Truths behind the gay torture images from Russia

Abuse of an "Uzbek": From Mikhail Solovyov's page at vk.com, http://vk.com/id162104250

Abuse of an “Uzbek waiter”: From Mikhail Solovyov’s page at vk.com, http://vk.com/id162104250

Russia now is a story told in pictures, still and moving. Everybody knows about Putin’s anti-gay law, because it’s been at the top of the news, gay and straight, for two weeks running; and if you’ve been following this even slightly, you’ve seen images like these — of homophobes brutally abusing Russian queers.

But what do they mean? Clips and snapshots keep cropping up on Western blogs. Here’s a  “horrific video showing Russian thugs have started entrapping gay men and boys,” posted by John Aravosis, with 85,000 hits on YouTube. Yet how can you evaluate it if nobody bothers to say where the hell they got it?  Nor do most of the reposters have any qualms about showing the full faces of the people in these videos and photos: apparently once they’ve been outed and humiliated in Russia, they’re fair game in the rest of the world. (“While I am loathe to expose this young man any further, but [sic] this must be shown,” Melanie Nathan blogs while hawking one video. No, it mustn’t.) There’s a panicked compulsion to give us more and more pictures to consume, partly because they drive up Web traffic, partly because they lend an urgency that makes mere explanations seem distracting. But you can’t make sense of it unless you can say, not just see, something about what’s going on.

Pictures are problems. Photos pretend to tell us truths — a photograph “seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects,” wrote Susan Sontag — but, of course, they’re limited in what they tell. A photograph, or even a YouTube fragment of film, lacks context, is pulled free from the background that would give it meaning. You could argue (I’m sure someone has) that photographs of violence have an especially insidious appeal because all photographs are made in violence. Atrocity photos simply express the essence of the form: a few moments ripped from the seamless substance of the world, propped up in lopped and amputated isolation. You can use them, abuse them, put them in new contexts where they say and mean something completely different.

Russia is, as it happens, used to having its story told in images. Orthodoxy pioneered the use of icons for narrating religion to illiterate masses. To many Russian faithful still, these pictures don’t just show the sacred, they are it: a second, visual Gospel, sharing the authority and infallibility of the first. All those modern propaganda posters and imposing Red Square pageants draw on the same tradition: that seeing induces believing.

I like my mother better: Divine parenthood in the Russian visual tradition

I like my mother more. Divine parenthood in the Russian tradition

But we’re talking politics, not religion. And a picture must never be left to speak for itself. It’s not that hard to trace some of the stories behind these images. Due diligence requires it. At the very least, it can show Western activists how repression in Putin’s Russia goes far beyond a single “anti-gay law.” Moreover, you can learn much from the international economy of images in which these pictures circulate.

For example: the photograph at top comes from the page of Mikhail Solovyov, a neo-Nazi in the small, remote Urals city of Kamensk. (More on Kamensk soon.) It’s gone round the world; it’s become symbolic. Last week, a march against Putin’s law in Sweden saw the photo restaged as a tableau vivant, with a bear and a leather queen playing the abusive skinheads. (Isn’t this a peculiar way of protesting violence? I’ve been to countless demonstrations on Darfur, but never saw street theater enacting the invasion of the janjaweed.) How do I know that? Because a picture of the demo made its way back to Kamensk, and Mikhail Solovyov. He put it on his page too: with the caption,

Following the “advanced” West, you first recognize LGBT marriage, then pedophilia [as a] normal sexual orientation. … Pictured, representatives of foreign LGBT organizations protesting against catching pedophiles.

Swedish demo, August 2013: From Mikhail Solovyov's page, at http://vk.com/id162104250

Swedish demo, August 2013: From Mikhail Solovyov’s page, at http://vk.com/id162104250

So where did all these pictures start?

Maxim Martsinkevich is probably the place to begin. Nothing about the 29-year-old would-be architect’s page at VK, Russia’s answer to Facebook, suggests a particularly distinctive skinhead. He goes by his nickname, “Tesak,” variously translated “machete,” “cleaver,” or — my favorite — “slasher.” He likes steroids, protein shakes, pointless displays of masculinity (three videos show him having a tooth pulled minus anesthetic), and Adolf Hitler. Yet he’s quite innovative as Nazis go. Early in the Putin years, he was the driving force behind Format18, a violent group that called itself the “armed wing” of Russia’s National Socialist party.

Not your father's fascist: Slasher, from his profile at http://vk.com/resstruckt

Not your father’s fascist: Slasher, from his profile at http://vk.com/resstruckt

Format18 regularly assaulted immigrants and dark people. Its creativity lay in deciding that visibility — movie cameras coupled with social media — was not its enemy, but its friend. It filmed the attacks, turning them into imitation music videos that went viral on YouTube and VK. Google “Format18″ and “funny” and you’ll figure out why: their savage sense of humor. “Lol, I love those videos,” one European neo-Nazi says. “It’s funny when they beat people up then burn their passports.” Some of the videos showed murders.

You might say Slasher dealt in iconography, that Russian tradition of showing, not telling. Made visible, the violence spread terror among the people Format18 wanted scared; made consumable, it helped Format18 recruit. Many Russians had loathed foreigners and especially Southerners at least since the Chechen wars. (There’s ample evidence that Putin sealed his 2000 election victory by having the ex-KGB carry out apartment-building bombings that slaughtered hundreds of Russians — then blaming them on Chechen “terrorists.”) Format18′s videos changed killing foreigners from drab fascist duty into something sexy.

Slasher even became a minor star in Putin’s mainstream media, soundbiting his way onto talk shows. Then disaster struck. Starting in 2008, he was convicted twice for “inciting ethnic hatred”: once for breaking up a debate between democracy activists, and once for a video supposedly showing a Kazakh being hanged and dismembered. (The latter turned out to be staged with actors, though it was rumored to re-enact a real killing.) Format18 fell apart while he was in prison. Slasher’s popularity still smoldered, though. When he was freed in 2011, a video celebrating his release immediately became one of the most-watched YouTube offerings in Russia.

