A tried-and-true recipe for retaining power when discontent is on the rise in the country is “a short victorious war”. If that war turns out to be neither short nor victorious, then the next option is to assign guilt to a minority and fight against that minority as if it were a universal evil.
Suffice it to recall Goebbels’s famous 1937 speech: “We will fearlessly point to the Jew… Look, here is the enemy of the planet, the destroyer of civilizations, a parasite among peoples, the son of Chaos, the incarnation of evil, a demon reaping degeneration on mankind.”
Russian State Duma deputies, who are currently occupied with adopting a new law banning the “promotion and acceptance of non-traditional sexual relations,” have never lacked this kind of fearlessness. This brand new law will ban people of any age from speaking openly about their sexual orientation and gender identity, to all intents and purposes making them “banned people” again.
In speeches made by the authors of the law, spin doctors, and even Putin himself, the LGBT+ topic is inextricably connected with the war in Ukraine: In this construct, equal rights for LGBT+ people are presented as the quintessence of what it is about Western ideology that is foreign to Russia, and victory in the war, which is supposedly being waged against the West, demands a total ban on the mention of LGBT+ issues in the media and cultural and public space.
In his speech about the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Putin talks about “the battlefield to which fate and history has called us,” about protecting children and grandchildren from “enslavement, from monstrous experiments designed to cripple their conscience and spirit,” and about protection from “perversions that lead to degradation and extinction.” Here he’s talking about gender and the proverbial parents numbers one, two, and even three.
Pyotr Tolstoy: “If we look at the promotion and acceptance of non-traditional sexual relations as a tool of hybrid war (and no one has any doubt about that today), then this is dangerous not just for our children, but for our entire society. This law protects future generations from the promotion of perversions. At the decisive stage of our battle, we stood up for our traditional family, moral, and religious values. The only result of this can be victory; we have no other options. Russia’s future is on the line.”
State Duma Chair Vyacheslav Volodin: “We are protecting against the darkness that is spreading pervasively throughout the world.”
State Duma Deputy Chair Anna Kuznetsova: “LGBT+ is the most effective tool for destroying our country.”
State Duma Deputy Khinshteyn spoke most explicitly about the connection between the war and the fight against LGBT+: “The special operation is underway not just on the battlefield, but also in people’s conscience, in their minds and spirits. Today we are essentially fighting so that Russia does not have ‘parent number one,’ ‘parent number two,’ and ‘parent number three’ instead of one mama and one papa. This yet again demonstrates our civilizational conflict with the West.”
Some journalists have been surprised by such head-on logic – this can be seen in such headlines as “Deputy Khinshteyn Names an Unexpected Reason for Russia’s Special Operation.” It’s as if they’re saying, “It’s pretty strange to learn that the cause of the invasion of Ukraine was not actually ‘denazification’ or ‘demilitarization,’ but the fight against LGBT+.”
Meanwhile, there’s nothing really to be surprised about here. It’s the same old thing: “degeneration,” a threat of destruction to the country and culture, and the need to fight to the last with a group that is ascribed a most evil role are all very familiar. Here is another example from Goebbels’s speech at the 1935 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg: “This war is not just anti-bourgeois, it is anti-culture. It means, in the final consequence, the absolute destruction of all economic, social, state, cultural, and civilizing advances made by western civilization for the benefit of a rootless and nomadic international clique of conspirators, who have found their representation in Jewry.”
LGBT+ activists, who are directly affected by the new repressive law, are drawing these exact same historical analogies: Fascist regimes launch repressions against the most defenseless and “unpopular” groups (Jews, Roma, LGBT+, followers of certain religions).
Yulia Alyoshina, who simply cannot work under the current law, has already announced that she is abandoning her political career:
“I have never engaged in such propaganda, but I cannot conceive how I can continue with my public political activity as an openly transgender woman,” she wrote.
The spin doctor Anton Krasovsky, who tried to ingratiate himself with the authorities by betraying himself and everything he has previously said, has already been fired, even though he was of course not the only one to openly call for the killing of Ukrainians. Others were able to do this, but this didn’t help him, and it even harmed him. History has many examples of cases where members of a persecuted minority (Krasovsky is openly gay, although he is remorseful about this and about his words begging to forgive him, a “fool”) attempted to outrun their persecutors in terms of aggression and lackeyship, but are still driven out by the “masters of the universe.”
First published on the blog of Radio Svoboda