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Stefania Kulaeva: "The Three S’s of Lev Rubinshtein and LGBT" [Radio Svoboda]

posted 5 Jun 2017, 02:04 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 02:27 ]
29 May 2017

By Stefania Kulaeva, Expert at Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda]

Roused to action by the rough searches of the Gogol Centre and especially the apartment of well-known director Kirill Serebrennikov, and subsequently the police’s attention to the theatrical company of a different director, Aleksei Uchitel, the blogosphere is fluctuating from sharp criticism of those who defended their fellow actors and directors too timidly (while those who did not speak out, as usual, are not judged) to gloating at those who passed over the “embezzlement” case.

The most distinctly formulated position came from Lev Rubinshtein, who referenced the idea of “a behavioral code for the cultural community, or rather, for the part of it not willing to make peace with the current state of affairs increasingly imposed by state institutions.” Rubinshtein’s credo consists of three S’s — Svoboda (liberty), Soprotivleniye (resistance), and Solidarnost’ (solidarity). Rubinshtein recognizes that for him “solidarity became relevant with particular urgency,” with the necessity of expressing support and standing together with the persecuted.

Solidarity can come in different forms and be inseparable from Resistance (which itself always results from a push for Liberty), which is why messages of solidarity that try to stand up for “one’s own” without objecting “in essence” are so jarring.

Rubinshtein consistently makes these principles a part of his life. He is the first (and thus far only one of two well-known modern Russian cultural figures, alongside the director Vladimir Mirzoyev) to support the campaign of solidarity with the LGBT community in Chechnya and the Donbass. The campaign was announced on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia by three organizations: the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties.

Solidarity is especially important for those who are not only tortured, stripped of their rights, investigated, but also led to doubt their own right to exist, to have freedom, love, and equal human dignity. If the arrests and extrajudicial executions of gay people in Chechnya have become widely known of late thanks to the fearless work of the Russian LGBT-network in cooperation with Novaya Gazeta, the suffering that sexual and gender minorities face in the eastern portions of the Donbass not controlled by Ukraine are significantly less discussed. Yet many LGBT people’s stories included in Memorial’s 2016 report on Violations of LGBTQ Rights in Crimea and the Donbass: The Problem of Homophobia in the Territory Not Controlled by Ukraine match the stories of those who suffered homophobia in Chechnya almost word for word. The very same fears, threats of exposure, blackmail by acquaintances and neighbours—and in the worst cases, being put in the “cellar” (that is, a secret prison) ruled by violence, torment, and demands to name one’s friends...It all takes the form of a creeping terror, without any notable outbreaks (as in Chechnya), while not only is there nobody to carry out preliminary investigations in those regions, there are no official bodies to which appeals can be made to carry them out.

The solidarity campaign with the LGBT communities of Chechnya and the Donbass is supported by many European politicians and public figures: members of the European Parliament (from groups including Greens, liberals, socialists, British Conservatives), movie stars (the French actors Michael Yun and Lambert Wilson), actress and singer Jane Birkin, and the much-praised writer Jonathan Littel. Thousands of people have supported the campaign in social networks and almost three million internet users know about it.

Unfortunately, among those countries directly concerned by the problem of homophobia in Chechnya and the Donbass, i.e. Russia and Ukraine, there is almost no reaction. Even those writers and journalists from the Svobodnoe Slovo association who spoke out in support of Novaya gazeta, focusing on solidarity with freedom of the press, did not consider it necessary to express their support for the LGBT community — that is, for those whose misfortunes led to Novaya gazeta’s investigation. Perhaps a few of the signatories of the letter in support of Novaya gazeta simply did not know how to express their solidarity with the persecuted LGBT people in Chechnya (and the Donbass). If that’s the case—it’s not too late, the solidarity campaign continues.

Meanwhile, the words Lev Rubinshtein sent and published on the campaign’s site are worth repeating in full: “Xenophobia, to which people who have professed different, ‘false’ religions, people of different skin colours, people of ‘other’ convictions and ‘other’ worldviews different from those widely accepted, have been subject in different eras, is the most notable and visible sign of a dark, aggressive archaism. In our day, this abysmal xenophobia most often takes the form of an unbridled, hysterical homophobia. Modern, civilized humanity, having survived an endless series of self-destructive prejudices and superstitions, bloody wars and crimes, has achieved an understanding of the world predicated upon the sovereign right of people to be different, not identical to one another. The modern world is based not only on mutual understanding, but also on a friendly curiosity towards the ‘other.’ Not hatred, not suspicion, but a drive to understand and willingness to protect that which is subject to persecution and aggression. To counter by all possible civilized means the abysmal archaism that exists only thanks to violence and surviving superstitions is not only the right, but the obligation of people of the modern world, that is to say our common obligation.”