamist ideas had spread from the North Caucasus to the Muslims of the Middle Volga in the first instance and were now found in almost all parts of the Russian Federation. (See apn.ru/userdata/files/ethno/Ethnodoc-new-full-sm.pdf). Not surprisingly, this report sparked concern among many Russians in various parts of the country and equally sharp rejoinders from the leaders of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and other Muslim republics who said that the report's claims were not true and that, unchallenged, they risked exacerbating inter-religious and inter-ethnic hostility. In his remarks, which appear to be a response to such concerns, the Russian scholar said that the report of the Institute of National Strategy was "a provocation" and that he would like to know "the strategy of which nation is that institute devising" because in his view, it is clearly not that of the Russian nation, however defined. "There exists 'a fifth column,' which presents itself as consisting of patriot and which does everything it can to denigrate the representatives of the national borderlands," Tishkov continued. "This is a serious problem for the country because such people and such reports can promote the process of disintegration." Other participants at the roundtable and an increasing number of Russian scholars have picked up that theme. Speaking at the roundtable, one scholar pointed out that "there is an enormous quantity of pseudo-scientific works on the history of the Caucasus" and urged the establishment of "a commission on the history" of that region to assess them. And last week, Elena Suponina, the head of the Center for Asia and the Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Research, said on Moscow TV Center that the report Tishkov had criticized "has more in common with propaganda and provocations than with expertise" on its supposed subject (islamnews.ru/news-140194.html). "The threat of terrorism and separatism exists not only in the Russian Federation but is intensifying throughout the world," Suponina said. "But these problems are so sensitive, above all when they involve religion that the slightest step to the side and you land in a minefield where an explosion is possible. And this is very dangerous." Those who prepared the May report, she suggested, "dealt with these problems like an elephant in a china shop" significantly oversimplifying the situation and thus making false conclusions. "To say," as the authors do, "that Wahhabism appeared only in order to dismember the Ottoman Empire is from the historical point of view completely incorrect." And to treat "horses and people and Wahhabis and Salafites and Muslim Brothers and Jihadists" as if they are all the same is yet another mistake," on that might be "forgivable" in the case of an ordinary observer, but "for an expert, such a simplification has more in common with propaganda and provocations" and is thus "impermissible." Moreover, Suponina said, "the authors call some of their ideological opponents recruits of some foreign special services and agents of influence. Good gentlemen, we do not want to be returned to 1937. And do not forget that this can boomerang against you. Today, they are agents of influence and tomorrow you are a Trotskyite or Bukharinist, and perhaps then you too will have to be sent to Kolyma?" The May report even contains passages, she noted, "where the Wahhabis are called the comrades in arms and virtually the same as those who took part in the Bolotnaya Square" protests. "I do not belong to one or the other, but from such comparisons, nothing good will come." "When suggesting that the Russian Federation is an empire and then offering the example of all previous empires which without exception in the report have collapsed," she concludes, "the impression is created that the authors have no doubts that we are entering the final stage of this collapse and that Russia is falling apart before our eyes. They themselves have no doubt about this! But those who come out to protest corruption, they also are Wahhabis."

      Three Re-Interpretations of the Soviet Past and Russia's Future
      By Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, June 18, 2013

      Three new re-interpretations of the Soviet past -one that argues Stalin's greatest mistake was annexing Western Ukraine, a second that asserts the communist struggle against religion led to the collapse of the USSR, and a third that claims the GULAG helped Moscow win World War II - could have serious implications for Russia's future. At the very least, these new approaches to some of the most sensitive issues in 20th century Russian history underscore how difficult Moscow will find it to come up with a single history textbook for Russian schools and how dangerous it may be for the Russian authorities to re-open some of these old wounds. First, concerning the annexation of Western Ukraine: "All of the present-day events which are taking place in Ukraine are the logical result of the results of the well-known Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" under the terms of which Moscow annexed Western Ukraine "or as it was called earlier, Galicia," Andrey Lebedev writesin the latest issue of "Voyennoye obozreniye" (topwar.ru/29505-prisoedinenie-zapadnoy-ukrainy-k-sssr-kak-neobhodimost-ili-oshibka-stalinskogo-perioda.html). It is clear, he continues, that because events at that time were developing at such a rapid pace, "the Soviet leadership apparently simply was not able to correctly calculate all the negative consequenes with the unification of Western Ukraine to the USSR," but now the Moscow military analyst says, those consequences are increasingly obvious. Whatever the Soviet and Russian governments say, Lebedev argues, "Galicia before [1939] had never been Russian, and despite the passage of more than 73 years, it has not become genuinely Ukrainian either." That is because its residents for centuries lived in other empires and states" and thus had different experiences and expectations. By annexing, the Soviet leadership unintentionally and "with its own hands" brought within the borders of the USSR "'a Trojan horse'" which contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and lies behind anti-Russian developments in Ukraine over the last two decades. That does not mean that Stalin had an easy choice. Galicia had been a hot bed of anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalism before that time, Lebedev says, and the Soviet leader clearly preferred to try to transform it before a war with Germany would break out. But he lacked the time to overcome the legacy of Western Ukraine which would continue to be a problem. "It was thus impossible not to annex these territories at that time," the "Voyennoe obozreniye" writer says, but at the same time, joining this center of Western Ukrainian nationalism toSoviet Union was extremely unprofitable and dangerous as is confirmed by the entire post-war history of Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine." Second, concerning the impact of Soviet anti-religious policies: In yesterday's "Vzglyad," Aleksandr Razuvayev argues religion helped make the Russian Empire great, the fight against faith in Soviet times led to the destruction of the USSR, and the revival of both Orthodoxy and Islam can make Russia great again (vz.ru/columns/2013/6/17/637561.html). His argument is not only intriguing on its face but carries with it some potentially far-reaching consequences. "After 70 years of godlessness and the troubles of the 1990s," the business analyst writes, "Russia is slowly but surely returning to its historical values, among which Orthodoxy and Islam are playing a key role." In tsarist Russia, he notes, "the church was not separate from the state and this fact undoubtedly helped Russia survey many tests, although it did not save it from the catastrophe of 1917." And today, Orthodoxy and Islam are helping Russia once again and should not be separate from the state because they promote Russia's national interests. Many liberals believe, he continues, that the separation of church and state is necessary in order to have "a successful competitive economy." But in fact religious values help promote entrepreneurialism and hard work, and the destruction of these values undermine those positive trends, as Europe is demonstrating today. "From the point of view of a believer, turning away from God automatically leads any nation or person to self-destruction and death," he writes. And it was "precisely the turning away from God that in the final analysis destroyed the Soviet Union" by undermining the work ethic of the population of that country. The communists have advanced another "'red' myth" about religion, Razuvayev says. They argue that "a real believer must be poor and unhappy" and that in turn means that "a successful individual in the best case is a great sinner, and in the worst is a servant of Satan himself." But the facts are just the reverse, he argues. Religion encourages believers to be "strong and successful people." And in an update of Weber's writings about Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism, Razuvayev says that "in classical capitalism, poverty is almost always a synonym for laziness. And laziness is a sin because to be poor is simply shameful." Today, he concludes, "Russia is one of the most promising markets in the world," a reflection of the ways in which religion, Orthodoxy and Islam, are reducing to an absolute minimum something that plagued Soviet times, too many lazy people, by encouraging Russians to work hard. And third, concerning the contribution of the GULAG to Soviet victory: Russian and Western scholars have either ignore the role of the Soviet prison camp system during World War II or suggested that the USSR won despite rather than because of it, Yury Tarasov writes in "Voyennoye obozreniye." But in fact, the military analyst says, the GULAG played a large, even critical role in supporting the Soviet military effort, providing a disproportionate share of the country's extraction of needed raw materials and of military-related war production (topwar.ru/29590-gulag-i-nasha-pobeda.html#comment-id-1255504). On the basis of various scholarly works, Lebedev says that during the war there were approximately three million Soviet citizens in the GULAG or in special settlements and they produced more than 12.5 percent of the USSR's industrial output. Moreover, they played a key role in the extraction of absolutely essential natural resources in Siberia and the Far North. And while he acknowledges that "the productivity of the labor of the prisoners was not great," he argues that those who argue that the GULAG was not a major contributor to the war effort are simply wrong. The Soviet leadership at the time recognized its value, and Russians today, he suggests, ought to do the same.


      Russians' Lack of Trust Explains Their Xenophobia and Support for Top Leaders, Moscow Sociologist Says
      By Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, June 19, 2013

      Strikingly low levels of inter-personal trust among Russians, the result of the experiences of Soviet times, explain both their xenophobic reactions to immigrants and their high rates of support for Russian leaders because "distrust in institutions is transformed into trust in the president and prime minister," according to a leading Moscow sociologist. This is just one of the insights provided by Vladimir Mukomel, the head of the migration studies section of the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, during the course of an interview published this week by "Konkurent," the business supplement to "Vostochno-Siberskaya Pravda" (vsp.ru/social/2013/06/17/533332). Russian society, the scholar points out, was "not ready" for the influx of immigrants. On the one hand, it lacked "a tradition of immigration" and thus did not have its own precedents for coping. And on the other, it displayed an extraordinarily low level of inter-personal trust" and thus has viewed immigrants as "a threat to social, political and economic stability." Mukomel says that Russians need to recognize both how much they need immigrants for various jobs and how rapidly the face of immigrants is changing. A decade ago, Central Asians formed only six percent of legal immigrants in the Russian Federation; now, they form more than 70 percent of the total. Most Central Asian gastarbeiters are from Uzbekistan, the Moscow sociologist says, with smaller groups from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The influx from those two countries has "stabilized" because their population resources are "exhausted." Uzbekistan with its 30 million people will be main source in the future. Another way in which the face of the immigrant population as changed is its shift from seasonal flows in which workers come in the spring and go home in the fall to one in which almost 40 percent of the total now remain in Russia all year, returning home for visits only occasionally. And yet a third change, Mukomel continues, is that women make up an increasing part of the flow. A decade ago, most gastarbeiters were working-age males. Now women are coming as well. Most immigrants from Ukraine and Moldova already are female, but this trend is "increasing among people from Central Asia, in the first instance, from Kyrgyzstan." Precise information about these trends is difficult to obtain, the sociologist notes. "With the collapse of the USSR, the statistics system collapsed as well." There are problems with records at border crossings. And the movement of people generally reflects personal choices about economic betterment rather than orders from the authorities. "Unfortunately," he says, "the Soviet approach," which was based on the Leninist idea that those in power could control everything, "continues to dominate the mentality of those who make decisions. This is a serious problem." But it is possible to collect information about them through surveys. "Migrants are quite open," although on sensitive issues, they may choose not to answer. The big problem is finding funding to do this kind of research as most officials are having to deal with declining budgets and see money for sociological studies as an expense they can do without. Russia needs this expertise because it needs migrants, the sociologist says. They help make up for the increasing demographic decline of the Russians as a nation and the growing interest among Russians in pursuing higher education and the white collar jobs that such training leads to. In addition to immigration, Russia also faces the challenge of dealing with largely uncontrolled flows of people within the country, largely east to west and north to south andto the major cities like Moscow. But in the future, the size of this form of migration is going to be relatively small because there are so few people who have not already left. The only exception is the North Caucasus where populations continue to grow. Asked about quotas, Mukomel responded that "quotas do not regulate anything." At best, they "fix only the relationship between legal and illegal migrants. The lower the quotas,the more migrants will work without having the legal basis to do so. The higher the quotas, the fewer of these there will be." Related to this is "the paradox" that "quotas are set by the federal authorities" who often do not know the needs of businesses in the regions as the recent crisis showed. Moscow insisted that the regions reduce their quotas and said that if they didn't, their subsidies would be cut. "A very market-like approach," Mukomel said. The Moscow sociologist was also dismissive of many myths held by Russians about migrants. Many Russians believe immigrants are a burden on the country's infrastructure. Many believe that they take jobs from Russians. And many think they are source of illness and crime. But none of these is true. As far as promoting the integration of immigrants is concerned, Mukomel argued that Moscow has adopted a one-size-fits-all approach instead of recognizing that many migrants only want to make money and leave while others in fact do want to become citizens and remain in the Russian Federation. "The main challenge for Russia is a flood of people with different social experiences, culture and tradition," and that challenge is going to increase because the differences between Russia and the non-Russian countries of origin of the immigrants is "increasing" as "the process of nation building" goes on in both.


