Showing posts with label Moscow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moscow. Show all posts

November 6, 2016

If We Loose Electric The Russians Will Also be in the Dark (Retaliation Plan)



Moscow Cathedral in the dark

U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News.

American officials have long said publicly that Russia, China and other nations have probed and left hidden malware on parts of U.S critical infrastructure, "preparing the battlefield," in military parlance, for cyber attacks that could turn out the lights or turn off the internet across major cities.

It's been widely assumed that the U.S. has done the same thing to its adversaries. The documents reviewed by NBC News — along with remarks by a senior U.S. intelligence official — confirm that, in the case of Russia.

U.S. officials continue to express concern that Russia will use its cyber capabilities to try to disrupt next week's presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials do not expect Russia to attack critical infrastructure — which many believe would be an act of war — but they do anticipate so-called cyber mischief, including the possible release of fake documents and the proliferation of bogus social media accounts designed to spread misinformation.

On Friday the hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0" — which U.S. officials say is a front for Russian intelligence — tweeted a threat to monitor the U.S. elections "from inside the system."

As NBC News reported Thursday, the U.S. government is marshaling resources to combat the threat in a way that is without precedent for a presidential election.

                                                                           



The cyber weapons would only be deployed in the unlikely event the U.S. was attacked in a significant way, officials say.
U.S. military officials often say in general terms that the U.S. possesses the world's most advanced cyber capabilities, but they will not discuss details of highly classified cyber weapons.

James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that U.S. hacks into the computer infrastructure of adversary nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — something he says he presumes has gone on for years — is akin to the kind of military scouting that is as old as human conflict.

"This is just the cyber version of that," he said.

In 2014, National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers told Congress that U.S. adversaries are performing electronic "reconnaissance" on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

"All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic," he said at the time.

Rogers didn't discuss the U.S.'s own penetration of adversary networks. But the hacking undertaken by the NSA, which regularly penetrates foreign networks to gather intelligence, is very similar to the hacking needed to plant precursors for cyber weapons, said Gary Brown, a retired colonel and former legal adviser to U.S. Cyber Command, the military's digital war fighting arm.

"You'd gain access to a network, you'd establish your presence on the network and then you're poised to do what you would like to do with the network," he told NBC News. "Most of the time you might use that to collect information, but that same access could be used for more aggressive activities too."
Brown and others have noted that the Obama administration has been extremely reluctant to take action in cyberspace, even in the face of what it says is a series of Russian hacks and leaks designed to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.

Administration officials did, however, deliver a back channel warning to Russian against any attempt to influence next week's vote, officials told NBC News.

The senior U.S. intelligence official said that, if Russia initiated a significant cyber attack against critical infrastructure, the U.S. could take action to shut down some Russian systems — a sort of active defense.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, who served as NATO commander of Europe, told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. is well equipped to respond to any cyber attack.

"I think there's three things we should do if we see a significant cyber-attack," he said. "The first obviously is defending against it. The second is reveal: We should be publicizing what has happened so that any of this kind of cyber trickery can be unmasked. And thirdly, we should respond. Our response should be proportional."
The U.S. use of cyber attacks in the military context — or for covert action — is not without precedent.

During the 2003 Iraq invasion, U.S spies penetrated Iraqi networks and sent tailored messages to Iraqi generals, urging them to surrender, and temporarily cut electronic power in Baghdad.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S., working with Israel, is believed to have helped deploy what became known as Stuxnet, a cyber weapon designed to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges.

Today, U.S. Cyber Command is engaged in cyber operations against the Islamic State, including using social media to expose the location of militants and sending spoof orders to sow confusion, current and former officials tell NBC News.

One problem, officials say, is that the doctrine around cyber conflict — what is espionage, what is theft, what is war — is not well developed.

