More Foreign Gay Organizers than
Russians at Moscow News Conference
(Moscow Gay Pride Parade organizers' official press conference on May 27. From the left: Anna Komarova (Russia), Peter Tatchell (United Kingdom), Nikolai Alekseev (Russia/Switzerland), Louis-Georges Tin (France), Nikolai Baev (Russia), Dan Choi (United States), Andy Thayer (United States). Photo credit: LGBT Grani.)
[Correction and update: There are more than four foreigners helping to carry out Moscow Pride. Norbert Blech of Germany, Judith Silberfeld of France, Andy Harley of the UK, Chad Meacham of the US, and Logan Mucha of Australia, are also there, bringing the total of foreign gays to nine.]
Earlier today, on the censorship-free QueeRussia listserv, Scott Long, who is former head of the gay division at Human Rights Watch, commented on a few aspects of this year's campaign to stage Nikolai Alexeyev's gay pride march in Moscow.
Scott's remarks prodded me to look at who spoke at an important news conference regarding the parade and to count the number of Russians versus foreigners, and the visitors slightly outnumbered the native organizers, 4 to 3.
This is Nikolai's sixth year of importing activists to attempt a march with him, and some questions to be addressed by him and his foreign friends.
Where are even a few dozen Russian gay supporters backing the march attempt? Why do other Russian gays collaborate with straight feminist, progressive and socialist organizations to stage marches and protests, that attract a decent crowd of local people and Nikolai never joins those actions? Are foreign voices the best ones to address Russia's gay concerns?
A condensed version of Scott's note:
The foreignness of Moscow Pride really seems to me the crux of the problem.
I vividly remember the press conference before the first Pride in 2006. About 40 foreigners, I swear to God, spoke--Nikolai basically enlisted everyone who wasn't Russian to go stand before the microphone in succession and make some supportive statement, and Nikolai was essentially the only Russian voice there.
The TV and press reporters there couldn't have gotten a clearer message: Pride was the Invasion of the Foreigners. That was how LGBT issues got broadcast to a wider public.
From the start, I thought Nikolai was recognizable as a type: the east European expatriate who spends a few years in the Great Abroad, then returns convinced that his poor ignorant compatriots don't know how to do anything right, and that he'll show them the true way. Usually it takes only a few weeks or months for reality to knock some sense into their heads.
However, Nikolai had the misfortune to develop, from the very start, a cocoon and coterie of Westerners who surrounded him with admiration (and love, and sometimes lust) and cushioned him from ever having to care about how Russians reacted. From the first Pride onward, he was only playing for the foreign audience.
At this point, all he cares about when he storms out of a TV studio is how Dan Choi or Peter Tatchell see it--and, of course, what the foreign folk who watch it on YouTube will think of it, without being able to understand a word. The way it plays out in Russian eyes is really the least of his concerns.