      Russia's 'family values' experiment Laws restricting abortion, divorce and gay rights mask Russia's real problems
      By Patricia Herlihy
      LA Times, June 19, 2013

      The Kremlin has just issued a 12-year plan to address Russia's demographic crisis - that is, its high mortality rate and low birthrate. Buoyed apparently by a recent rise in the birthrate - 1.9 million Russian children were born in 2012, compared with 1.2 million in 1992 - the country has announced that it will give bonuses to families that have more than two children and will provide better healthcare, housing and education for families. In addition to these "carrots," the government has announced some "sticks": Divorce will be taxed as an "act of hatred toward children," and a fixed sum of alimony will be demanded even of those who are poor or unemployed. Abortion is now strongly discouraged and increasingly limited by law. The state also is ramping up an anti-homosexuality campaign, with plans to commission artwork promoting "traditional moral and spiritual family values," declared Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin's chief of staff. And last week, the Duma passed a bill banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" by a vote of 436 to 0. TIMELINE: Gay marriage chronology The city of Moscow, meanwhile, despite being told by the European Human Rights Court that its failure to allow gay rights demonstrations was illegal, has banned demonstrations by gays for the next 100 years. The ban is enthusiastically enforced: On May 25, two women were arrested in Moscow for unfurling a rainbow flag, and 30 more protesters were taken in for demonstrating at the Duma. On the same day, 15 gay demonstrators were arrested in Gorky Park. From the time of Stalin through the collapse of the Soviet Union, homosexuality was illegal in Russia, and many Russians still view it is a disorder. As Vitaly Milonov, the primary backer of the anti-gay legislation in St. Petersburg, announced, "Homosexuality is best cured by fasting and prayer." A Ukrainian member of parliament expressed a prevalent attitude in Russia when he said: "The spread of homosexuality is a threat to national security because it propagates the HIV/AIDS epidemic, destroys the family and could lead to a demographic crisis." The implication in Russia's recent actions is that homosexuality, divorce and abortion are central factors in Russia's weak birthrate and high rate of early death. Choosing these targets plays to popular sentiment and reinforces the dogma of an increasingly vocal Russian Orthodox Church. FULL COVERAGE: Prop. 8 and DOMA But will the new measures address the problem? Hardly. The real issues lie elsewhere. One unaddressed problem central to Russia's demographic imbalance is the high rate of early death related to heavy alcohol consumption by Russian males. Another is the country's HIV/AIDS crisis. Russia has more than 2 million men who are HIV positive, and AIDS is the third leading cause of premature death in the country. (In the United States, by comparison, it is the 23rd leading cause.) Most Russians with HIV (about 80%) are intravenous drug users. The stigma attached to drug use and homosexuality is so great that people are afraid to get medical care until they have advanced stages of AIDS and/or drug addiction. By offering subsidies for more babies and penalizing divorce, Russia might be able to increase its birthrate, but a more fruitful approach would be to try to save men from premature death caused by excessive drinking and drug use. Rather than banning gay propaganda, why not look for ways to combat the widespread image that it's masculine to drink heavily? Sobriety could result in more men being well enough and living long enough to marry and procreate. And if, to put forth another long-shot idea, same-sex couples were allowed to wed, some of those Russian orphans that Americans are forbidden to adopt, who lie languishing in orphanages, might find loving, nurturing families. Patricia Herlihy is a professor of history emerita at Brown University and an adjunct professor at the Watson Institute for International Studies. Her most recent book is "Vodka: A Global History."


      Kill or cure?
      Svetlana Reiter and Vladimir Shakhidzhanian
      Open Democracy, June 19, 2013

      In Russia, homophobia is not just an attitude, but government policy, with new legislation reinforcing traditional hostility to sexual minorities and violence against gay people as common as ever. Svetlana Reiter discussed the situation with psychologist Vladimir Shakhidzhanian.
      The theme of violence against sexual minorities in Russia took another turn in early May with the vicious murder in Volgograd of 23-year old Vladislav Tornovoy. He was killed in a playground where he was drinking beer with old school friends. According to evidence presented by the investigating officer, Tornovoy was beaten up, his genitals slashed and his clothes set on fire, and he was also raped with beer bottles (two went in completely and a third half way). Then he had paving stones weighing up to 20kg dropped on his head anything up to 10 times.
      During a crime reconstruction, which was done with the participation of the suspects as part of the investigation (a transcript of which appeared online), one of those arrested for the horrific murder confirmed that the motive was homophobia. When the investigator asked about the motive for the sexual violence, the suspect answered 'Because he said he was gay.' Tornovoy's parents and close friends deny that he was homosexual, but the matter was already completely out of hand.
      There is little room for tolerance in today's Russia: St Petersburg Legislative Assembly member Vitaly Milonov is trying to put a stop to 'gay filth'; Parliament is debating a draft law which would prevent gay parents adopting Russian orphans; fanatical members of the Orthodox church have taken to beating up gay activists on an almost daily basis.
      Last year, the case of 16-year old Ivan Kharchenko came to light. Ivan's parents had sent him to a closed clinic for drug addicts, with the aim of 'curing' him of his homosexuality. The case was widely reported in the press, but surprised no one. People are no longer imprisoned for homosexuality, but parents regularly present their children to be cured from the 'gay infection' to doctors of every kind, from practitioners of traditional medicine to quacks.
      Vladimir Shakhidzhanian is one of the few LGBT experts able to explain the nature and development of Russia's gay culture. A journalist and psychologist, he was for many years a research scholar in the laboratory of Dr Aron Isaakovich Belkin [1927-2003], the Russian psychiatrist who studied transsexuality and was president of the Russian Psychoanalytical Society. Among other things, Shakhidzhanian has studied issues surrounding homo- and transsexuality, prepared people for sex change operations and helped with their post-op psychological rehabilitation.