"Cyber war is undefined," Brown said. “There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those."

nbcnews.com

PBS Report 3 wks ago 

December 8, 2013

Documentary About Rampant Corruption on Sochi Games Plays in Moscow






A controversial documentary about rampant corruption behind the scenes of Russia’s Winter Olympics that the Kremlin wanted silenced is screening at a heavily policed premiere in Moscow on Friday, followed by a repeat showing on Saturday.
The two screenings of Putin's Games at Moscow's 600-seater Khudozhestvenniy cinema have both sold out.
Russians living in Siberia will also have a chance Saturday evening to see the documentary after an independent television channel Tomsk T2 struck a deal to show the film.
The film's producer Simone Baumann told The Hollywood Reporter: "The head of police for Moscow city center interrogated cinema managers and ArtDoc Fest managing director Natalia Manskaya and said that due to the numbers of people attending there would be a heavy police presence. There are no legal ways to stop the screening; the only thing they could do is turn off the electricity."
The festival had originally planned one screening, Baumann said, but such was the demand for tickets that a Moscow city listings magazine stepped in to sponsor a second show on Saturday afternoon
Putin's Games, which reveals the ugly truth behind the Sochi Winter Olympics -- due to open in the sub-tropical Russian Black Sea resort in February -- sparked a political and media storm in Russia after its world premiere November 24 at Amsterdam's IDFA documentary festival.
Revelations that the Kremlin had approached German producer Simon Baumann through intermediaries with offers of more nearly $1 million to buy all rights -- effectively keeping the film from the public -- highlighted the levels of official anxiety. Attempts to stop it being shown at Moscow's ArtDoc Fest put Baumann and the festival's artistic director, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky under unprecedented pressure.
Kremlin officials, the minister of culture, Vladimir Medinsky and Moscow city government figures all tried to have the film pulled from the program. Medinsky, who was shown the film, expressed his displeasure at a film that reveals the massive scale of government corruption behind the most expensive ever Olympic games -- estimated to have cost $51 billion.
The films details the money the Kremlin spent on lobbying to secure the games for Sochi, the Olympic law that allows the seizure of private property and the reason why Russian president Vladimir Putinwas so keen to host the games in a sub-tropical resort where snow and freezing temperatures cannot be guaranteed.
And it features a building contractor who was threatened that he would be "drowned in blood" if he did not pay kickbacks of up to 50 of multi-million dollar contracts. The man, Valery Morozov, went public with his complaints about corruption by Kremlin officials before fleeing to the west with his wife and family.
Baumann insisted that since the film was supported by German Films, the international movie promotion body for Germany, a decision could only be made at foreign ministry level.
A compromise was struck under which the festival was forced to agree to screen a Russian-made, less critical documentary, about the Winter Olympics as well.

by Nick Holdsworth

December 3, 2013

Right Wing Christians Sabotage Theatre Production in Moscow

© RIA Novosti. Sergey Pyatakov

 Ultraconservative Christians who have previously targeted erotica exhibits, Pastafarians and supporters of feminist punk group Pussy Riot have attacked a theater performance in Moscow.

Dmitry Enteo and a female accomplice hijacked the stage during a performance of Konstantin Bogomolov’s “An Ideal Husband” at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater late Thursday.
The duo spent about two minutes loudly extolling the public to fear God, before being dragged away kicking and screaming by guards, according to a video of the incident posted on YouTube.
The pair interrupted a scene in which a gay priest prays to a naked woman who is pretending to be crucified, Enteo told RIA Novosti.
A member of the audience said that some people in the audience mistook the crusaders’ intervention for the play’s scripted finale and left after they were taken away.
City police reported detaining two people on hooliganism charges, but did not elaborate.
Enteo, 24, told RIA Novosti the play violated a recent law that introduces jail terms of up to three years for offending the feelings of religious people.
Enteo and his radical Orthodox Christian supporters have a track record of flashy media stunts, including storming the G-Spot erotica museum in Moscow to “preach” to staff, assaulting in the streets people wearing T-shirts depicting Pussy Riot members as the Virgin Mary, and hijacking a rally by the ironic religion of Pastafarianism to pelt participants with macaroni.
The attacks are not endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church, whose clergy have previously criticized them.
Bogomolov, 38, is one of the most popular and controversial theater directors in Russia. His staging of “An Ideal Husband,” based on Oscar Wilde’s works and on stage since February, is billed as a social satire.

