An Archive of Freedom, or “Gay Propaganda”?: Russia’s Gay and Lesbian Press in the 1990s

An Archive of Freedom, or “Gay Propaganda”?: Russia’s Gay and Lesbian Press in the 1990s

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 - 4:00pm
Venue: 
Dahrendorf Room
Speaker(s): 
Professor Dan Healey (St Antony's)
Convenor: 
Professor Dan Healey (St Antony's)

 

Under the Soviet Union’s information controls, no self-expression in print by gay men and lesbians was possible. Democratisation in the late 1980s changed the media environment, and in 1990 Russia’s first lesbian and gay periodical, Tema (The Theme) was published. In the next decade, dozens of national and local publications appeared, giving voice to gay men (and less often, lesbians), seeking to find each other and simply to have better and less painful lives. The 1990s present the historian with a short interval – after Communist persecution, but before the digital revolution of the 2000s – when print media were critically important for constructing LGBT communities in Russia. Gay and lesbian magazines, newspapers, leaflets and erotic albums allowed Russians the first chance since 1917 to speak for themselves, and leave physical traces of their voices. Putin’s “gay propaganda” law (2013) and more recent attempts to criminalise gay speech in Russia throw this momentary explosion of voices into sharp relief, as a time of unprecedented freedom. In this seminar Dan Healey presents some preliminary thoughts about the significance of Russia’s gay and lesbian press in the 1990s, illustrated with materials from Moscow’s Library of Lesbians and Gays.