Background Briefing

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Prelude: The Banning of the Gay Pride Parade

On May 18, 2006, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s office announced definitively that it would do what it had threatened for months: refuse permission for Russia’s first Moscow lesbian and gay pride parade, planned for May 27. The announcement came on the same day that Russia assumed the six-month chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the continent’s principal body concerned with human rights. That day, in Strasbourg, France, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia’s chairmanship “will be devoted to openness.”1

Documents from the mayor’s office shown to Human Rights Watch indicate a centralized campaign in the mayor’s office against any attempts to publicly show support for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender communities. In one document, dated March 2006, the mayor informed his deputies: “It is necessary to take concrete measures to prevent holding public and mass gay events in the capital.” He instructed them to “Organize an active campaign in the mass media … using appeals from citizens and religious and public organizations.”2

In a memorandum to the mayor dated March 17, 2006, deputy mayor Liudmila Shvetsova called the event “direct propaganda for immorality, insulting the honor and dignity of the overwhelming majority of Muscovites and inhabitants of Russia of various nationalities, undermining the moral principles of the society.” She suggested the city government would support measures to ban any public advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights:

Homosexuality and lesbianism have always been considered sexual perversions in our country, and previously were even objects of criminal prosecution. At the present time the above-mentioned forms of sexuality are not forbidden by legislation, but propaganda in favor of them, in particular by means of holding gay festivals and gay parades, can be considered propaganda for immorality, which may be forbidden by legislation in future. …A law can be promulgated to limit the rights or freedoms of people of the above-mentioned category.

Summing up, we recommend that the competent executive bodies should take additional steps toward a comprehensive solution of the problem, and identify concrete measures for banning any actions, including public ones, involving propaganda and holding gay festivals or gay parades.3

In an interview on Russkoe Radio on May 25, the mayor said:

If any one has any deviations from normal principles in organizing one's sexual life, those deviations should not be exhibited for all to see and those who may turn out unsteady should not be invited to do so. .... I thank the citizens of Moscow as 99.9% of them in recent days also believe it is unacceptable to hold such parades.

[1], “Russia to take over as president of Council of Europe,” at (retrieved May 30, 2006).

[2] Memorandum from Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to L.I. Shvetsova, V.Y. Vinogradov, A.V. Petrov, G.S. Ponomarev, V.S. Shushkin, and N.V. Kulikov, March 2006.

[3] Memorandum to Mayor Yuri Luzhkov from L.I. Shvetsova, registration no. 3-6-4986/6, March 17. 2006.

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