As part of Russia’s ongoing cultural and physical pogrom against gay people, the country is now trying to “in” one of its greatest gay cultural icons: Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Tchaikovsky is the composer of the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and the 1812 Overture, among many other well-known works. (Little known fact: “the nutcracker” was Tchaikovsky’s Grindr screen name.)
The man was also seriously gay.
But you wouldn’t know Tchaikovsky was gay from the way the Russians are talking nowadays. The latest step by official Russia-dom in annihilating gay people is to take away our history. That’s why the Russians are now censoring books, and attempting to remove famous gays, like Tchaikovsky, from Russian history all together.
Sadly, for the Russians, the world is a bit more interconnected today than it was during the heyday of Soviet propaganda. Brezhnev and Stalin never had to deal with the Internet. Putin does. And as we’re quickly finding out, the old KGB hand isn’t quite as adept at lying online as his state apparatus was when Pravda ruled the day.
The NYT reports that a prominent Russian screenwriter, Yuri Arabov, is making a movie about Tchaikovsky, with state funding, and he’s announced that he won’t be mentioning that Tchaikovsky was gay because, get this, “it is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual.” Good try, Boris. It’s generally acknowledged that Tchaikovsky was flamingly gay.
I did a lot of googling on this, and there’s a lot of source material proving Tchaikovsky was gay, including an autobiography by Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest (who was also gay), and letters in which Tchaikovsky himself acknowledges that he was gay.
Interestingly, the Soviets used to play the same trick Putin’s Russia is now playing, trying to deny that Tchaikovsky was gay.
Sadly, the NYT reporter leaves the lie just sitting there, unrebutted. Well, it’s time for some butt.
Let’s hear a little bit from a letter Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother:
I am now going through a very critical period of my life. I will go into more detail later, but for now I will simply tell you, I have decided to get married. It is unavoidable. I must do it, not just for myself but for you, Modeste, and all those I love. I think that for both of us our dispositions are the greatest and most insuperable obstacle to happiness, and we must fight our natures to the best of our ability. So far as I am concerned, I will do my utmost to get married this year, and if I lack the necessary courage, I will at any rate abandon my habits forever. Surely you realize how painful it is for me to know that people pity and forgive me when in truth I am not guilty of anything. How appalling to think that those who love me are sometimes ashamed of me. In short, I seek marriage or some sort of public involvement with a woman so as to shut the mouths of assorted contemptible creatures whose opinions mean nothing to me, but who are in a position to cause distress to those near to me.
Yeah, that’s not gay.
More from Wikipedia:
Tchaikovsky had clear same-sex tendencies; some of the composer’s closest relationships were with men. He sought out the company of other same-sex attracted men in his circle for extended periods, “associating openly and establishing professional connections with them.” Relevant portions of his brother Modest’s autobiography, where he tells of the composer’s sexual orientation, have been published, as have letters previously suppressed by Soviet censors in which Tchaikovsky openly writes of it.
More debatable is how comfortable the composer felt with his sexual nature. There are currently two schools of thought. Musicologists such as David Brown have maintained that Tchaikovsky “felt tainted within himself, defiled by something from which he finally realized he could never escape.” Another group of scholars, which includes Alexander Poznansky and Roland John Wiley, have more recently suggested that the composer experienced “no unbearable guilt” over his sexual nature and “eventually came to see his sexual peculiarities as an insurmountable and even natural part of his personality … without experiencing any serious psychological damage.”
Both groups agree that Tchaikovsky remained aware of the negative consequences should knowledge of his orientation become public, especially of the ramifications for his family….
In any case, Tchaikovsky chose not to neglect social convention and stayed conservative by nature. His love life remained complicated. A combination of upbringing, timidity and deep commitment to relatives precluded his living openly with a male lover. A similar blend of personal inclination and period decorum kept him from having sexual relations with those in his social circle. He regularly sought out anonymous encounters, many of which he reported to Modest; at times, these brought feelings of remorse. He also attempted to be discreet and adjust his tastes to the conventions of Russian society. Nevertheless, many of his colleagues, especially those closest to him, may have either known or guessed his true sexual nature. Tchaikovsky’s decision to enter into a heterosexual union and try to lead a double life was prompted by several factors—the possibility of exposure, the willingness to please his father, his own desire for a permanent home and his love of children and family. There is no reason however to suppose that these personal travails impacted negatively on the quality of his musical inspiration or capacity.
The Soviets were so good at lying, it’s almost pathetic what a bad job Putin is doing with this entire affair.
If I were a Russian, I’d be looking for another leader, because the current one is making that country a laughing-stock. After all, I wouldn’t have even known that Tchaikovsky was gay (I honestly didn’t know), had the Russians not made such a big deal of it.
So thanks, Vlad. And see you, and Pyotr, at the tea dance.