Slasher politely interviews a "pedophile": photo posted on his VK page, http://vk.com/resstruckt?z=albums180496638, July 31, 2013 (blurring not in original)

Slasher politely interviews a “pedophile”: photo posted on his VK page, http://vk.com/resstruckt?z=albums180496638, July 31, 2013 (blurring not in original)

Slasher’s second act really got going sometime in 2012, though. His new idea was to apply Format18′s social-media methods to hunting down sexual perversion. His conceit was that Russia swarmed with chickenhawks chasing young men in impunity; he started gathering skinheads into a movement to combat them, called “Occupy Pedophilia.” The project’s genius lay in the potential drama. Most foreigners, after all, don’t or can’t hide their origin. But someone accused of pedophilia has every incentive to avoid exposure. Hence the titillation of humiliation, of violated privacy, topped off the violence. Reality TV replaced music videos as a model. Slasher seems to draw direct inspiration, in fact, from Dateline NBC‘s deranged To Catch a Predator series. He tries the same tactics: lure “pedophiles” with online ads allegedly placed by kids, then shame them with candid cameras. Except, unlike Dateline‘s wordy hosts, Slasher doesn’t waste time moralizing. He gets straight to the beatings.

Slasher catches a "bisexual hair stylist," from a video on http://okkupay-pedofilyay.ru/, now removed: blurring not in original

Slasher catches a “bisexual hair stylist,” from a video on http://okkupay-pedofilyay.ru/, now removed: blurring not in original

Unaware Westerners call Putin a “czar” and focus on the letter of legislation, but this ignores the peculiarly lawless character of his rule. Police persecute dissidents, journalists, and businessmen who don’t pay and play along; meanwhile, many laws go unenforced, much actual crime unpunished. Slasher’s vigilantism thus is a ready route to popularity. And he can carry on his own obviously criminal campaign in the full light of YouTube with little tangible threat of prosecution.

But it’s worth stressing: the passionate, extralegal revulsion against “pedophiles” that Slasher exploits is not just a Russian emotion. The mania’s international. If Slasher donned mufti and put the skinhead clothes in mothballs, he’d have plenty of fans in the US or UK. At one American website, you can cast a ballot: “Should pedophiles and serial rapists be killed?” 86% vote yes; 14% no. That law-and-order Pasionaria Sarah Palin called for lynching child abuser Jerry Sandusky instead of trying him: “Hang him from the highest tree, I’ll bring the rope.” In Britain in 2000, News of the World, Rupert Murdoch’s now-sunken flagship, launched a campaign of “naming and shaming” sex offenders who had already served their time in prison. It

led to lynch-mob attacks, firebombings and rioting in at least 11 communities, with vigilantes in some cases attacking people who looked like the men pictured or who had been incorrectly identified as past offenders. In one town, the home of a pediatrician was attacked when anti-pedophile campaigners got their spelling confused.

Slasher, who probably thinks “pediatrician” is what you call a Jewish pedophile, would have been proud.

Slasher torments a weeping young "pedophile," whom he calls "Whiner." From a video on his page at http://vk.com/restrukt,

Slasher, at left with dildo, torments a weeping young “pedophile,” whom he calls “Whiner.” From a video at http://okkupay-pedofilyay.ru, posted December 18, 2012.

To be sure, there are specifically Russian inflections to Slasher’s popularity. “Protecting children” has taken on acute political meaning: exaggerated anxieties about Russia’s falling birthrate translate into fears that the national future is in danger. Putin’s state-promoted homophobia feeds on that. And Occupy Pedophilia is explicit in its homophobia. They have no evident interest in men who seek girls for sex. (One member told a reporter, “Why should we catch girls who have sex for money? That’s normal for me. A pedophile is a different kind of person.”) For them, male homosexuality and preying on children are pretty much the same thing.

In Kamensk, the online news source Lenta.ru interviewed Occupy Pedophilia members. “Homosexuals are almost sacred in this country,” one leader complained. “We are against pedophiles, but we also do not like homosexuals. I don’t know why homosexuals protect pedophiles.” He added:

Some representatives of homosexuals came to my home recently … They said we mock people. They asked why we hate them. They said they feel oppressed. It just happened that they both somehow jumped into the garbage cans.

“If you see two young men walking down the street and holding hands, what would you do?” the reporter asks. The answer: “Interrogation. And then it all depends on them.”

 Catching a "pedophile" in Kamensk: Photo from Mikhail Solovyov's VK page, http://vk.com/id162104250?z=albums162104250


Catching a “pedophile” in Kamensk: Photo from Mikhail Solovyov’s VK page, http://vk.com/id162104250?z=albums162104250

That slippage between gays and predators is a common enough prejudice, in Russia as elsewhere. On the other hand, when Western activists redefine the men simply as “gay” victims, they should be aware they’re just reinforcing a widespread Russian belief that gays are identical to pedophiles. They need to note the nuance and stress the difference, not just confirm the belief.

"Well, friends, the summer season on pedophiles is open :-) We give you the latest photos from a safari." Photo from http://vk.com/okkupay_pedofilyay, posted August 10, 2013 (blurring not in original)

“Well, friends, the summer season on pedophiles is open :-) We give you the latest photos from a safari.” Photo from http://vk.com/okkupay_pedofilyay, posted August 10, 2013 (blurring not in original)

Occupy Pedophilia has taken off. Its website claims groups in 21 cities. A Russian journalist counted 359 Occupy Pedophilia groups on VK; one of those pages has 75,000 followers. Most of the videos circulating in the West that show “gays” being beaten are from Occupy Pedophilia’s sites. (This page has almost 400 clips from around the country.) I’m not going to embed the full videos here, because I’m not going to show the men’s faces. Slasher’s own films are less violent than some of his provincial acolytes’. He strips victims, interrogates them, humiliates them. Other groups douse the victims with urine, or force them to drink it.  This month, a police raid on the Occupy Pedophilia HQ in Sverdlovsk found “20 knives and sharpeners … 5 brass knuckles, 3 shuriken (Ninja throwing stars), nunchaku [Japanese chain sticks], a self-defense weapon ‘Blow,‘ 12 rounds of ammunition of various calibers and labels, as well as a wooden handle attached to a weighted chain, a metal hook with a chain, a metal hedgehog, 2 scythes, axes, wooden bats, and pepper spray.”

The same man doused with urine: Photo from http://vk.com/okkupay_pedofilyay, posted August 10, 2013 (blurring not in original)

The same man doused with urine: Photo from http://vk.com/okkupay_pedofilyay, posted August 10, 2013 (blurring not in original)

Several things should be emphasized. The entrapped men are of varying ages — from early 20s to 50s or 60s. Most were apparently lured by ads that promised teenage youths.

But there’s no evidence that most of them would be “pedophiles” under Russian law, or that, answering the ad aside, they’ve done anything wrong. The Occupy goons don’t care about the legal age of consent, which is 16 in Russia. Homosexuals “say a 16-year-old boy is already an adult, and can’t be corrupted,” a Kamensk skinhead complained to Lenta.ru. Reminded this is the law, “he shrugged.”

Indeed, sometimes Occupy Pedophilia doesn’t bother with the ads and the bait: they just pick up guys they think are gay on the street. One victim, Evgeny, told Rosbalt News that he went for an excursion with a girl “who’s dating a guy from ‘Occupy Pedophilia.’ … Based on others’ opinions, he decided I was gay, and it’s terrible that his girlfriend is talking to me.” At a bus stop,

Suddenly the guy attacked me. Hit my face and kicked my body… When I started bleeding from the nose, he stopped. I tried to get away to a safe distance, where a couple with a child were sitting. They lent a handkerchief but refused to help. After 10 minutes, three men approached. They began to ask me obscene questions and take pictures with their phones. … “When did you become gay? Do you have anal and oral sex?” They told passers-by that I was gay and would become a pedophile in the future. Some people got in conversations with them and even laughed. Next two of them tried to shove me into a car. They said they want to interview me … A woman waiting for a bus shouted she’d call the police. Hearing this … they jumped into the car [without me] and drove away. 

Slasher slaps a "pedophile" whom he's forced to strip in a tub. From a video at http://vk.com/video119910902_164053325, posted December 29, 2012

Slasher slaps a “pedophile” whom he’s forced to strip in a tub. From a video at http://vk.com/video119910902_164053325, posted December 29, 2012

Any hit TV series spawns a spinoff. Slasher’s violent reality show already has one. It’s called “Occupy Gerontophilia.”

Chicken and hawk: Philip Doeznitz, né Rosinsky, with Slasher. From a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w96iWzMOio.

Chicken and hawk: Philip Doenitz, né Razinsky, with Slasher. From a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w96iWzMOio.

Things get especially vicious here. “Philip Doenitz” founded Occupy Gerontophilia. That’s a pseudonym for Philip Razinsky, a fresh-faced Moscow student and Slasher groupie. He renamed himself after HItler’s successor: perhaps that’s how he sees himself next to Slasher, who probably should watch his back. At one point, Slasher used him as bait in entrapping older “pedophiles.” Then Philip branched out on his own.

Instead of hunting hawks, Occupy Gerontophilia chases the chickens. Doenitz assembled gangs of homophobic teenagers; they try to entrap other young guys into meetings with imaginary older ones, sometimes with the promise of money. A blogger explains,

Caught through social networks, 12­-16 year-olds are invited to meet, then beaten and forced to talk to their about their homosexuality. Then it’s all laid out in VK groups, with the slogan “Do repost — break his life.” The teen is terrorized by sending out these videos to his friends, acquaintances and parents.

Still from a video of a 12-year old being threatened and abused in Tambov; faces not blurred in the original

Still from a video of a 12-year old (R) being threatened and abused in Tambov; faces not blurred in the original

Occupy Gerontophilia is smaller than its anti-pedophile model: a reporter found only 14 VK groups, against over 300 for Occupy Pedophilia. VK keeps closing these down, much more often than it does Slasher’s direct progeny. In early July, a video Doenitz’s followers took in the town of Tambov provoked a surge of indignation. Local news recounts that “On a dating site [the Occupy members] posed as a 23-year-old man and met a 12-year old schoolboy. They promised him money for the meeting; during all this, services of a sexual nature were not discussed. The child agreed and went.” Instead they bullied him in a 15-minute video, taunting him for homosexuality and prostitution. Police opened an investigation against the abusers; the video has been removed from the web. The newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets followed up on the 12-year-old’s fate:

He now refuses to go out or socialize with friends. But sadly, he doesn’t have many friends. Teenagers are cruel; the majority turned away from the humiliated boy. He will likely be removed from the school where he was studying before. … His mother even thinks about moving to a remote province, where there is no Internet and no one will know her son.

Shallow, just a little bit: Doenitz (right) bullies a helpless victim to give a blow job

One time only, just a little bit: Doenitz (right) bullies a helpless victim to give a blow job

According to the Russian LGBT blog AntiDogma, in another July video Doenitz is seen blackmailing one of his victims, promising to release him and suppress the footage they’re filming if he gives one of his abusers a blow job. “I understand you don’t want it, but this is the only option or the movie hits the Internet. Your friends will see it 100%, and your parents.” He tells the child that sucking the guy won’t hurt: “One time only, shallow, a little bit.” This video too is mercifully gone from Doenitz’s VK page. 

If Dateline offered inspiration to Slasher’s scams, Doenitz’s abuses are pure kid-on-kid bullying — but with a brutal, militaristic edge. Interviewed by Moskovskij Komsomolets, Doenitz defended his videos. Better that a child’s life “be broken in this way, than that he grow up gay, and continue to engage in prostitution for money. I care about their future. But a quiet life? They’re just not going to have it.” He added that, as outrage over his methods grows, he’s getting tougher.

I’ve decided to apply the methods of urine therapy with regard to juvenile gays — simply pour urine on them at the meeting. I will lead the conversation, too, in a more rigid form. The level of aggression at the present time will increase significantly.

In the provincial city of Lipetsk, Oleg, an Occupy Gerontophilia member, explained to another journalist that “I do not want to live in a society where they tell me that homosexuality is the norm. And if a teenager is selling himself for money, where’s the guarantee that after a few years he won’t start to seduce children?” Oleg says his group has “50 like-minded people, but I think there will be more soon.”

