How gay-tolerant medieval Rus borrowed homophobia from the West and fixed with it for excellent

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Similar-sex relationships in pre-Petrine Russia

Most likely the Mujik hath
a homosexual and gallant spouse:
To serve his beastly lust but he
will lead a bowgards existence.
The monster extra wants
a boy inside of his mattress
Then any wench, such filthy sin

ensues a drunken head.

That is how English poet and diplomat George Turberville described his impressions of his adventure to Russia in a 1568 letter to a chum. He used to be no longer the one foreigner to be struck via the licentiousness of manners in Russia. Swedish diplomat Peer Peersson of Erlesunda (who wrote beneath the pen title Petrus Petreius) additionally resented it. As he wrote in Historien und Bericht Von dem Großfürstenthumb Muschkow, his paintings at the historical past of Russia throughout the Time of Troubles and Ivan the Horrible,

“They, particularly the nice boyars and nobles, have interaction in additional debauchery, sodomy, males with males, and no longer even secretly however incessantly in entrance of many of us, taking into consideration it an honor and doing it with out reserve and publicly.” (Translated from the Russian translation of Petreius’ paintings.)

In 1551, the Italian historian Paolo Giovio printed a sequence of books during which he described the mores of the Muscovy throughout the time of Tsar Vasily III, mentioning Russian ambassadors and traders:

«Within the approach of the Greeks, Muscovite customs allow to like younger males, for the noblest of them and the entire ranks of chivalry are within the dependancy of accepting the kids of honorable voters of their carrier and educating them within the artwork of conflict.”

Unsurprisingly, maximum vacationers have been stunned via the comfy angle towards sodomy within the Russian tsardom. On the time, “sodomy” used to be an umbrella time period for all sorts of sexual sex no longer aimed toward conceiving a kid inside of marriage, however a gay courting between two males used to be regarded as to be probably the most critical transgression. In maximum Western Ecu international locations, it used to be punishable via loss of life.

Alternatively, such rigor didn’t seem feature of both Slavs or the Russian Orthodox. All the way through its independence, the Rzeczpospolita had no regulations punishing same-sex relationships. On paper, the Byzantine Empire punished each homosexual intercourse and adultery via loss of life, however historians may no longer verify any precedents of its software. As an alternative, in maximum sentences handed for gay members of the family, consequences have been restricted to corporal punishment or fines.

The Russian Orthodox Church used to be typically extra lenient towards same-sex relationships than the Catholics. Sodomy used to be an excellent broader idea: not like their Western opposite numbers, high-ranking Orthodox monks have been much less occupied with sexual members of the family that didn’t result in reputable offspring than about gender norm violations. The latter integrated, for instance, eventualities the place a lady took a dominant place throughout intercourse. Similar-sex anal sex used to be punished in the similar manner as heterosexual adultery, whilst mutual masturbation or fellatio used to be regarded as a minor transgression. Curiously, Bishop Niphont of Novgorod, who lived within the twelfth century, regarded as lesbian intercourse between two single ladies a lesser sin than premarital heterosexual intercourse.

Next criminalization of homosexuality happened throughout Nicholas I’s reign beneath the affect of German regulations. Fearful via the French Revolution, which resulted in the decriminalization of homosexuality in France, and the Decembrist rise up of 1825 in Russia, the emperor made up our minds to reinforce the alliance with the Germans and undertake their customs, which had implied a punitive way to same-sex relationships since pre-Christian instances. The Digest of Rules of the Russian Empire, printed in 1832, criminalized sodomy for all the inhabitants of the rustic. Beneath the brand new regulation, the ones discovered in charge of sodomy needed to repent, lose their titles and fortune, and pass into exile in Siberia.

Alternatively, this regulation used to be additionally carried out with nice reluctance. Sodomy had no criminal definition of sodomy, and the regulation used to be no longer adopted up via any specialised literature as a result of legal professionals have been frightened of turning the felony code right into a pornographic mag. Their warning difficult regulation enforcement, as used to be famous via Vladimir Nabokov, a pacesetter of the Constitutional Democratic Celebration and the daddy of the well-known author. With a homosexual brother and son, Nabokov had private motives to recommend the decriminalization of homosexuality within the Russian Empire.

