We ain’t got no stinkin’ gays, Sochi mayor claims

Doing his best Soviet impression, Sochi, Russia mayor Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC recently that they don’t have gay people in Sochi. (Apparently they don’t have trash cans or electricity either.)  Sochi is the town hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in just two weeks.

“It’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live,” Mayor Pakhomov told the BBC. “We don’t have them in our city.”

sochi-mayor-Pakhomov.So, BBC reporter John Sweeney went and visited a gay bar in Sochi, and what do you know, he found gay people.  Gay locals in fact.

So I did a little digging myself, and stumbled upon Sochi’s Cabaret Mayak.  Yep, nothing gay about this place:

cabaert-mayak

And definitely nothing gay about these two.

caberet-mayak-2

Photo credit: Cabaret Mayak

The sad thing is that Mayor Pakhomov isn’t entirely wrong.  Sochi used to have a thriving gay scene, but now, it’s almost dead, as gays flee Russia for freedom in the west.  Cabaret Mayak is now mostly for curious heterosexuals who find drag funny.

Reuters had a terribly sad report on Sochi’s gay scene, and how its emblematic of Russia’s larger crackdown on gays and trans people, and tolerance.

Many members of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have left the country. They worry Sochi’s reputation as a city of tolerance will decline further.

“There is no gay community here. It’s a myth,” said Roman Kochagov, who co-owns Mayak.

“The number of gays has dropped for years. Every year there have been fewer and fewer … now they have almost all disappeared,” he said, adding that he himself is looking to leave the country.

We need to be doing much more to facilitate the emigration of Russian gays. The famous Lautenberg Amendment rightfully relaxed refugee standards for Soviet Jews (and others) coming to the US. A similar effort must be made for modern dissidents from Russia and Africa.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Same here!

  • 4th Turning

    Hey, hi. Would much rather be wisecracking about the Swedish Army
    Folies Bergere and scanning the internet for tour dates, But this other
    side of the news puts me in a more somber frame of mind especially
    since there seems to be no flicker of light right now at the end of
    the tunnel…

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Too Real, Too True, Too Tragic. Those left behind live in a dystopian future.

  • 4th Turning

    I would gladly contribute to any effort assisting emigres-or those remaining in place-whether
    from Russia or Nigeria or Uganda or India if eventually identified.
    Second thoughts, however, remembering that hundreds if not thousands of 12 and 13 yr. olds
    will be coming into their awareness of identity this year and next year and next year bereft of
    mentors/elders/guides available to protect and help them in sorting things out.
    Tactical retreat is necessary for bandaging wounds and regrouping. But we cannot abandon
    those left behind especially considering our notoriously short attention span.

  • Indigo

    You’re right! It’s like those nested dolls, inside the inside is another inside . . .

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I had to laugh (sardonically, of course) when I read Mayor Pakhomov’s follow-on remarks after he said there were no gays whatsoever in Sochi, when he admitted he didn’t really know if there were any, just that he didn’t know any personally.

    When challenged, the mayor admitted that he was not certain there were
    no gay people in Sochi: “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Interesting afrticle! The comments are something else.

  • Ninong
  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Not so sure about the star on top of the head wrap though” In Russia one needs at least five points of view to survive.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “wondered how Sochi’s several gay bars stay in business.” thriving off hours for the Orthodox clergy.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I’m certain that many would like to go away to another country.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    From an AP article on the mayor’s quote:

    Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov laughed at the mayor’s response and wondered how Sochi’s several gay bars stay in business.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    This was meant to be it. Did you see this on SNL?

  • TonyT

    These guys seem to lie about as much as Republicans do!

  • BeminDC

    Anyone who cares about this issue should consider supporting Immigration Equality, a wonderful organization that is helping to get gay Russians out of that backward country.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    That link isn’t working for me

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey
  • Indigo

    Perhaps Mayor Pakhomov is speaking from a Putin-IOC script. As for the local scene, I love the water melon purse! Not so sure about the star on top of the head wrap though.

  • Just_AC

    So, Permanent population of Sochi according to Wikipedia is 343,334 in 2010. The normal, for whatever it is worth,estimates 10% of population is gay. So, 34000 GLBT is a LITTLE more than Zero

  • Ninong

    Isn’t that amazing! I guess Putin’s version of Iran is working. What idiots!

    They’re like the Tea Party Republicans. They think that if they ban “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” the gay will go away because they won’t be able to “recruit” new members to their club.

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