restricted access “Почему мы такие люди?”: Раннесоветские гомосексуалы от первого лица: новые источники по истории гомосексуальных идентичностей в России

The article by Irina Roldugina introduces the publication of a series of unique archival documents – letters by homosexual men and women, written in the mid-1920s to medical experts. Signed and anonymous, these letters present a unique window on the subjectivity of the early Soviet gay community, unmediated by any intermediaries and thus not subject to legal, medical, or political censorship. Although the letters were penned by under-educated people of lower social background, their authors very persistently and eloquently elaborated their distinctive self-perception and contemplated their group identity and place within the Soviet society. They addressed medical experts as consultants rather than ultimate arbiters and authorities, in the mode of dialogue or even polemic. Roldugina expects many more personal documents of this sort to be unearthed in archives in the near future, with the effect of turning around the common wisdom about the dynamics of gender relations and politics in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s. The very absence of firsthand narratives by Soviet homosexuals in historical studies is attributed to the methodological priorities of scholars studying early Soviet politics that regulated sexuality and gender. Until recently, they have focused mostly on the analysis of hegemonic discourses of experts. This approach has offered an easy explanation for the radical “right turn” in gender politics in the early 1930s as a direct result of the demise of experts’ professional autonomy. By shifting attention to the self-expression of Soviet gays and lesbians, it becomes possible not just to restore their agency but also to reassess the history of Stalinist population control policies.