The kids are all right: Philip Doenitz, from his page at http://vk.com/restrukt_88?z=albums24422330

The kids are all right: Philip Doenitz, from his page at http://vk.com/restrukt_88?z=albums24422330

Among the questions all this raises, some stand out.

a) What’s the relationship between skinhead violence and Putin’s State? Through the first decade of Putin’s rule, neo-Nazis were usually found, if uneasily, among the opposition. Putin used them to divide his opponents — many democrats wouldn’t be seen at the same demo with them — but distrusted them. The 3 1/2 year sentence meted out to Slasher for staging a Kazakh’s mock-murder was indicative: where possible, Putin wanted their violence kept under control.

Ultra-rightists march in Moscow to protest Putin and immigration, November 2012: @Reuters

Ultra-rightists march in Moscow to protest Putin and immigration, November 2012: © Reuters

When the current Occupy antics go too far in rousing outrage, the authorities will step in with at least token threats of prosecution. (In Sverdlovsk oblast, Occupy Pedophilia is under investigation by the Ministry of the Interior’s Center for Combating Extremism; most Russians would be surprised there is such a thing.)  But since the 2011 protests against his rigged re-election — the most serious challenge to his rule in over a decade — Putin has lurched rightward in calculated fashion. He hopes to peel off ultra-nationalists from the anti-Putin coalition, where they’ve been perhaps the most reliable street presence. His current nationalist, natalist, morally conservative language (and legislation) is part of the plan.

In this sense, Slasher et. al. are playing Putin’s game, rousing public anger against imaginary enemies — and, by their vigilantism, whipping up demand for an ever-stronger State to step in. The very fact that they’ve dubbed their moral-minority movements “Occupy” is telling. “Occupy” was a totemic term among the 2011-2012 anti-Putin demonstrators, as for many democracy activists around the world. By co-opting it for trivial moral policing, Slasher depoliticizes the word, and helps channel those revolutionary energies toward private ends. He makes deviance the issue, not democracy. Most ultra-rightists in Russia still loathe Putin.  But whether or not Slasher realizes it, he’s acting out Putin’s strategy.

b) Are the abuses a recent thing, a product of Putin’s new law? You’d think so, to read the gay blogosphere, which only just heard about them. Most Western gay commentators haven’t followed anything in Russia for the last ten years except the highly public, counterproductive efforts to stage Gay Pride in Moscow — a fiasco that has run at cross-purposes to other Russian LGBT activists’ patient efforts at building communities. So naturally, all these stories surprise them, and get lumped together with the panic over Putin’s law.

Melanie Nathan blogs that “since the introduction of new homophobic laws in Russia, the violence against gays has increased.” But there’s no evidence for this. It’s language that creates an atmosphere of urgent crisis (“the terror is so rife at this time, that it is equally criminal for us to be silent”), in which something — anything – must be done (“To my way of thinking it should be all or nothing“). It negates the fact that the repression in Russia has been going on for a long time and has deep roots. Occupy Pedophilia is at least a year old, and many of the videos cited as evidence of abuses now actually go back months. The Occupy Gerontophilia film that Nathan points to, as proof of “new terror unfold[ing] before our eyes” in August, shows snow on the ground.

It’s quite plausible that the Occupy twins, Pedo and Geronto, have fed on the anti-homosexual rhetoric of Putin’s party. They certainly will feed on the political restrictions and stigma that the new legislation will create. Easy to fight enemies who can’t talk back! But it’s equally plausible that they’ve been nourished by the same general environment  – of demonizing difference, marginalizing minorities, doling out rights like sweets to the deserving — that powered Putin’s legislation in the first place.

Demonstrator beaten by police at an anti-Putin rally, May 2012: © AP

Demonstrator beaten by police at an anti-Putin rally, May 2012: © AP

The anti-propaganda bill is odious, and must be scrapped. But repealing it will not make Slasher go away, or ensure gay men’s and children’s safety, or guarantee the civil liberties of LGBT people or anybody else in Russia. The problems are more profound than a single law. They involve the regime’s use of violence and murder against opponents, its stigmatizing and scapegoating of convenient Others, its suppression of civil society across the board. The current publicity is a chance to engage Western activists with Russian issues over the long haul; letting them rest content with short-term answers is a catastrophic failure. To tell Western gays that they need only pressure Putin about a single issue, then sit back satisfied if their demands are met, is to offer all the Slashers carte blanche for a future career of abuse.

c) Is this just a gay issue? No. Slasher and other neo-Nazis were attacking — and murdering — guest workers, immigrants, and other foreigners, along with dark-looking Russians and Muslims of all sorts, for years before Occupy Pedophilia started. That’s still their first priority. Even the Occupy Pedophilia thugs are never happier than when a gay-seeming “Uzbek waiter” or Korean student falls into their hands.

Friends commemorate Lamzar Samba, a 28-year-old Senegaleses student and activist, murdered by neo-Nazis in St Petersburg, April 2006

Friends commemorate Lamzar Samba, a 28-year-old Senegalese student and activist, murdered by neo-Nazis in St Petersburg, April 2006

No Russian LGBT activist would fail to see the link between homophobic violence and this history of racism (possibly excepting Nikolai Alekseev, who’s flirted with racist extremists at various points in his career). It’s irresponsible for Western LGBT activists to ignore it. When they complain of “terrorism” against gays, and don’t admit that immigrants and ethnic minorities have faced the same terror for decades, they’re not just wrong: they hurt their own cause. “We should not be silent when a country is being oppressive to our friends,” Duncan Osborne of New York’s Gay City News said in promoting a Russia boycott. Are gays the West’s only friends? Are ethnic Uzbeks, Koreans, or Chechens strangers or, worse, enemies? To foster that impression is morally intolerable.

d) Are they killing gays? There have been horrible homophobic murders — most recently a 23-year-old in Volgograd, killed by two acquaintances in May when he told them he was gay. But for some of the stories circulating now, there’s no evidence.

"Uzbek waiter" being brought in for "interrogation": from a video on Mikhail Solovyov's VK page, http://vk.com/video162104250_165741706, posted July 31, 2013

“Uzbek waiter” being brought in for “interrogation”: from a video on Mikhail Solovyov’s VK page, http://vk.com/video162104250_165741706, posted July 31, 2013

The latest account comes from Kamensk (again).  In mid-July, Mikhail Solovyov of the Occupy Pedophilia group posted a video showing an entrapped “Uzbek” being questioned: a “pedophile, who worked as a waiter in a restaurant,” and “came to visit a 14-year-old teenager.” There were also photos of him (like the one at top) abused and humiliated: stripped, smeared with red paint, forced to hold a dildo, painted blue and doused in piss. These were picked up by Valentin Degterev, a doctor living in Kamensk, on his blog, and went around the world.

