Mы нe oшибкa (We Are Not an Error): Documentary Film and LGBT Activism Against the Russian Anti-“Gay Propaganda” Campaign

  • Clinton Glenn


Over the past decade, a number of documentary films have been produced with a focus on the situation of LGBTI communities and activism in the Russian Federation. This chapter aims to engage with a small corpus of documentaries examining the aftermath of the 2013 Russian “anti-gay propaganda” bill as a way to critically engage with how documentaries depict the promotion of human rights in a country that continues to be labelled as homophobic and hostile to LGBTI individuals. In this chapter, I examine three documentaries filmed in Russia: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia (2014), which documents the violent repression that gay men have faced at the hands of vigilantes in Putin’s Russia; Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda (2014) depicting the struggles against societal and political homophobia; and, Children-404 (2014), examining how LGBT youth have found refuge through social networking platforms VKontakte and Facebook.


  1. Article 19. (2013). Legal Analysis—Russia: Federal Laws Introducing Ban of Propaganda of Non-traditional Sexual Relationships.
  2. Baer, B. J. (2012). Now You See It: Gay (In)Visibility and the Performance of Post-Soviet Identity. In N. Fejes & A. P. Balogh (Eds.), Queer Visibility in Post-socialist Cultures (pp. 37–55). London: Intellect Books.Google Scholar
  3. Besanvalle, J. (2018). Russia Bans Popular LGBTI Site for Violating ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law. Accessed 31 March 2019.
  4. Buyantueva, R. (2017). LGBT Rights Activism and Homophobia in Russia. Journal of Homosexuality, 65(4), 456–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cinema Politica. (2014, March 10). CP Supported Children 404 to Premiere at HotDocs 2014. Accessed 31 Jan 2019.
  6. Essig, L. (1999). Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and the Other. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. France 24. (2018, November 25). Anti-gay Russian MP Halts Start of LGBT Film Festival. Accessed 27 Dec 2018.
  8. Gaufman, E. (2016). Security Threats and Public Perception: Digital Russia and the Ukraine Crisis. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Gessen, M. (2017a). The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
  10. Gessen, M. (2017b, July 3). The Gay Men Who Fled Chechnya’s Purge. New Yorker. Accessed 18 July 2017.
  11. Gorbunova, Y. (2017, December 15). Will Russia Block Twitter? Authorities Threaten to Block Twitter, YouTube Over Open Russian Accounts.
  12. Healey, D. (2009). Bolshevik Sexual Forensics: Diagnosing Disorder in the Clinic and Courtroom, 1917–1939. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Healey, D. (2017). Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  14. Hollywood Reporter. (2018, October 25). Russian Legislator Disrupts Opening Ceremony of LGBTQ Film Fest. Hollywood Reporter. Accessed 27 Dec 2018.
  15. Khazov, S. (2013, September 6). Rainbow Russia. Retrieved October 25, 2017,
  16. Kinsman, G., & Gentile, P. (2010). The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kon, I. (1993). Sexual Minorities. In I. Kon & J. Riordan (Eds.), Sex and Russian Society (pp. 89–115). Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kon, I. (2009). Homophobia as a Litmus Test of Russian Democracy. Sociological Research, 48(2), 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kondakov, A., & Shtorn, E. (2017, June 29). Charting Russia’s Most Dangerous Cities for LGBT People. Accessed 30 June 2017.
  20. Kulpa, R. (2011). Nations and Sexualities—“West” and “East.” In R. Kulpa & J. Mizielińska (Eds.), De-centring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives (pp. 43–62). Farnham, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  21. Kurov, A., & Loparev, P. (2014). Children 404 [DVD]. Montreal: Cinema Politica.Google Scholar
  22. LGL. (2017). LGBT* Rights in Lithuania. Accessed 21 Nov 2017.
  23. Lucas, M. (2014). Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda [DVD]. Montreal: Breaking Glass Pictures.Google Scholar
  24. Makarychev, A., & Medvedev, S. (2015). Biopolitics and Power in Putin’s Russia. Problems of Post-communism, 62(1), 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Martsenyuk, T. (2016). Sexuality and Revolution in Post-Soviet Ukraine: Human Rights for the LGBT Community in the Euromaidan Protests of 2013–2014. Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, 2(1), 49–74.Google Scholar
  26. Moss, K. (2017). Russia as the Savior of European Civilization: Gender and the Geopolitics of Traditional Values. In R. Kuhar & D. Paternotte (Eds.), Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing Against Equality (pp. 195–214). London: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  27. Nahmod, D.-E. (2015, April 23). Campaign of Hate: Gay Porn Superstar’s Documentary Offers a Look at LGBT Life in Russia.
  28. One More Court Ruled to Block the Resources of the Group “Children-404.” (2016, April 13). Retrieved from
  29. Persson, E. (2015). Banning “Homosexual Propaganda”: Belonging and Visibility in Contemporary Russian Media. Sexuality and Culture, 19(2), 256–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Riabov, O., & Riabova, T. (2014, February 5). The Decline of Gayropa? How Russia Intends to Save the World.
  31. Sarajeva, K. (2011). Lesbian Lives: Sexuality, Space and Subculture in Moscow. Stockholms Universitet.Google Scholar
  32. Shekhovtsov, A. (2018). Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Soboleva, I. V., & Bakhmetiev, Y. A. (2015). Political Awareness and Self-Blame in the Explanatory Narratives of LGBT People Amid the Anti-LGBT Campaigns in Russia. Sexuality and Culture, 19(2), 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Soldatov, A., & Borogan, I. (2015). The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries. New York: PublicAffairs.Google Scholar
  35. Steele, B. (2014). Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia [DVD]. New York: Home Box Office.Google Scholar
  36. Swader, C. S., & Obelene, V. (2015). Post-Soviet Intimacies: An Introduction. Sexuality and Culture, 19(2), 245–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Visser, F., & Rossbach, A. (2017, August 15). Harassed LGBT Activists Rally in St. Petersburg. Accessed 15 Aug 2017.
  38. Yalovkina, A. (2016, February 1). Russia’s Invisible Children. Accessed 5 June 2017.
  39. Youtube. (2017, April 19). Svetski Я ГEЙ! MOЙ КAMИHГ-AУT | ЛГБT peвoлюция в Poccии / Zhenya Svetski—Coming Out.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clinton Glenn
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations