Boris Berezovsky has made it no secret that he’s funded Other Russia’s activities. There are few estimates as to how many millions he’s poured into the fledgling opposition movement. What is clear that the money has produced little results. Now, according to Oleg Bratishko’s article “In Third Position,” Berezovsky has a new idea to topple Putinism: funding gay marches.
Now let’s not forget that this article could just be propaganda against Berezovsky. The idea of him funding gay marches to promote political change seems far fetched. Plus given that gay marches are pretty reviled in Russia, there is a possibility that such a report is merely a means to further slander him (as if they need to) using the old tactic of homophobia.
Still the idea is so strange that it is difficult to resist.
Note that one of the latest banned marches by sexual minorities in Moscow happened at the same time as Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s controversial meeting with the mayors of London, Berlin, and Paris; the efforts of gay culture proponents turned this meeting into an attack on Luzhkov. To give Luzhkov his due, he behaved quite properly, presenting consistent arguments for his stance on not permitting mass assemblies of gays in central Moscow. But this still produced negative publicity in Europe: television news reports showed Luzhkov’s speech alongside footage of Moscow police dispersing the unsanctioned gay march.
And this is the ace that Berezovsky has decided to play: according to our sources, the gay parade promotion campaign will start in mid-August (and last until the Duma election, of course). Rumor has it that around $100 million has been allocated for the campaign already; the scope is truly impressive. It’s worth noting that the organizers envision the gay rights marches as very similar to the Dissenter March protests: with the leitmotif of provoking police, local residents, and Orthodox Christian activists. Significant numbers of foreign journalists will be flown in, so that Russia’s lack of democratic liberties can be demonstrated to them in all its glory.
Supporting gay rights in Russia is more than a worthy cause. But I’m confused as to what real political gain such marches will bring except for being yet another irritant to city administrators and police. Plus I seriously doubt the gay right movement will provide a basis for any larger mass movement in Russia as it did in the West.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, radical gay activists, mostly focused around AIDS, provided the structure and tactics for the “New Social Movements”. Groups like ACT UP were decentralized, mobile, militant, and confrontational. Their tactics shied away from effecting the legislative process by appealing to politicians, but through direct action to raise awareness. Eventually their efforts made “Silence=Death” a mainstream slogan. Without their militant efforts, it is unlikely AIDS and eventually gay rights in general would have ever hit mainstream politics.
Gay activism is unlikely to bring any large scale political results in Russia, at least in the short term. So if it is true that Berezovsky is looking to fund these marches, one can only wonder what his hope is.