"Uzbek" being abused: From Mikhail Solovyov's VK page at http://vk.com/id162104250?z=albums162104250, posted July 15, 2013

“Uzbek” being abused: From Mikhail Solovyov’s VK page at http://vk.com/id162104250?z=albums162104250, posted July 15, 2013

On August 1, Degterev announced that the Uzbek had died of his injuries. No one has been able to confirm this, and a number of things don’t quite make sense. For one, this news came more than two weeks after the first pictures of the “interrogation” appeared. For another, the images circulating show the victim being degraded, but don’t suggest life-threatening injuries. Degterev is a passionate, even heroic anti-Fascist who follows the local neo-Nazis obsessively: but I can’t vouch for his reliability on this without independent verification. Still, the story mushroomed on the Internet in grossly distorted form. In the UK, both Pink News (which called the killing a “claim”) and Gay Star News (which reported it as gospel) turned the “murder victim” into a “gay teen” for sensation’s sake — despite the obvious fact that he was, from the pictures, in his twenties at minimum.

Earlier stories of deaths in Kamensk had failed to check out. In April, Occupy Pedophilia entrapped a 19-year-old, Alex Bulygin, to meet a fake 16-year-old. They “interrogated” him, beat him, and forced him to drink urine. In June, the group gloatingly claimed on their VK page that he had hanged himself in shame, which they presented as an “exemplary” encouragement to their members. Yet a Lenta.ru reporter, visiting Kamensk in July, learned that Bulygin was alive.

Occupy Pedophilia members in Kamensk spray foam on a victim: video from the VK page of Lev Vychurov, http://vk.com/videos16595071, posted July 30, 2013

Occupy Pedophilia members in Kamensk spray foam in a victim’s rectum: video from the VK page of Lev Vychurov, http://vk.com/videos16595071, posted July 30, 2013

Occupy Pedophilia Kamensk is, however, renowned for its toughness even among the movement’s reprobates. As one journalist writes, it “operates much more harshly than other branches.” Allusions to death haunt its doings. At a July 1 rally in support of Putin’s anti-propaganda law, in the nearby town of Bogdanovich, the okkupatsi carried banners saying “50% of gays are pedophiles,” and a coffin. They titled a clip of the march “Bulygin’s funeral.”

Weapon found in Occupy Pedophilia's Sverdlovsk HQ: from http://rusplt.ru/society/pedoisteria_ugolovka.html

Weapon found in Occupy Pedophilia’s Sverdlovsk HQ: from http://rusplt.ru/society/pedoisteria_ugolovka.html

If the Kamensk group hasn’t killed anybody yet, they stand a good chance of doing so in future. The weapons cache I mentioned, found at their lair in nearby Sverdlovsk, is telling. Their videos seem more violent than others in the Occupy Pedophilia movement, too — at least judging from those on the page of movement activist Lev Vychurov (whose permanent status is “I HATE YOU ALL”). They force foam in victims’ anuses (as in the video above, titled “Anal Watchman”). They make them swallow urine, which they call the “magic elixir.” In one film, “Loser on the Run,” a man is electroshocked, sprayed with what seems to be urine in his eyes, beaten both indoors and outdoors, and kicked in the head. And here I’ll break my own strictures and show part of his face — because the face says more than all my words ever could:

Still from Оккупай -педофилия Каменск Выпуск No.5: беглец-неудачник (now apparently removed from VK.com)

Still from Оккупай -педофилия Каменск
Выпуск No.5: беглец-неудачник (now apparently removed from VK.com)

The world and the Internet are now full of passionate proposals for doing something about Russia: boycotts, protests, shows of solidarity from the sincere to the specious. I don’t know what to add. But I’d suggest pressuring VK.com to act vigorously to remove pages from its site that portray abuses or promote criminal acts. (The company’s financial history is shady, but information on its ownership structure can be found here.) That would at least slow the ceaseless circulation of these images of violence, which (to paraphrase words that Jorge Luis Borges once attributed to an imaginary heretic) multiply the most abominable aspects of humankind.

62 thoughts on “Truths behind the gay torture images from Russia

  1. Pingback: Box Turtle Bulletin » Putin’s Thug State

  2. Pingback: PHOTOS: Gays Kiss And Protest From London To Tel Aviv Over Russia’s Homophobia - GayCities BlogGayCities Blog

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  4. Pingback: PHOTOS: Gays Kiss And Protest From London To Tel Aviv Over Russia’s Homophobia

  5. the most sick nation is become Russia :(((,, and the world don’t do anything ! just watch and share the news ,,, Shame for humanity ..Now i understand why people go crazy ,,Should all people go will and destroy the human been ( sooner the better ), at less the other animals and insects will will free with out humans .

    • Actually, that statement is totally incorrect, The most sick nation is not Russia. The most sick Nation is the USA. the Government is corrupt and
      makes it’s own laws so that they can get away with anything they want.
      I am American and I see it and i don’t close my eyes to it. They Spy on other nations and violate their privacy because they can. they spy on their own citizens, they allow sick and twisted people to educated our children, they no longer believe in the high moral standards that made America great to begin with. young girls allowed to dress like prostitutes. A man can’t defend his home or property without being afraid of being sued or sent to jail. they poison our rivers and oceans. they make wars with countries because of oil. The American Government killed the native American Indians because they want take and their land. and still do not do anything for them even after hundreds of years. Homosexuality is a crime against God. Murder is a crime against God. a crime is a crime.

