Showing posts with label Russian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russian. Show all posts

February 19, 2020

13 Million Russians Have Watched A Ground Breaking Film on Russia's HIV ~Too Little Too Late

Image result for russia and hiv
 Too little too late...A hundred people per day,” reads this screenshot from vlogger Yury Dud's YouTube documentary about Russia's HIV epidemic. This was the average number of victims on a daily basis in 2018.


One of Russia's most popular vloggers or video bloggers, Yury Dud, has released a documentary movie describing the HIV/AIDS situation in Russia. Since its launch on February 11, Dud's movie has received nearly 13 million views.
That makes Dud's documentary one of the most viewed YouTube videos in Russia today. And it couldn't have come at a more urgent time.
Russia faces an HIV epidemic. By the end of 2019, Russia's Ministry of Healthcare estimated the number of HIV positive Russian citizens at one million, meaning that the syndrome affects around one percent of Russia’s adult population. Meanwhile, the Russian government remains silent. As sociologist Iskander Yasaveyev wrote last November for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta: 
Of the 1,400,000 cases of HIV infection registered in our country since 1987, more than half —around 750 thousand — were recorded after 2012, the starting year of Putin's third presidential mandate. 
Luckily, Russia's booming vlogosphere is there to say what goes unsaid elsewhere. Vloggers such as Dud have a significant following as they offer a rare alternative in a country whose media is heavily censored and controlled by the government. Television is the predominant source of information in Russia, meaning that most alternative media, with the exception of online television station Dozhd(Дождь), are newspapers and radio stations. This means that vloggers’ popular YouTube channels are the only real independent competition for state-owned television channels. 
Dud, a former sports journalist, is one of Russia's leading vloggers, with over six million followers on his YouTube channel. He often interviews Russian-speaking celebrities but has also produced several professional documentaries on controversial issues in Russian society.

He's a considerate and thoughtful approach to some truly tricky topics has made Dud nothing less than a superstar on the RuNet. Global Voices asked Zhenya Snezhkina, a Prague-based Russian journalist and expert on Russian vloggers, to explain the popularity of video bloggers in Russia today and Dud’s success in particular: 
Quick feedback that gives content creators the ability to better assess their audiences’ needs and expectations. As censorship has intensified in Russia, more and more people have tried to find ways to avoid it, transferring to platforms whose structure doesn't allow the Russian authorities to censor them so easily. So today, several tens of millions of users now prefer uncensored media.
From the very beginning of his YouTube career, Dud spoke about himself as a person who asks inconvenient questions and digs up the reality of various situations. Without judgement, but with understanding. He's basically reinvented the format of the interview, moving beyond the need for “well-behaved” interviewees. As his channel developed, its scope expanded to including topics that are risky to discuss. In 2019, his record breakers were his films about Kolyma [part of the Russian Gulag] and Beslan [a terrorist attack on a school in the Russian Caucasus]. Both movies have over 19 million views each. Both incensed the pro-Kremlin propagandists. It was logical that the HIV situation in Russia should become one of his next topics, because it is a tragic situation.
The title of Dud's latest documentary translates as “HIV in Russia  the epidemic that no one talks about” («ВИЧ в России — эпидемия, про которую не говорят») and runs for nearly two hours. It starts by citing key statistics, including the fact that on average, in 2018, 100 people died of the virus every day. The film includes several testimonies by HIV positive people and their partners, touching upon diverse topics: couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other isn't, HIV-positive children, HIV and drug consumption, myths about HIV transmission, HIV activism, the need for sexual education in schools, and the authorities’ silence. The movie revolves around real-life stories and is conducted, as are Dud's other videos, in a colloquial style that differs significantly from the tenor of official media in Russia.  
 I work in a clinic and my first patient today was a young man who came for an HIV test, and he said he did so because he saw this video. It's amazing.
— Anastasiya Botushan, YouTube, February 13, 2020
Following the release of Dud's documentary, there has been an explosion in HIV testing — a fact which reflects the lack of effective governmental campaigns to prevent the epidemic. One article suggests that the demand for HIV testing in Russia has increased by 5,500 percent since February 11.
Apparently, the success of the movie has also made the authorities sit up and take notice. The Duma, Russia's parliament, organized a screening of the movie on February 14:

А у нас в Госдуме такой вот немного неожиданный выбор для Дня Святого Валентина. Показывают Юрия Дудя.

