Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws and anti-gay sentiment have shocked many in the West. They shouldn’t have. In Soviet Russia, the homosexual was seen as a sign of foreign pollution, a temporary aberration—like a criminal or a disease—that will disappear in a more socialist future. As a result, queer Russians were not so much the stable homosexual species that they have been in the past 150 years in the West as much as momentary communities of desire. In the post-Soviet era, this history of the homosexual as foreign is now confronted with American understandings of gays and lesbians as “born this way” as well as American homophobia that posits the homosexual as a threat to children and the “traditional” family. By examining the clash between Russian and American histories of sexuality, we can see that the current anti-gay politics in Russia was not predetermined by its history, but certainly shaped by it. With the confluence of an insecure state, growing nationalism, and the increasing importance of conservative Orthodox Christianity, Russia’s history of sexuality has shaped the homosexual into its current form as a threat from outside, akin to Central Asian immigrants in the nationalist imagination, and a threat that must be eliminated.


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pp. 39-58
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