  6. It is a long and mostly senseless rant.
    1) It is full of cliche, usually from imperialist propaganda, which is the source of bogus (!) story about Putin blowing up homes.
    2) why the author does not ask how come that the hysteria about anti-gay Russia was rising just when USA and other NATO states were shown as spying on the whole world and their own population against their own laws? Not mentioning their other crimes.
    3) It is NOT Putin who EVERY week orders to murder without trial a lot of people, who kidnaps, tortures and lock up without end a lot of people, invades other states and so on.
    4) But “progressives” in the imperialist states are more than happy to attack NOT Obama, but Putin, and have a gall to = Russia with apateid SA! They have NO shame, but they are imperialism’s lackeys, be it about Libya, Syria or Russia.
    5) The Russian law in question is not the best piece of thought, but gay bashing is also common in USA.
    If the author wants to make sense, he could forget his “pearls of wisdoms” about Russian icons (not different from Catholic ones, for ex) and start to pay attention to real world.

    • 2) why the author does not ask how come that the hysteria about anti-gay Russia was rising just when USA and other NATO states were shown as spying on the whole world and their own population against their own laws? Not mentioning their other crimes.

      Actually it started when the first regional anti-gay laws were passed and then became greater after the national law was passed, and what the US was doing was fully in accordance with the laws, the laws are just really awful.

      4) But “progressives” in the imperialist states are more than happy to attack NOT Obama, but Putin, and have a gall to = Russia with apateid SA! They have NO shame, but they are imperialism’s lackeys, be it about Libya, Syria or Russia.

      Which “progressives” are you talking about, Obama? If you would go look at the politicians in the US that identify as progressive, for example the house progressive caucus, you will see that they are by far the most anti-imperialist of all politicians we have here.

      5) The Russian law in question is not the best piece of thought, but gay bashing is also common in USA.

      That’s a dumb cop out, I have virtually 0% chance of being beat up for being gay where I life, that could not be said for a large city in Russia.

      • 2)No, I am talking about Zirin and his ilk. And the law is still NOT enough to equate Russia with aparteid/ Of course, to say a word against Obama is a bit risky, but to attack Putin is very comfortable and even Obama would not argue about it.
        I still has not seen REAL opposition to USA rulers from form USA progressives with the same rigor as against Putin. One more time – how many people Putin keeps in torture camp just now?

      • Do you have a statistics to support your claim? USA defenders of brown women form brown men like to ignore the statistics about anti-women violence in USA, for ex.
        By the way of “the house progressive caucus” – have they at least called for Obama impeachment ,for all his spying on USA and all the world? Have they at least openly called it a crime? Have they say a word about Obama torture and drone murders? If so, their voices is too low to me to hear, while “leftist” Rusophobia is ear-hurting..

  7. As if on cue, Scott Long pops up to bash the evil capitalist, imperialist, neoliberal, white “western gays” for criticizing human rights abuses abroad, which is a prerogative he reserves to himself and others who meet his ideological purity tests. How dare they fail to condemn racism, sexism, classism, lookism, etc. before they meekly raise homophobia! And lord forbid they dare to impose a “western gay identity” (even if they identify as gay, homeosexual, etc.) on anyone as that apparently is a form of cultural imperialism much worse than foreign homophobia. Those smug western gays only care about bourgeois marriage anyway which somehow means they are class traitors and hypocrites who have no right to criticize foreign homophobia.

    If one did not know better, one would think this blog was actually a parody of some extreme left anti-imperialist cultural relativist. But we know this isn’t a parody because you have always attacked other activists for not meeting your absurd litmus tests. That is why you were fired from HRW and forced to give an apology to Peter Tatchell over your appalling conduct over the Iranian killings.

    Your views are anathema to the vast majority of LGBT and liberals/leftists but you must enjoy the attention. I can’t fathom why you put so much effort in making life worse for sexual minorities here and abroad. By pitting minorities against each other, you are make the world
    worse for all but yourself.

    I am sure you will delete this – you don’t brook criticism well.

    • Who is this ESTEQ? Surely it is wrong to attack in this false way a true Human Rights hero who has practised activism for decades, and who now is drawing our attention to what truly happens in Russia. And if Scott Long helps show how Racism ties to the attacks upon Gays in Russia and elsewhere, he is respected around the world for it.

      Far away from making “life worse for sexual minorities” Scott Long has done more for Human Rights than Peter Tatchell ten times over, not to mention this ESTEQ of whom nobody has heard. Such people deserve our thanks and gratitude, not this kind of silly stuff.

  8. I do love the fact that the right-wing Russian nationalist (who at least acknowledges a name) accuses me of “imperialist propaganda,” while the right-wing homonationalist (too cowardly to emerge from anonymity, but readily identifiable still) accuses me of “anti-imperialist cultural relativism.” This is a meeting not of minds, but of mindlessness. And really, Jimmy, if you’re not going to check your facts about other countries before you write, at least you can check your facts about me.

    Neither fulmination has anything much to do with the post, but neither side is terribly capable of reading, hence the undigested rumors they circulate all the time. As far as Iran goes, the lies (by Tatchell and others) still continue: see http://paper-bird.net/2012/05/16/four-sodomy-sentences-in-iran-on-not-learning-from-our-mistakes/. As far as “pitting minorities against each other” … well, that kind of rhetoric exposes its own racism too neatly to require a rejoinder.

    • It is a bit funny to be called a ” right-wing Russian nationalist”, me being a Marxist (and Jewish, by the way). It seems that the Western “left
      helpers of imperialism cannot imagine that their Rusophobia could be contested by anyone else. No, just like their zeal to bomb Libya in full accord with Obama was opposed NOT only by ” right-wing Libyan nationalists”
      In short, before repeating imperialist slogans against official foes of USA imperialism, try to use your head. Yes, in Russia there is a lot of crap, the rulers are capitalist and non-progressive. But it is a bit funny to hear from USA that Russia must be boycotted and such, and from “progressives” to boot. Maybe first you should try to defend Manning, who is gay, I meant really defend him, not just by words. But, one more time, it could be dangerous in USA to defend him, while calling for fight against Russia is very easy and even in line with Obama stand.

      • I am American, I believe that A nation should be allowed to govern itself and not push their will on to other nations. Russia should not be boycotted. I am also Jewish.

  9. What makes us in the west so sad about the russian situation isn’t that it has become a barbaric country. After all, there are many barbaric country with no respect for human life and freedom, such as for example the many Arab countries.

    What is so sad is that many of us in the west had hope after the fall of the wall that Russia would slowly shift into a civilized and modern society, and for a brief while it did seem to move that way. But now we see it collapse and return to barbarism, more wicked and more disturbing then even the communist era. While the world moves ever forward russia is “back to the future” and has now arrived at 1930. Very worrying, and sad for a country with so much potential.

  10. Scott, in at least one instance I found, the Occupy groups referred to @non-traditional’ relationships. They are taking their cues from the actions of the government.

    Your piece was well researched. But you can understand why even unattributable and unverifiable pictures and videos would lead to panic in anyone viewing them. It is a human reaction, particularly to see younger victims. However much there is a wider political context, the news reports, coinciding with the anti-gay law, are a long, long overdue wake-up call to the continued degeneration of Russian society and eveidence of deep grained homophobia.

    In that sense circulating the videos worked, they achieved their objective of hitting subjective emotional buttons.

    In terms of civil norms, Russia is unreconstructed. It missed out on a 100 years of democracy. To us it looks like the wild west. But with hunting knives and SS paraphenalia.

    In all the hoohah, it is clear to me at least, that all minorities in Russia are being actively persecuted. As LBGT people, inevitably we can most effectively push our own positions. We need to build an alliance with those seeking to change Russia in every way, for freedom of speech, press, migrant workers, LBGT. We aren’t even at the foothills of that.

    In the meantime, the release of videos and pictures is urgent. In the last few days, VK has shutdown more groups. Politicans in the west have spoken out strongly. This desperate strategy is working.

  11. Pingback: Box Turtle Bulletin » The Unique Challenges of Russian Homophobia

  12. Please please stop adding to the victims terrible plight by showing images of abuse without at least pixelating their faces. In many cases these are children and you are perpetuating their abuse by showing these images all over the world. How would you feel if you knew that images of you in that situation were viewed not only by your family and friends but worldwide – and some people will be celebrating them. In the UK it is illegal to circulate images of child abuse for these reasons – I think you need to consider having some respect for the victims dignity and privacy.

    • In fact, if you’ll notice, I did blur faces in all photographs of abuse but one (and I noted that one in the text, but only part of his face is shown in the image and I did not believe it would be identifiable from that one shot). I was particularly careful to do so thoroughly in the cases of children. I am explicitly critical in the post of Western bloggers who reproduce these and other images/videos with total indifference to the dignity and privacy of the people depicted.

  13. I hope the author is happy – he got his due of Rusophobes and, as usual with racist, some anti-Arab racism to boot.
    By the way, next time he is going to post pictures of protesters in Russia beaten by police, he could just for Pete sake look for at least equal awful USA pictures, if not worse. But I suppose in USA police brutality, including routine murder of unarmed people (unlike in Russia) is something OK or at least does not mean the same as in Russia.

    • Lidia (or whoever you are) what on earth is your problem???? The man is writing about neo-nazi vigilantes in Russia not about police brutality in the US, Mongolia, Mauritius, Morroco or Narnia. If I am going to write about militant fag-bashers that are pernitted to do so I cant think of many places apart from West Africa and Russia right now. The author is concerned with Anti-gay violence, not your ridiculous cold war nonsense. You are a stooge who is masquerading as a Marxist. The US and Russia are both imperialist nations, Scott is not concerned with this imperialist pseudo-marxist drivel you are spouting, and I dont really think you are either. Are you another one of these stipended Putinists who troll any site critical of Russia. If you are then…..Fuck off…..

      • What is MY problem? What about a lot of imperialist wars waged under pretext of “defending” women, gays and so on?
        DAM (very civilized, it seemed) has not even read the article which started with accusition of Putin blowing up homes in Russia (example of imperialist propaganda, but he laps it up). He then posted a picture of protester beaten by Russian police, and tells us that Putin is guilty in supporting criminals who are anti-gay. Given the modern history, it sounds just like support for one more USA “humanitarian” bombing. No wonder he got such support from racists (including anti-Arab one).If DAM thinks that USA imperialism is cold war nonsense, he is truly deserving a rank in USA colonial army, where now gays could proudly openly serve and murder non-whites, who, by the way, could be not pro-gay!
        I am not going to stoop to the level of whitewasher of USA imperialist crimes DAM, so I am not going to use 4-letters words, I just say – go murder some Afghans, sure it will be against anti-gay violence as the author and DAM see it.

    • Lidia is just one of thousands of Putin’s trolls out there trying to confuse people. It’s typical Putin speak. You can tell them by their irrational arguments like pretending to be against racism but defending poor poor fascist Putin. These are people with no moral conscience that choose to use their lives supporting a machine that kills, tortures, enrages it’s to violence, psychologically abuses its entire population and then has such disregard for their own parents and grandparents that they welcome the Nazis, the same philosophy that killed millions in their own country. Words are not capable of describing the pure evil that consumes these people. Unbelievable that people like this exist, much less control a country.

  14. What a brilliant piece and what an enormous amount of careful research has gone into it It is extremely disturbing.

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  16. Lydia I assume you mean me when you talk about anti russian and anti arab rascist. Let’s get a few things straight. First neither Russians nor Arabs are races and even if there was a russian race, I am color blind when it comes to where someone is from, what heritage they have.

    That being said, I can judge societies, that doesn’t mean that I think that every Russian or Arab has an aversion against homosexuality, there are a lot of good exceptions (who unfortunatly often have to stay silent) but in general we can all agree that it’s not a good idea to come out of the closet in pride of your newfound homosexual love when you live in say Baghad, or Teheran, or Algiers.

    You may be insulted when I say that I see Russia shift backwards into the same barbarism that we have sadly come to expect from Arab and African societies.but that is what is what is happening right before our eyes is it not? Laws against promoting homosexuality? Is that normal to you? Are you proud your country is doing that? Do you have no shame? No understanding of basic human rights? I wish it wasn’t so dear Lydia, I don’t want this to happen to Russia or any other country in the world and if it was in my power to stop it I would. I just want everyone to get along and love and respect each other, but we cannot achieve that by staying silent against brutality and barbarism against minorities such as blacks, gays or whatever.

