Saturday, 8 February 2014

Russia


“From Russia, with love?” 

The finger of accusation has landed hard and uncompromisingly at the entirety of Russia with the eyes of the world on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the gay propaganda and blasphemy laws that have recently been passed there. And whilst there is no denying the utterly horrendous situation that has been created, as C4 documentary Hunted showed us so powerfully, it is hard not feel that there’s an element of self-absolution at work that sticks a little in the craw. 

I’m reminded of the US Olympic team making human rights protests at the opening ceremony in Beijing whilst Guantánamo Bay was still open, last weekend’s news story about the Home Office’s approach to making gay asylum seekers prove their homosexuality, Newsweek’s exposé of the institutionalised homophobia in a sport like figure skating, even UKIP’s claims of bad weather as punishment for the gays. 

Maybe it’s Cold War attitudes lingering on, a wilful ignorance or simply the beginnings of a new culture of Twitter-based light-touch activism – but there’s no easy way to accuse others so blithely when our own house is in such disarray. That said, there’s no simple answer that’s for sure and the impulse to support those who are being oppressed is one that is both admirable and one to be nurtured. 

With all that in mind, I’m watching the Winter Olympics to support the athletes who have worked so hard and remembering that not all Russians can be tarred with the same brush. So we have a spot of Tolstoy, a touch of Chekhov, a smattering of Dostoevsky and a hint of Bulgakov to demonstrate the Russian contribution to world literature. And there’s also a hard-hitting contemporary radio drama to remind us that the brutality of the authoritarian regime has never been limited to gay people.

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