View image on Twitter

And for Valentine's Day, we made an unusual choice at the State Duma. We are being shown Yury Dud's film.
On February 16, the Accounts Chamber of Russia, which oversees financial control of the state budget, announced that would review the effectiveness of measures aimed at supporting HIV-positive Russians. Its head Alexey Kudrin praised Dud's movie on Twitter:

Юрий Дудь снял нужный фильм об эпидемии ВИЧ в России. Уже инфицировано более 1 млн. В 2018 году от СПИДа умерло 37 тыс человек. В среднем по 100 человек в день. Сравните с коронавирусом. пока в нашей стране - гораздо более реальная угроза  @yurydud

Yury Dud has made a much needed movie about HIV in Russia. More than one million people are infected. In 2018, 37,000 died of AIDS — that's on average 100 persons a day. Compare that with the coronavirus. #HIV in our country remains a much more real threat.
Snezhkina, the Prague-based journalist, does not believe that the authorities’ approach will change overnight. Nevertheless, she is optimistic about the prospects of wider social awareness about HIV in Russia:
Basically the “authorities” have heard the words of Dud and his heroes  the movie was shown in the State Duma and at the Ministry of Health. I don't think the movie will bring any radical changes. But the fact that so many people have found out about HIV-testing and the existence of drugs [for the condition], will have much more significant consequences.
One of the most poignant moments in Dud's film is his interview with Katya, a former drug user who died while the film was shot. Throughout their conversation, Katya insists several times that:
We are not lepers. I hope there'll be a free flow of information [about us].

April 9, 2019

Russian Prisons Officials Stopped Yoga Claiming It Made Inmates Gay but An Educated Chief Not Convinced Reinstated It


Russian prison authorities have reinstated yoga for inmates after dismissing a claim by a religious scholar that the practice could make them gay.

Both a Moscow pre-trial detention center for women and the renowned Butyrka prison in the Russian capital introduced yoga classes last year, according to The Moscow Times. 

Theological professor Alexander Dvorkin wrote a document suggesting yoga could cause uncontrolled sexual arousal and homosexuality in detention centers, leading to riots, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomlets reported. Senator Elena Mizulina, who is known for her conservative views, used the document to appeal to the Prosecutor General's Office to check the legality of the yoga classes, and asked for them to be suspended, according to the paper. 

However the classes have been reinstated and Valery Maximenko, deputy head of the Federal Prison Service (FSIN) told a Russian radio station that the sessions had a “very positive” effect on inmates.

“We conducted a study, and among those people who practiced yoga, there was a sharp reduction in visits to doctors for help,” he told the radio station Govorit Moskva (Moscow Speaks).

Maximenko said that in addition to yoga, prisoners will also be taught qigong breathing exercises and dismissed any claims that it led to homosexuality.

“The whole world is engaged in it [yoga], and no one is harmed by it and no one will be drawn to homosexuality. Even it did, we live in a democracy and everyone has the right to choose their own way,” he added, pointing out that homosexuality was not illegal in Russia.

He said that Dvorkin had “outdated concepts” and added that “people of non-traditional orientation can occupy high positions, so we do not have the right to condemn anyone.”

Such a statement from a senior official in Russia is unusual. The country has a law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in which LGBT issues cannot be discussed or disseminated among children and young people. 

Human Rights Watch have said the law has contributed to a culture of persecution toward the LGBT community.

However, Dvorkin said his comments about homosexuality had been taken out of context and that his request also included for there to be checks on those who led the yoga sessions. He said the Kundalini yoga being promoted in the jails was associated with sects and its association with Hinduism means it may not be compatible with Christianity, which he says prisoners should be 

November 13, 2017

For A Brief Period The 1917 Russian Revolution Brought Freedom to The Gay Community

 In January 1921 Russian Baltic Fleet sailor Afanasy Shaur organized an extraordinary gay wedding in Petrograd. 
The guests included 95 former army officers along with members of the lower ranks of both the army and navy and one woman, dressed in a man's suit.
The city had never seen anything like it.
Shaur pulled out all the stops. He did not think guests would come if it had just been a party.
Russian sailors with young men dressed in women's clothes, 1916But he gambled - rightly - that a proper wedding with all the Russian traditions, bread and salt, a blessing from the proud parents, and a concert to follow, would be irresistible.
At the time Russia's gay community was enjoying a brief window of tolerance.
After the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks scrapped and rewrote the country's laws. They produced two Criminal Codes - in 1922 and 1926 - and an article prohibiting gay sex was left off both. But the wedding in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) was not all it seemed.
Afanasy Shaur was, in fact, a member of the secret police, and at the end of the festivities, the guests were all arrested.
It emerged that Shaur had arranged the whole event as a way to curry favor with his bosses. He claimed these former military men were counter-revolutionaries who wanted to destroy the young Red Army from the inside.
But despite Shaur's efforts, the accusations did not stick. The case was eventually closed and the "counter-revolutionaries" got away with nothing more than a fright.