      Violence and social attitudes
      SR: During the course of your practice have you encountered examples of extreme violence against gays? In the light of the vicious murder of Vlad Tornovoy in Volgograd, can one now say that this has become the norm?
      VS: A philosopher, I forget which, once said that everything is relative. Has the situation deteriorated? In relation to what? When? Why? In the Soviet Union gays were put in prison.
      SR: And now they're murdered.
      VS: That happened in Soviet times too and then, moreover, the infringement of homosexuals' human rights was enshrined in the Criminal Code. I think it was Stalin who said 'Find me the man and I'll find you the charge against him'. Apparently it was Stalin who put Article 121 (on homosexuality) back in the Criminal Code. They say he did so at the request of Maxim Gorky after someone had tried to seduce his son, though that might be a myth - who knows? Lenin repealed the original Tsarist law, Stalin brought it back and then Yeltsin removed it once and for all.
      SR: Could we perhaps see a kind of continuity with the Soviet Union in contemporary society's attitudes to homosexuality? Newspapers were initially extremely unwilling to write about the murder of Vlad Tornovoy in Volgograd, but when they were criticised for this, one of them printed an editorial explaining that there isn't much interest in this kind of topic because there's nothing particularly special about it. Half the country has been in prison, as it were, so everyone is governed by the prison code.
      VS: The Leningrad siege robbed me of my childhood, both physically and psychologically, so I was pretty hopeless at school. But I remember well, how we were taught that everything bad was down to the Tsar. The fact that there were rich and poor, honest and dishonest - this was all a hangover from Tsarist times, and I grew up believing it. And until 1953 I was also convinced that Comrade Stalin was thinking of me as he smoked his pipe by the window on the poster that hung in every school. What kind of mentality was that?
      'It was Stalin who put Article 121 (on homosexuality) back in the Criminal Code. They say he did so at the request of Maxim Gorky after someone had tried to seduce his son, though that might be a myth - who knows?'
      Then when I was 14 I met my friend Seryozha Mechik, who later became famous as the writer Sergei Dovlatov, and he told me this joke: Two men meet up after a long gap, and one asks the other where he's been. 'I've been in prison for 10 years.' 'What for?' 'For nothing'. 'You're lying - for nothing you get 25 years.'
      I didn't understand the joke, and Seryozha said I was an idiot. Yes, people spent 25 years in the Gulag for nothing, and it made everyone, young and old, terrified. It also made us even more slave-like: 'Better not think; better not speak'. But I do remember the rumours around at the time that Kozin, the singer, had been imprisoned for being a homosexual, and there was the infamous Leningrad Affair, including even artists from the Mariinsky, Alexandrinsky, Pushkin and other theatres.
      SR: Current anti-gay propaganda is often presented as protection of our children. What do you think about that?
      VS: There has always been, and there always will be, homosexuality, but it's very important to understand that it's not the same as paedophilia. Any exploitation of children is always wrong. I advocate sex education in schools and think that homosexuality should be talked about from as early as year 4 [ages 9-10], as well as being discussed in a calm, intelligent way at home, warning of possible approaches by men. But some predators have a taste for 12-year old girls as well and this could well ruin a child's life.
      SR: Do doctors often try to cure homosexuality?
      VS: Of course, though requests for a 'cure' are often not simple or straightforward. A young man might come to a doctor and say, for instance, that he is slightly attracted and aroused by women, but a male friend had come to see him the evening before, they had got very drunk and something had happened. This can knock a person for six if it's the first time he has had sex. He might feel that what has happened is terrible and homosexuals should be cast out of society, or, on the contrary, it might have been so wonderful that there seems no point in him trying to be any other way. In this case he has to be helped to sort himself out and to start thinking reflexively, rather than trying to 'cure' him.
      It has been established that approximately 17% of women and 30% of men under 40 have had experience of relations with members of the same sex. The reasons are varied: adjoining beds in a hospital ward, too much to drink at a birthday party, watching porn in a closed circle of friends. But only 8-9% of exclusively gay people have tried heterosexual relations.
      SR: Is the gay issue more controversial now than it was in the 90s?
      VS: The 'wild 90s' were definitely easier and simpler in this respect, but only by comparison with the 60s, 70s and 80s, not with today. In Soviet times there was nothing ever written about homosexuality. Then the USSR collapsed and newspapers or magazines sometimes published articles about the problems of same sex relationships, and then of course there were the small ads whe<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)