The police saved a watch on homosexuals, as evidenced, for instance, via a memo with dozens of names of homosexual males in St. Petersburg, however they just initiated arrests in keeping with lawsuits from voters or if a case attracted public consideration. There have been additionally no forensic pointers for detecting anal intercourse when Russia followed the 1832 Digest of Rules, and docs have been reluctant to testify in opposition to homosexuals as a result of they most commonly regarded as homosexuality to be a congenital trait. In the end, the appliance of the regulation used to be hindered via the truth that the the Aristocracy typically have shyed away from punishment. Loud scandals amongst aristocrats have been extinguished on the emperor’s behest, and other folks whose gay proclivities have been the debate of the city persevered to occupy the perfect posts.

Any other Kadet deputy, Victor Obninsky, wrote concerning the Nicholas II generation:

“Many St. Petersburg celebrities, actors, writers, musicians, and grand dukes additionally indulged on this shameful vice. Their names have been on everybody’s lips, and plenty of flaunted their way of life. … Apparently, no longer the entire Guard regiments have been at risk of the vice. Whilst nearly everybody within the Preobrazhensky regiment, together with its commander, used to be indulging in it, the Hussar Existence Guards have been extra herbal of their affections.”

The listing of widely-known homosexuals integrated the Grand Dukes Sergei Alexandrovich and Konstantin Konstantinovich, the conservative literary determine Viktor Meshchersky, the composer Peter Tchaikovsky, and the writer of the triad “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality” Sergei Uvarov. Alternatively, this notoriety didn’t impact their lives whatsoever. It took a high-profile scandal to punish a nobleman for sodomy. An instance of this type of scandal used to be the debate across the poet Alexander Shenin when he (allegedly) launched an erotic, gay poem, A Cadet’s Escapades (1843). Even then, the consequences we restricted to dismissal from carrier and exile from St. Petersburg.

It’s unsurprising, subsequently, that the choice of convictions handiest declined over the years. In line with statistics cited via historian Dan Healey, it used to be already less than the typical for all crimes mixed. Of the 1,066 circumstances between 1874 and 1904, 440 circumstances, or 41.28%, resulted in in charge verdicts, when put next with 66.25% for all different circumstances. Of those, 80% have been gay rapes, and handiest 20% handled consensual sex. Artists, docs, writers, academics, monks, servants, and craftsmen have been punished maximum incessantly.

After the Russian Revolution of 1905, the choice of sodomy circumstances and convictions spiked. From 1905 to 1913, 911 circumstances have been opened, of which 504 resulted in verdicts – which is sort of as many as within the earlier thirty years in a decade. Significantly, handiest 8 sentences have been passed down in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the place nearly all of circumstances have been initiated. The North Caucasus and the Islamic fringes of the empire accounted for lots of the enlargement, whilst the choice of convictions in opposition to ethnic Slavs persevered to fall. This took place as a result of Muslim peoples of the empire had practices akin to bacha bazi, a convention during which younger adolescent men or boys carried out erotic dances and had intercourse with grownup males for cash or patronage. Fearful via the failed revolution, the federal government sought to Westernize those societies, to verify their more potent integration with the empire, and approached gay members of the family in those communities as the results of “savage customs” that needed to be eliminated.

Gay appeal in Innovative Russia

After the Revolution of 1917, Russia abolished the thing on sodomy. In 1919, Bishop Palladius of Zvenigorod used to be sentenced to 5 years in a case of “pederasty” for having an affair with a 14-year-old mobile attendant. Palladius may have been persecuted on account of his shut friendship with Patriarch Tikhon: the latter had tasked the bishop with fighting the nationalization of the New Jerusalem Monastery. Nonetheless, a 12 months later the bishop used to be amnestied, and the general model of the Legal Code of the RSFSR in 1922 didn’t come with a piece of writing on sodomy. This may increasingly have stemmed from the Soviet pattern for the secularization of Russian regulation and society.

Within the early Twenties, representatives of the Folks’s Commissariat for Well being, together with for my part the Folks’s Commissar Nikolai Semashko, who laid the rules of the Soviet healthcare device, have been in lively touch with colleagues in Germany, the place sexology used to be impulsively growing. At meetings of the Magnus Hirschfeld Institute for Sexual Science, they mentioned that the decriminalization of homosexuals within the USSR used to be a planned measure.

Soviet courts even identified same-sex marriages in some circumstances. Historian Dan Healey cites the case of 1 Evgenia Feodorovna M., described via two psychiatrists. They recount how a lady organized a wedding together with her unnamed significant other, posing as a person. Upon discovering this, public prosecutors tried to annul the verdict of the registry workplace, however the Commissariat of Justice declared the wedding criminal.

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