October 24, 2013

Slice of America in Moscow


Expat finds a slice of America in Moscow
Will Folwer: "The most American place in Moscow for me is the American Embassy." Source: Iliya Pitalev / RIA Novosti
American English teacher Will Fowler says that Kolomenskoye reminds him of home and talks about other Western places in Moscow:
“I'm originally from Seattle but, in recent years, have lived in different exotic places — South Korea, Japan and now Russia.
“I don't miss the U.S. that much anymore. But when I am feeling down, I know places that make me feel better — for example, Kolomenskoye. It is a nice big park where a person can have some privacy. In my home town of Seattle, we have Madison Park, which is somewhat similar to Kolomenskoye — a wide-open space where you can sit by yourself.

An American's experience with Russian education, culture and red tape
“Of course, the most American place in Moscow for me is the American Embassy. Recently, I had to get my passport renewed, and so I went there. I saw public drinking fountains at the embassy, which I really miss living here in Russia. True, the embassy only has them in the section for American citizens. It's such a small thing, but how cool it was to see them.
“While in Moscow, I sometimes miss the U.S. sodas — not Pepsi or Coke, but the independent brands. But I have been able to find something similar here. I sometimes miss Mexican food, which is very easy to find in the States — not only in the South, but everywhere. Even Seattle is full of Mexican restaurants.
“In Moscow, there are restaurants with Mexican cuisine, but it isn't really authentic. Casa Agave actually isn't a bad spot. But still something's not quite right with both the food and the atmosphere. Moscow also lacks cafés with good burritos and fast food. I don't mean McDonalds. I don’t go there, or to Burger King. Fast food can be different.
“I love Moscow architecture. I wouldn't say that it is similar to American, but maybe in some way. Not far from Tverskoi, I saw the Anglican Church of St. Andrew. In the U.S., there are a lot of these types of churches. And there's also the big Catholic cathedral on Malaya Gruzinskaya that is not a typical Russian church. Here, Western churches are not very common and, every time I see them, I think of the States. They've got a Western feel.
“In Kropotkin, there are new apartment buildings that are built in the same style as the yuppie suburbs of Seattle. It is very strange architecture for Russia, atypical. To be honest, I don't like buildings like that myself. But they look American.

My life in Russia: Hugh Mc Enaney from Dublin, Ireland“English-speaking people can be found in Krizis Zhanra, Gogol Café, Molly Gwynn's and Coyote Ugly — although it is a strange place, even for me. I also feel at home in Jagannath, a vegetarian café. Seattle has a lot of vegetarians and Jagannath is similar to places they typically eat. Another decent and comfortable place for expats is Gorod.Social Café. This place has a very American feel: It's got a lot of space between tables, and even the café decor seems very familiar to me. And they brew good coffee, which is rare for Moscow.”
“One of the most Western places in Moscow is the Vinzavod [winery], which I really like. Probably all Westerners would feel at home there, because it's got a sense of freedom.
First published in Russian in Moskovskie Novosti.

October 21, 2013

Moscow Police Raids Migrants’ Apartment Every Friday


Police conducts mass detention during a raid at a vegetable warehouse in Zapadnoye Biryulyovo. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

In the latest step by authorities to fight unlawful immigration following an anti-migrant riot earlier this month, the city's police chief said that Moscow police will raid apartments reportedly occupied by illegal migrants every Friday until the end of the year.
The initiative, announced by top cop Anatoly Yakunin on the order of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, was promptly condemned by the head of Russia's top migrant organization, who said it would instigate "immigrant phobia" in society. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny also ridiculed it, saying it would breed corruption — and allow illegal migrants to hide.
As the government rolls out more anti-migrant measures in reaction to the riot in Moscow's Biryulyovo district, nationalists have stepped up their activities as well, with police preventing more than 120 activists, some armed with baseball bats, from raiding residences of migrants outside Moscow over the weekend.
MVD
Anatoly Yakunin
Yakunin told a City Hall meeting Friday that police will "hold a massive crime-prevention operation code-named 'Signal' on Fridays," RIA Novosti reported.
As part of the operation, city police working jointly with vigilantes, private security guards and other law enforcement organizations will raid apartments where migrants are reported to be living and patrol the streets in search for migrants, Yakunin said.
About 130,000 apartments in Moscow are leased illegally, Sobyanin told the meeting, RIA Novosti reported. All of them will be examined by the year's end, Yakunin said.
Sobyanin asked Yakunin to "reinforce this work."
"Until we know who lives in our houses, until the major part of them are registered, there will always be serious problems with public order," the mayor said.
The new police measures were triggered by a riot of more than a thousand local residents and nationalists last weekend in Biryulyovo to protest the stabbing death of 25-year-old Yegor Shcherbakov on Oct. 10. The rioters blamed the killing on a migrant who worked at a local vegetable warehouse.
Police later detained Azeri national Orkhan Zeinalov for the crime, and initially he admitted his guilt but Thursday rescinded the confession. On Saturday, Azerabaijan sent Russia the second of two notes of protest over Russian authorities' failure to organize a meeting of Azeri diplomats with Zeinalov, Interfax reported.
Muhammad Amin Madzhumder, head of the Russian Migrants Federation, told The Moscow Times on Sunday that he was "disappointed with the initiative" of police to carry out raids on migrants.
"Recently, our authorities have set a course for immigrant phobia," Madzhumder said.
"Not only the police hold raids, but they take nationalists on them, which is a very dangerous trend," he said, in an apparent reference to the numerous vigilante groups that participate in raids on residences where illegal migrants supposedly live and report them to police and migration officials.
In one example of cooperation between the authorities and civilians in finding illegal migrants, top Moscow region migration official Oleg Molodiyevsky on Saturday offered to let residents of the local town of Dolgoprudny take part in anti-migrant raids, Interfax reported.
The confusion that could be engendered by such raids was also on display over the weekend.
On Sunday, police detained five organizers of a civilian anti-migrant raid in the town of Khimki, just north of Moscow, and rounded up some 40 participants at a local park, nationalist leader Dmitry Dyomushkin told Interfax. But police later said that only three organizers were briefly detained after police mistook them for "apartment burglars," the news agency reported.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an outspoken proponent of stricter immigration policies, ridiculed the idea of police raiding apartments every Friday, saying it would only serve to increase corruption.
"The Interior Ministry simply made an official announcement: on Fridays, we will be visiting construction sites and markets, collecting dough. So prepare envelopes and hide migrants so that we 'do not find' them," Navalny wrote Sunday on his Livejournal blog.
Anton Orekh, a commentator on radio Ekho Moskvy, said in a blog entry Friday that he wondered whether the declared campaign meant that police "can break into any apartment."
Some observers have accused the authorities of encouraging anti-migrant sentiment in an attempt to redirect popular discontent with government policies. In a demonstration of rising nationalist activity, authorities prevented nationalists in the Moscow region towns of Lyubertsy and Khimki from holding anti-migrant raids over the weekend, media reports said.
In Lyubertsy on Saturday, police detained 78 people armed with baseball bats, 60 of them minors, Interfax reported. The young people had gathered to beat migrants in reaction to the suspected beating and rape of a local woman by three Kyrgyz nationals Thursday in the neighboring district of Novokosino.
Most of the adult participants were fined for being drunk in a public place.
The New Moscow Times

October 17, 2013

Attack in Moscow of Dutch Diplomat Seems to be a Hate Gay Crime

A photo of Onno Elderenbosch, an aide to the Dutch ambassador to Russia, is displayed on a computer screen in Moscow.
                                                                                 Onno Elderenbosch, an aide to the Dutch ambassador to Russia
                  
  (RIA Novosti) – The United States on Wednesday strongly condemned the overnight attack on a senior Dutch diplomat in his Moscow apartment, and expressed concern about reports that the assault may have been an anti-gay crime.
“We call on the Russian authorities to thoroughly investigate this unacceptable attack and bring to justice those responsible,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing.
“We are also disturbed by a reported anti-LGBT element” to the assault, Psaki said, adding that it was “crucial for the Russian government to ensure a climate of tolerance and reassure their own people and foreign visitors that Russia is a safe place for all.”
Unknown assailants on Tuesday evening forced their way into the central Moscow home of a diplomat identified by Russian officials as 60-year-old Onno Elderenbosch, an aide to the Dutch ambassador to Russia, pushed him to the floor and tied him up before ransacking the apartment, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Russian tabloid news website Life News reported that the attackers did not steal anything, but drew a large pink heart on a mirror and scrawled "LGBT" beneath it, suggesting a homophobic motive.
Russian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the attack, and the foreign ministry in Moscow has expressed regret for the “deplorable incident,” which comes days after a Russian diplomat in the Netherlands was arrested by Dutch police after his neighbors reportedly accused him of mistreating his children.
Russian state television Rossiya-24 reported that Dutch police forced their way into the apartment of the Russian diplomat, who was identified as a deputy to the ambassador, assaulted him, and then held him at a police station for several hours without explanation.

Dutch Media:

Foreign minister Frans Timmermans has described the attack on a senior Dutch diplomat in Moscow as ‘serious’ and will have contact with his Russian counterpart later on Wednesday.
‘I want to know exactly what happened and what Russia is doing to find the culprits,’ Timmermans is quoted as saying by Nos television.
The minister will update parliament on the situation at the end of the afternoon or early evening, Timmermans said. MPs are due to debate the incident on Thursday after which ‘conclusions can be drawn about, for example, king Willem-Alexander’s trip to Russia’, Nos said.
The visit, to close a year-long celebration to mark 400 years of Dutch-Russian diplomatic relations, is due to take place on November 9.
Home
Russia has already said it regrets the attack on the Dutch embassy’s number two, Onno Elderenbosch. He was beaten at his home in Moscow by two men who forced their way into his house.

Russian media reports state the men drew a heart on a mirror with lipstick and the letters LGBT, which represents the words lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Nos said.
According to RTL news, the men burst in after claiming to be electricians, knocked the diplomat to the ground and tied him up. Dutch activists have been highly criticial of anti-gay laws in Russia.
The Hague
The case comes 10 days after a Russian diplomat in The Hague was arrested after neighbours reported he was abusing his children. The Netherlands has since apologised for the action.
Prior to that, Russian coastguards seized a Greenpeace ship flying the Dutch flag which was involved in protests in Russia's Arctic waters. The crew of 30, including two Dutch nationals, face piracy charges.
© DutchNews.nl

September 14, 2013

Sex in the Soviet Closet } History of Gay Cruising in MoScOw



© Yegveniy Fiks

Sex in the Soviet closet: a history of gay cruising in Moscow

One day in 1955, a railway stoker named Klimov entered the GUM department store, looking for a bite to eat. While inside, Klimov, 27, stopped by the bathroom.
"In the toilet a young lad came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Let's get acquainted,'" Klimov later recalled. The man's name was Volodya. He invited Klimov to the Lenin Museum.
"He bought the tickets with his money, and we went straight to the men's toilet."
An intimate encounter began, but they were interrupted by a pair of strangers.
Several weeks later, the men happened to meet in the GUM toilet again. This time, they opted for the secluded woods of Sokolniki Park.
From 1933 to 1993, homosexuality was officially outlawed in Russia under Article 121 of the Soviet Criminal Code. But all the while, the Communist capital's most famous landmarks served as pick-up spots for gay men.
In a new photo book, titled "Moscow" and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, Russian-American photographer Yevgeniy Fiks captures the city's Soviet cruising grounds as they look today. They are familiar to any resident of the city: the square in front of the Bolshoi Theater, Alexandrovsky Sad, Okhotny Ryad metro station.
Most of the spots are usually crowded. But in Fiks' photos, they stand empty.
"This book is a type of kaddish [mourning prayer] for the lost and repressed generations of Soviet-era gays," Fiks said.
Invisible to most Muscovites, cruising grounds composed a silent topography that existed parallel to Soviet life - offering the possibility of same-sex love in a society that did not acknowledge its existence.
***
A 1955 encounter began in the Lenin Museum
© Yegveniy Fiks
A 1955 encounter began in the Lenin Museum
In Europe, the practice of cruising dates from at least the 17th century. Cruising "comes from city life. People could gather anonymously in cities and meet a partner," said Dan Healey, a professor at the University of Reading.
"There's nothing physically that sets apart a person who's heterosexual, so if you're in the homosexual minority, you're dependent on other factors," said Healey, who has written extensively on the history of Russian gay life. "One of those is location."
The basic features of cruising took shape in Paris and other cosmopolitan capitals. Men looking for sex with other men frequented a certain public place - a park, a statue, a train station, a toilet. Contact usually started with a glance that lingered a second too long. One man struck up a conversation, often asking for a cigarette or the time. If both parties were interested, an encounter either occurred on the spot, or the pair moved to a more private location.
From the beginning, Healey said, cruising was generally a male pursuit. Thanks to their mobility, work outside the home and drinking culture, men could roam freely in a way that was generally denied to women.
Cruising came to Moscow during the country's rapid urbanization process in the late 19th century. As the city became a manufacturing center, it developed extensive transportation networks, and its population boomed. In 1861, there were 350,000 people living in the city; by 1917, there were 1.4 million.
Though some sexual contact between men had long been tolerated in Russian culture - particularly under the influence of alcohol - the Western ideas introduced by Peter the Great gradually led to homosexuality's stigmatization. In 1835, sodomy was declared a crime.
But as Moscow industrialized, public space offered new possibilities for homosexual contact. Beer halls catered to men seeking the company of other men, fostering a new gay subculture.
Cruising first emerged on the Boulevard Ring. Dotted with benches, kiosks and public toilets, the boulevards provided equal amounts of openness and seclusion. They were conveniently located near transportation links, but also shielded by trees.
In 1912, a 17-year-old peasant named Pavel had his first homosexual experience on the Boulevard Ring while walking home from a night class. After his first few encounters, he began cruising Prechistensky and Nikitsky Bulvar every night: "It was boring to stay at home."
Pavel described his experiences in 1927 to a Soviet psychiatrist, who wrote about them in a medical journal. While the article framed Pavel's story as a case study of a psychopathic prostitute, it provided a wealth of information about Russia's flourishing gay male subculture before the Revolution, which Pavel recalled as "a marvelous time."
After becoming the lover of Prince Felix Yusupov, who hired him as a manservant, Pavel began receiving invitations to balls of "woman-haters" where the men dressed in drag.
But cruising was proscribed by class boundaries. Aristocratic gay men such as Yusupov or composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky sought out partners through servants and lower-class contacts, preferring to avoid the risk of public recognition that cruising entailed, as Healey notes in a chapter on Moscow in "Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories since 1600."
***
The two men were later arrested in Sokolniki Park by police officers walking their dog
© Yegveniy Fiks
The two men were later arrested in Sokolniki Park by police officers walking their dog
After decriminalizing homosexuality in 1917, the Bolsheviks were split on the gay question. Some ideologues proclaimed that homosexuals, like women, were an oppressed group in need of liberation. Others, however, thought that same-sex relations were a bourgeois excess that would be cured by socialist medicine.
When sodomy was recriminalized in 1933, cruising grounds didn't disappear; in fact, their numbers exploded.
Many aspects of Soviet life contributed to the cruising boom. Crowded dormitories and communal apartments led people (both gay and straight) to seek out alternative spaces for sex. Social institutions such as banyas and bars were turned over to the state, effectively ending the possibility for private gatherings.