    Finally, your whole argument against the USA “imperialism” is absurd. I have trouble to distinguish if you are really that naive, perhaps deranged or simply too young to really be part of this discussion. I’m not from the USA (I’m from the Netherlands) and US “Imperialism” has nothing to do with Russia treating its weaker minorities such as gays, like dirt. If US “imperialism” exist, and you can find plenty within our western societies who do believe it does, its a different discussion. To defend your countries slow but sure slide back into an age of barbarism seeing how they treat their homosexual minorities (among other things) with “USA Imperialism” is like saying it’s ok to beat your own children with iron sticks till they bleed because the neighbour robbed a bank one day. There is no direct connection to your countries barbarism against minorities and the USA imperialism. USA invading Afghanistan does not force you or your countrymen to create laws against gays, or does it now?

    Finally, Lydia, I hope you and your countrymen wake up in time. It’s 1930 again in your country, and like the german nazi’s who focused first on the gays, the jews and the gypsies, this rotten evil that is festering might today be someone elses problem, but trust me that history has proven that it will become yours eventually, and when one day you wake up and find your own freedoms taken away you will discover it is too late.

  17. I am NOT going to debate racists, “Race” as such is a racist invention, Blacks is not “race” as well, but racism is very real.
    Next, it is SO nice of racists now to upgrade previous excuse for Rusophobia or Arabophobia from being “untermensch” or “savage” to being “anty-gay”. Pretexts could change, but racism not.
    The last, but not least, USA (NATO) is mass-murdering Arabs and others whom USA (NATO) “progressives” accuse of not being pro-gay (indiscriminately, of course)- a nice progressive mass-murder, of course. When gay Manning got sick with such murders and unmasked it, USA government tortured him and now is going to lock him for life, but racist “gay defenders” would not give a damn. They are too busy to help USA (NATO) rulers concoct new imperialist war – this time against Russia. And, of course, now if gay wants to murder some not gay-friendly Russians (indiscriminately, as usual), he could do it openly and proudly as an enlisted member of USA/NATO imperialist gang (i.e. army).
    And yes, other NATO states, very gay-friendly ones, take part in NATO colonial wars and are proud of it. They have a lot of gay racists, of course, even in parliaments, but they are good racists, because they are gay and pro-gay. They could murder a little girl and her Black nanny for corruption of racial purity, but it is OK. They could threat people of their colonies (they still have colonies) as dirt, but they are gay-friendly, damn it!
    All Afghan women. murdered by NATO “feminists” should be grateful, of course, esp. given that misogynists, whose misogyny was a pretext to NATO to bomb and invade their country were previously made by CIA with help of their favorite puppet Saudis to fight against Russians (back then USA called Russians not anti-gay, but godless commies, but it was just another pretext). It funny, though, that NATO pro-gay somehow “forgot” to accuse Saudi royals in being not too progressive, while much less oppressive Iran and Russia are blamed and threatened (and more). Could it be because Saudis are nice puppets of NATO racist “gay defenders”? In USA cops murder minority people routinely and get out scott-free, but NATO “pro-gay” warriors are not bothered by it.
    Now, I am NOT going to waist my keystrokes to ask NATO pro-gay racist to see that his state is now living in the age of colonialism. But others, esp. victims of his “gay-friendly” bombs could see it.
    I wonder, what next? Will NATO bomb their next victims for not being enough pro-animal rights?
    Nevermind, they will find pretext, and NATO “progressives” would help them whole-heartedly.

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  22. Interesting, very revealing, rather complex article. I’m actually surprised that local news media in Russia actually do document this domestic terrorism, the type that is acceptable (in the short term) to the Kremlin. Previously, I was more of the sense that this was getting little to no critical coverage in local Russian news, only being allowed carte-blanche as a “reasonable” “activist” movement by “vigilant citizens”. Instead, it’s perhaps one of the best ways to understand just how bad things are, even for targeted individuals who don’t even fit the profile that these groups want to savage. Rather complex, but with plainly visible, terrible results, and ample amounts of morally-motivated hypocrisy, the sort that is so plain to see in any right-wing/reactionary movement (incl. here in the US).

    I despair of the acceptability of this rabid mentality. This is Abrahamic religion’s strange, bitter, bloody fruit.

  23. Pingback: Box Turtle Bulletin » A Brief History of Gay Life in Russia

  24. I am an American that is saddened by what has befallen our once glorious and prosperous nation. What has become of America sickens me to the core. It has become so perverse with the liberal left ideals. Perhaps the thing that we should do, is to keep our noses out of other countries business. I do not agree with taking lives or torture or demoralizing another human being. but i do agree with the keeping of high moral standards. I feel that if the Russian government wants to clean their country of the foul stench, so be it. Anti Gay laws ? so be it. Homosexuality is against the word of God. Sodomy is against the word of God. just as Murder and adultry and theft are. Our World is in a major turmoil due to the fact that mankind has walked away from God. America has enough of it’s own problems to deal with, yet we interfere with policies and laws of nations that don’t quite meet our standards.

  25. Scott: FYI, ILGA Europe released a statement on August 29th, stating in part: “As a result, these laws and policies fuel violence and discrimination against the most vulnerable minority groups in Russia, including immigrant workers, ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTI people. While ethnic, racial and religious minorities, and immigrant workers with non-Slavic appearance have long been targets of neo-Nazi, ultra nationalist groups, with the introduction of new laws and accompanying public rhetoric ‘demonising’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans identities , LGBTI people (particularly youth) have increasingly become the new ‘bait’ for hate groups”. Queer community activists do understand the links and the history of this issue in Russia, but it is only when publicity reached us and touched us directly that our communities started to react en masse.
    Link to complete news release: http://ilga-europe.org/home/news/for_media/media_releases/keep_hope_alive_campaign_launch_world_leaders_challenge_russia_on_human_rights

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  28. The fact that Russia claims to want a country free of Sodem buy sinning to do so is wrong. They claim that God would approve of this, even the CHURCHS approved of this anti-gay, but it goes against everything Jesus stands for. Jesus would NEVER discriminate against the LGBT community and stereotype them all as potential pedophiles to put fear and hate in the people’s eyes. What God does that unless you worship Satin himself. Uh, this is disgusting.

    • Actually if you have ever read the bible, (since you know what Jesus would or wouldn’t do) God forbids homosexuality. Jesus would not turn away a sinner, however, He does forgive and would tell the sinner not to sin again. This goes for murder, theft, adultery and so on. Homosexuality is a sin just as bad as the rest of them.

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