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