News / Europe

Despite Official Denial, Gay Life Flourishes Underground in Sochi

Despite Government Denial, Gay Life Flourishes Underground in Olympic Sochii
X
February 06, 2014 7:20 PM
World debate about gay rights in Russia often overlooks the gay life that flourishes underground in that country. James Brooke reports from Sochi.
James BrookeMike Eckels
In recent days, videos have gone viral showing Russian skinheads and others attacking gays. The videos fueled protests around the world Wednesday, calling on corporate sponsors of the Winter Olympics in Sochi to condemn restrictions on gay life in Russia.

But, often overlooked, a gay scene does exist in Russia, although invariably behind tightly closed doors. 

Above ground, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov had told news media last week that he does not believe there are any gays living in his city.

Below ground, at Mayak, one of Sochi's two gay bars, business was booming when VOA visited Wednesday.

Andrei Tenichev owns the "Mayak" which means "Lighthouse."  

"In my opinion there is no gay community in Russia - there are just gays," he said. “Russian gays socialize with each other abroad more than in Russia, because in Russia they don't like to make their orientation known.”

He says he does not know of any skinhead activity in Sochi, a liberal seaside resort sometimes called "Russia's Miami."

Rather than public protests, gays in Sochi want to first come to terms with their families.

"If you were to organize a gay parade here today in Sochi, which is legally possible, there's a special zone where it could take place, a type of Hyde Park, I'm sure that not a single local gay would go,” said Tenichev. “We even took a survey. Zero people wanted to participate. Absolutely no one. Because gays are not ready to be 'out'.

"They have different concerns. They need to come out to their parents, to themselves, to hold mini gay parades in their own families," he continued. "That's what they're thinking about. How their parents and friends will react."

American Hudson Taylor predicts that gay athletes will not raise the issue on the medalist winner's podium. Taylor, who is straight, directs Athlete Ally, a U.S. group that seeks to cut homophobia in sports.

"Many of the athletes that we've worked with have expressed a real fear of being too vocal heading into the games,” he said. “There is a fear that really talking about how they really feel about the issue may in some way negatively impact their ability to come to the games. To represent their country."

A few days before the Olympic opening on Feb. 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin said gay people should feel comfortable at the Sochi games, but urged them to "leave children in peace, please."

And so, once again, Russia's gay scene will remain out of sight and sound of the public.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid