Heading translation by Google: Russia: Gay Marriage is nothing new
Olga Khoroshilova | 17165gh
At the time of writing, western media are noting the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which, for gay men and lesbians in Russia, heralded a short period of relative freedom of expression and liberty.
The photo above is dated January 1921. Russian Baltic Fleet sailor Afanasy Shaur organised a gay wedding in Petrograd, with guests including 95 former army officers along with members of the lower ranks of both the army and navy, and one woman, who was dressed in a man’s suit.
The guests did not know that Shaur was a member of the secret police, and at the end of the festivities, the guests were all arrested. Shaur had arranged the event to curry favour with his bosses, claiming those attending were counter-revolutionaries who wanted to destroy the young Red Army from the inside.
The case was eventually closed and the “counter-revolutionaries” let off.
After the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks scrapped and rewrote the country’s laws. They produced two Criminal Codes, in 1922 and 1926, neither of which contained an article prohibiting homosexuality.
In the 1920s gay men in Russia lived quite openly. The BBC notes that:
In St Petersburg, some wore red ties, or red shawls, onto which they would sew the back pockets of trousers. Others powdered their faces and wore a lot of mascara. After the revolution, the heavily made-up “silent film star look” became more mainstream and no longer just a fashion for young gay men.
There may not have been an article relating to gay sex in the criminal codes of the 1920s, but the gay community was regularly persecuted. Gay men were often beaten, blackmailed or sacked from their jobs.
The gay community was also organised on class lines, with little mixing between the “aristocrats” and “simple” lower class gay men who held mundane or clerical jobs.
In July 1933, 175 gay men from different walks of life were arrested in what came to be known as the Case of the Leningrad Homosexuals. The documents of the case have never been released, but it is known that all detained were given prison sentences on a range of charges from working for British intelligence to “malicious counter-revolutionism” and “moral corruption of the Red Army”.
The Case of the Leningrad Homosexuals led to the re-inclusion of the article outlawing homosexuality in the Criminal Code of 1934.