Meanwhile, improved transportation networks made urban space more accessible. Thanks to the new metro system, which opened in 1935, anyone could get to the center in a matter of minutes.
The Bolshoi, Trubnaya Ploshchad and Alexandrovsky Sad became popular, as did farther-flung spots such as the embankment by Moscow State University. Public toilets took on new significance, particularly at Alexandrovsky Sad. Peak cruising time came at the end of the work day.
By the 1960s, a kind of gay circuit had developed near the Kremlin. It was almost identical to the favorite strolling route of most Muscovites, beginning at the Bolshoi, winding past GUM and Lubyanka, and ending at Kitai-Gorod. Moscow's gay world mirrored its straight world - only the former was hidden.
A gay lexicon emerged to describe cruising. The word "pleshka" - which means a bald spot or, literally, an open area - became slang for a pick-up spot. The stony Karl Marx statue across from the Bolshoi was dubbed "director of the pleshka"; in almost every Russian city, Lenin statues became "Tyotenka Lena," or "Auntie Lena." Using such code enabled men to discreetly arrange encounters (as in, "Meet me at Auntie Lena's").
Most city-dwellers remained unaware of the terminology, much less the gay subculture. Of several older Muscovites questioned, none were familiar with the term "pleshka." "I don't even know what you're talking about," said Valentina, 75, who declined to give her last name.
Roman Kalinin, 47, began going to Moscow's pleshkas in 1985. "Finding a place to go was a huge problem," he said. "We couldn't go back to our apartments - gays usually lived with spouses, with parents."
In summer, Kalinin would stand in front of the Bolshoi; in winter, the action moved to Okhotny Ryad metro. After meeting, pairs often decamped to Tsentralniye Bani, near the Bolshoi.
When asked who cruised, he said, "Everyone."
"You have to understand, there was simply nowhere else to go."
Cruising carried serious risks, especially after World War II, when enforcement of the anti-sodomy statute increased. There were informants among the men who frequented pleshki, and KGB entrapment was common.
In 1944, Vadim Kozin, a hugely popular Soviet singer, was arrested and sent to the gulag at Magadan. While Kozin didn't cruise, his sexual orientation was an open secret. The message was clear: Homosexuality would not be tolerated.
Most stories of homosexual encounters in Soviet Moscow come from the court cases of people who were arrested. Klimov and Volodya, the couple who met in the GUM bathroom and proceeded to Sokolniki, were caught in the act by policemen walking their dog. Both were sentenced to three years in prison. Other court cases described men caught in bathrooms, or lying by train tracks.
Nevertheless, cruising may still have been safer in the Soviet Union than in the West. In the 1940s and 1950s, more people were arrested every year for homosexual activity in New York and London than in Moscow, according to Healey. (Accurate figures for the Soviet Union are difficult to obtain, as parts of the FSB archives remain closed.)
Despite the risks, gay people continued finding one another in public places until 1993, when the anti-sodomy law was repealed. By this time, spots had arisen where lesbians gathered as well - most famously, the Yesenin monument on Tverskoi Bulvar.
By the early '90s, Kalinin said, the main fear was not police exposure, but thugs that began hanging around spots such as the Bolshoi. He recalled how a friend once came to a cruising spot, only to encounter a group of men with semi-automatics.
"After that, he was never seen at a pleshka again," he said.
***
On a blustery autumn day, dozens of tourists, commuters and homeless people were wandering by the Monument to the Heroes of Plevna, the Russo-Turkish War monument at the crest of Kitai-Gorod that was once a public toilet. Some simply strolled past; others lingered, their faces lighting up as friends arrived.
A few, however, remained alone, their eyes scanning the crowd.
"We just call it ‘going to China,'" said Dima, 28, who was sitting by the monument.
Thanks to the availability of gay clubs and Internet sites, cruising has died off in cities around the world. Now, gay men don't need to hang around toilets; they can simply switch on their mobiles.
A popular smartphone app, Grindr, alerts users to nearby gay men looking for intimacy, complete with name, photo and exact proximity. While it doesn't show as many results as in, say, New York, Grindr's Moscow version still produces a bounty of options. On a recent afternoon in an apartment outside the center, the closest potential partner was only 400 meters away.
Today, the people who cruise at Kitai-Gorod generally can't afford a computer or smartphone. Many of them are looking for cash. "It's like going to a brothel," Dima said.
Russian Orthodox activists have occasionally picketed the area, but it seems to have had little effect. Sitting at the base of the statue, Dima indicated the men he thought were on the prowl: a 20-something Central Asian man in a sweatsuit, a grey-haired Russian in a green shirt and suit jacket. Both eventually strolled off, alone.
There are places in Moscow where old-fashioned cruising still occurs, even among people with Internet access: train station toilets, the beach at Serebryanny Bor. Certain saunas also cater to gay men.
Despite their soured reputation, historic spots such as Kitai-Gorod still hold some allure for young people - particularly those in the closet, for whom the idea of picking up a stranger seems an impossible thrill. "When I was 13 or maybe 15, I read about this place," Dima said. "I wanted to come here, but I was afraid."
Dima says he has successfully cruised at Kitai-Gorod twice in the past year, and has been approached many more times.
"One time I came here to stroll around for no reason in particular," he said. "I heard footsteps behind me, and I could feel that someone was undressing me with his eyes. I turned around and saw a middle-aged man in a feminine sort of suit.
"He asked me, ‘Young man, would you like to drink a coffee?' And I said, ‘Thanks, I already drank one.' He said, ‘Okay, sorry.'
"I said, ‘Happy hunting.'"

‘An idiot and a degenerate'

Yevgeniy Fiks' "Moscow" ends with an excerpt from a 1934 letter to Josef Stalin by gay British Communist Harry Whyte, then the 27-year-old head of The Moscow News' editorial staff.
Born in Edinburgh, Whyte worked for Communist newspapers in Britain before joining The Moscow News in 1932. He was singled out as the paper's "best shock worker," and promoted the next year.
The letter, titled "Can a Homosexual Be a Member of the Communist Party?" was a rousing condemnation of the 1933 Soviet law recriminalizing homosexuality. Whyte cited his own promotion at The Moscow News as evidence for why homosexuals should be accepted in Soviet society.
"Comrade Borodin, who said that he personally took a negative view of homosexuality, at the same time declared that he regarded me as a fairly good communist, that I could be trusted, and that I could lead my personal life as I liked," he wrote.
Whyte originally addressed the letter to The Moscow News' editor-in-chief, Mikhail Borodin. After Borodin declined to send it, Whyte addressed it to Stalin himself.
Now located in the state archives, the letter's first page bore the instruction: "Archive. An idiot and a degenerate. J. Stalin." There is only one article containing Whyte's byline in The Moscow News archive ("Koltzov - the journalistic artist," April 3, 1933). His fate remains unknown.

‘Different from the Others'

In the 1920s, the first Soviet People's Commissar for Public Health, Nikolai Semashko, proclaimed that homosexuals were fully-fledged members of Soviet society. The speech, however, was made in Berlin.
While Bolshevik ideologists remained divided on the gay question, there was one country that had a true gay rights movement in the 1920s: Germany. German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Community, a gay rights group, and campaigned for the repeal of Article 175, the German law that criminalized homosexuality. He won prominent supporters including Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann before the rise of the Third Reich put an end to the movement.
In the '20s, Hirschfeld was respected in the Soviet Union as the world's leading sexologist. The first Soviet People's Commissar for Public Health, Nikolai Semashko, was in contact with Hirschfield, and met him on an official visit to Berlin. Semashko attended a screening of Hirschfeld's 1919 film "Different from the Others," which featured one of the first gay characters on film. The movie starred Conrad Veidt as a blackmailed gay man whose career-ruining decision to come out drives him to suicide.
Semashko's speech after the film praised the repeal of Russia's tsarist anti-homosexuality law and gay people's status in the collective. But such language was never repeated at home, and by 1933, it was entirely verboten.

Gay Soviet singer Vadim Kozin, arrested and sent to Magadan in 1944, singing his 1938 hit "Druzhba":


Did you hear the one about gays at the Bolshoi?

A day after our story "Sex in the Soviet closet" went to print, city magazine Bolshoi Gorod published an article on unofficial sexual culture in the Soviet Union that also discussed Soviet attitudes toward homosexuality.
"People talked about gays calmly. They didn't shock anyone," writes author Anya Aivazyan.
She recalls an old Soviet joke about cruising. A person comes to the square in front of the Bolshoi Theater and sits down on a bench, where someone strokes his knee. He moves to another bench, and someone throws an arm around his shoulder. On the third bench, someone tries to kiss him. He approaches a police officer and says, ‘Comrade Sergeant, the faggots are hitting on me!" The police officer says sweetly, "So why did you come to our garden?"
Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #35"
 

Amazon SearchBox Use it for All Meerchandise

The Forest Needs help

Summer Athlete

Adamfoxie Blog Int.

Adamfoxie Blog Int.
Amazon

ONE

ONE
Relief World Hunger

Taylor Made 2016 Family Clubs

Click Here To Get Anything by Amazon- That will keep US Going

Amazon EcHo

Blog Archive/White No# Stories per Month/year

Popular Posts

Everyday at the Movies

Orangutans ARE Part of the Forest

The Gay Man in You♥ or Him