A few months ago, I wrote a post here about Valery Gergiev’s continued silence on recent homophobic legislation in Russia. Gergiev’s position, I speculated, was increasingly tenuous, as his unwavering support for Vladimir Putin made it impossible to distance himself from the new laws, something that the international classical music community was increasingly demanding. His silence seemed calculated, an effort to stay out of the debate altogether so that no specific charges of homophobia could be brought against him personally.
Well, the situation has changed. At the start of September, Gergiev spoke to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant ahead of a festival in Rotterdam, and made the following comment about the contentious law: “In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia. But I have too busy a schedule to explore this matter in detail.”
Even on its own terms this statement is absurd. If the legislation is meant only to protect children, then why does it not outlaw all forms of sexual “propaganda” towards them? And if it is not about homosexuality, then why does the word even appear in the legislation?
Gergiev’s statement is based on a very ugly prejudice that attempts to confuse, and thereby conflate, homosexuality and paedophilia. Historically, this has been a common perception in Russia, although thankfully most Russians today have moved beyond it. But it clearly suits Putin’s purposes, and therefore Gergiev’s, to keep this association in place. The consequences for Russia’s gay community are clear from the daily reports of violence, condoned, if not explicitly by Gergiev himself, then certainly by the mythology he perpetuates.
It is time concert-goers make clear that Gergiev’s stated opinions on this matter make him wholly unfit to hold a senior appointment in London’s musical life. To this end, I am joining the boycott of Gergiev’s work until he states his unequivocal support for the equal rights of all, regardless of sexual orientation.
UPDATE: Gergiev today stated his unequivocal support for the equal rights of all, regardless of sexual orientation. New Post "The Time has Come to Stop Boycotting Gergiev"