How to recognize 'one's own'

Apasha and Apashka, Leningrad fashion iconsImage copyrightOLGA KHOROSHILOVA
Image captionApasha and Apashka, fashion icons of the NEP era, Leningrad, mid-1920s

Gay men had been part of a distinct underground community in Russia long before the revolution and they recognized each other by the "secret language" of fashion.
In St Petersburg, some wore red ties, or red shawls, onto which they would sew the back pockets of trousers.
Others powdered their faces and wore a lot of mascara.
After the revolution, the heavily made-up "silent film star look" became more mainstream and no longer just a fashion for young gay men. 
The upheaval of the revolution and civil war brought hard times to Russia and gay men were not able to match the flamboyant clothes and luxury accessories favored by some of their counterparts across Europe.

Legal but still persecuted

The Bolsheviks were indirectly influenced by Magnus Hirschfeld, a German scientist who founded the Institute of Sexology in Berlin. 
Hirschfeld often spoke in public of his conviction that homosexuality was not a disease, but a natural manifestation of human sexuality. 

Hansi Sturm, a famous Berlin drag queen of the 1920s.Image copyrightOLGA KHOROSHILOVA
Image captionHansi Sturm, a famous Berlin drag queen of the 1920s.

But although there may not have been an article relating to gay sex in the criminal codes of the 1920s, the community was still persecuted. Gay men were often beaten, blackmailed or sacked from their jobs.
Some wrote heartfelt letters to the psychiatrist Vladimir Bekhterev, considering him their last hope. They poured out their souls, asking him to help them cope with depression and even to "cure their illness".
These letters and other documents show that members of the gay community were incredibly brave - some wore women's dresses and corsets, wore their hair long and often looked like real women.

'Aristocrats' and 'simple people'

Curiously, even though the revolution abolished class division, gay men continued to be divided into social classes. There were two gay communities and they rarely mixed.
The first was the so-called "aristocrats" - representatives of the creative intelligentsia, nobles, officials, and officers of the Tsarist army and navy. 

Members of the Petrograd gay community's 'simple class'Image copyrightOLGA KHOROSHILOVA
Image captionMembers of the Petrograd gay community's 'simple class'

The other community was "simple" (the name, evidently, was invented by the "aristocrats"). It consisted of soldiers, sailors, clerks - people who had not been part of the fashionable St Petersburg salons before the revolution and who were not welcome guests of the "aristocrats" after 1917.
In the 1920s, German Travesti theatre - in which men dress as women and vice versa - became popular among Soviet gay men. They were particularly fond of Hansi Sturm, the star of the Berlin nightclub El Dorado.
"Aristocrats" only rarely invited handsome men from the "simple" ranks to attend their extravagant soirees. But the male artists who dressed as women were not restrained by class restrictions.

Drag queen dressed as Matilda Kshesinskaya, early 1910sImage copyrightOLGA KHOROSHILOVA
Image captionDrag queen dressed as Matilda Kshesinskaya

They became stars and impersonated, among others, famous ballerinas like Matilda Kshesinskaya, who was mistress to Tsar Nicholas II. 
Their wardrobes were full of beautiful costumes made by professional tailors. They used to rent them from the famous Petrograd tailor Leifert or have them made by him. 
Before the revolution, Leifert was a supplier to the imperial court and he also made costumes for the dancers of the Mariinsky Theatre.

And then it all came to an end

After Afanasy Shaur's plot to ensnare "counter-revolutionaries" with his spectacular gay marriage ceremony, there were no more high-profile weddings or arrests like this in the 1920s. 
Although homosexuality was tolerated, the community started to lose its freedom in the 1930s.

Russian 'Travesti' theatre, 1910sImage copyrightOLGA KHOROSHILOVA
Image captionRussian "Travesti" theatre, 1910s

In July 1933, 175 gay men from different walks of life were arrested in what came to be known as the Case of the Leningrad Homosexuals. 
While the full details of the case remain classified, it is known that all those detained were given prison sentences on a range of charges from working for British intelligence to "malicious counter-revolutionism" and "moral corruption of the Red Army".
It is thought that Shaur's "wedding" in 1921 played a significant role in this. The secret police had not forgotten his claims that "sodomizers were corrupting the army and navy".

Image captionThere is very little information about the life of lesbians in Russia before and after the revolution. Petrograd, 1916-1917

Those same assertions were repeated in the early 1930s, as well as in forced confessions obtained by the secret police.
The Case of the Leningrad Homosexuals led to the re-inclusion of the article outlawing homosexuality in the new Criminal Code of 1934 and Russia's short-lived tolerance of gay rights finally came to an end.
Olga Khoroshilova was speaking to BBC Russian's Anna Kosinskaya.
This page was published in Nov10,2017 in the BBC Europe

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