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Half-Hidden or Half-Open? Scholarly Research on Soviet Homosexuals in Contemporary Russia

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Gender and Choice after Socialism


This chapter explores the historical scholarship on sexualities in post-Soviet Russia, drawing on extensive archival research and scholarly experience on the history of homosexuality in Russia, both pre-revolutionary and Soviet, including the FSB archive. It also reflects on the past and present choices made by Russian and Western historians in relation to the almost untouched history of Russian sexuality. While the scholarship on post-socialist non-heterosexuals is growing extensively, homosexuality in Soviet Russia, despite the availability of plentiful archival materials, continues to be greeted with silence and repression, both by the Russian academic community and by civil society. The only notable publication on the subject is Dan Healey’s Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, written more than a decade ago. I argue that the repressed memory of homosexuals living through the Soviet era is deeply connected with the Stalinist gender and sexuality policies of the 1930s, as well as with the ambiguous and inconsistent process of democratisation in the 1990s. The policy concerning access to sources relating to homosexuality in the Russian archives will also be analysed.

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    Thus, the convicts under this case of 1933–1934 remain the only Soviet homosexuals to be rehabilitated by the authorities, and that is only because of their conviction under Article 58 of the Russian SFSR’s Criminal Code, as the article prosecuting for ‘sodomy’ did not exist yet.

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    This episode reminds me of the rhetoric of Soviet archivists of the 1970s, when a staff member at TsGALI explained to a researcher that there was no access to Mikhail Kuzmin’s diaries, kept in a special repository, not for political reasons, but because of their ‘obscenity’. For details see V. Kozlovskii, Argo russkoi gomoseksual’noi subkul’tury. Materialy k izucheniiu. Vermont, 1996.

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Roldugina, I. (2018). Half-Hidden or Half-Open? Scholarly Research on Soviet Homosexuals in Contemporary Russia. In: Attwood, L., Schimpfössl, E., Yusupova, M. (eds) Gender and Choice after Socialism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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