How the Internet empowers Russian homophobes

By Theresa Breuer on August 21st, 2013

The group of Neo-Nazis is standing around him as if they were old friends. One guy in a black hoodie has even put his arm around the 15-year-old boy. “Did you come here to visit Uncle Dima?” one of them demands to know. “Yes,” the boy replies hesitantly. “So this means you are a homo,” the guy with his arm around him replies. “You are gay and you like to fuck old men”.

His voice sounds kind, even fatherly. But when the boy tries to walk away, his tone suddenly changes. “Stay, little bitch, or I will fuck you up.”

So the boy doesn’t run, or lie when they question him about whether he came to Moscow on this snowy day to meet an older man for sex. He doesn’t tell them to leave him alone when they ask him whether he was “fucked in the ass as a child”. And he doesn’t fight back when they “cure him from homosexuality” by pouring urine over his head.

“You will be the star of the Internet,” they sneer. “Say ‘hi’ to your mama.”

The harassment goes on for twenty minutes. Only when the neo-Nazis start kicking the boy does the video stop. What happened to the boy after the recording ended is still unclear.

Strikingly, most of the men aren’t even hiding their faces. A group of women passing the crowd is giving a clue as to why that is: they don’t stop to help the boy,  only to ask him whether he is “retarded”. Then they turn to his perpetrators. “Finish him,” they say.

“With sticks,” one of the brutes assures the women. “We will beat him with sticks.”

Why hide, when violence against homosexuals is so widely accepted in Russian society?

This video is just one of many that can be found on the internet these days. The group responsible for the attack calls itself “Occupy Pedophilyaj” (Occupy Paedophilia). They almost exclusively target homosexual teenagers. Claiming to fight paedophilia by torturing gay youths might seem like they are missing the point. But what neo-Nazis lack in intelligence, they make up for in brutality.

Hundreds of offshoots of Occupy Pedophilyaj have been created on VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. Almost every city has their own group by now, some of them with several thousand fans. Supporters of Occupy Pedophilyaj use the social network to organise themselves, and to set traps for their victims.

They create fake profiles like “Uncle Dima”, then approach young men directly, offering money for sex. In the case of the boy mentioned above, the alleged Dima offered 20,000 Roubles (500 euros) for meeting with him.

Online Torture 3

The mastermind behind the movement is skinhead Maxim Martsinkevich, better known as “Tesak”, meaning “cleaver” in English. His followers are a loose crowd from all over Russia, unified in their veneration for the 29-year-old neo-Nazi, and their hatred for gays. Tesak doesn’t hide his hatred either, nor his admiration for Adolf Hitler.

On his Instagram profile, he regularly uploads shirtless pictures of himself, flags with swastikas on them, and signs that show the number 88 – a code for “Heil Hitler” among neo-Nazis. He has spent three years in jail for staging and filming a fake execution of a drug dealer.

Tesak Instagram 1

Tesak Instagram 2

According to Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, none of the bullies in the videos have been arrested or charged. Meanwhile, crimes against homosexuals are on the rise. Neo-Nazis kidnapping LGBT rights activists, forcing their victims to admit to being homosexuals on tape, beating, torturing and humiliating them – all this happens on a regular basis.

Sometimes, the hatred goes even further. In May, three men in a village on the Kamchatka peninsula stabbed and trampled a man to death for being gay. A couple of weeks earlier, two men in Volgograd tortured a 23-year-old to death for the same reasons, raping and mutilating him with beer bottles, and beating him with rocks.

Police and politicians are doing little to contain the violence. On the contrary: when the LGBT network wanted to demonstrate against the killing in Volgograd, the authorities told them that this kind of action was unacceptable in a conservative and Christian country like Russia. And even though homosexuality was officially decriminalised in 1993, the government implemented a new law in June that criminalises “homosexual propaganda”.

“Homosexual propaganda” includes everything from kissing on the street to talking to students about sexual orientation.

“I think the government knows better, but they use the homophobia that exists in our society to gain votes”, says Igor Iasine, a gay rights activist from Moscow. The numbers confirm his theory. A recent poll showed that three out of four Russians think society should reject gay people. Iasine isn’t surprised that most Russians believe gays to be perverts.

“Sexual education still doesn’t exist in Russia,” he says. “Most Russians claim to have never met a gay person, when in fact they just don’t recognise them. Because guess what, we are normal people, not monsters.”

Apparently, this message still hasn’t reached the majority of the population. While LGBT activists fight a losing battle, Russian officials continue to spread hatred. The Deputy General Director of Russian State Television, Dmitri Kisilev, recently stated the following on a national news program: “I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough.

“They should be banned from donating blood amd sperm. And their hearts, in case of an automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

The audience applauded.