“Queers”: Term Russian Foreign Ministry calls gays in human rights report

In a new human rights report, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to gays as “queers.”

The report, issued on December 19, 2013, ostensibly is a look at the human rights situation in the European Union. Though you’d be hard pressed to find a human rights report that uses slurs against minorities.

You’ve found one now.

AMERICAblog has obtained a copy of the English-language version of the report, translated into English by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself  – it’s in PDF format – and it contains the following paragraph:


Here’s the transcript of the offending passage:

Attempts have been made to enforce on other countries an alien view of homosexuality and same-sex marriages as a norm of life and some kind of a natural social phenomenon that deserves support at the state level. Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers. Suffice it to recall the protest reaction of a major part of the French society to the decision on legalization of same-sex marriages in the country. [emphasis added]

What’s possibly even more offensive is that the Russian version of the document – assuming it hasn’t been changed (the English version has not been changed, it still says “queers”) – is rather benign in how it references gays in the relevant paragraph. Here’s the English sentence, written by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in English:

Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers.

And here’s the original Russian version:

Подобный подход встречает сопротивление не только в странах, придерживающихся традиционных ценностей, но и там, где всегда существовало либеральное отношение к людям с нетрадиционной ориентацией.

In the English, they say “queers.” In the Russian, they say “нетрадиционной ориентацией,” which even I with my limited background in Russian (I studied it for a year in college), can read as “nontraditional orientations,” which Google translator translates to “gay,” and my friendly neighborhood Russian political asylum applicant friend also translates as “nontraditional orientations,” aka “gay.” So, why then did someone in the Russian Foreign Ministry take the phrase “nontraditional orientations” and translate it to a word that, when used pejoratively, has a meaning akin to “f*ggots”?

“Queer” is a derogatory term in American English for a gay person. It is akin in severity to the word “f*g.”  One business associate of mine suggested that there was nothing wrong with the Russians disparaging gays as “queers” since young gays use the term all the time.  Well, actually, we reclaimed the word “queer,” not “queers” – there is a difference in usage between saying the “queer community” and someone anti-gay calling gays “queers.”  And in any case, some segments of the black community use the n-word.  So people who oppress blacks, and who are violent towards blacks, are okay to use the n-word?  Please.  And some gays, myself included, will sometimes use the word “f*g.” If you’re an anti-gay bigot, and you use that term, good luck defending it. Context is everything, and don’t tell me for a minute that the Russians are slurring with us rather than slurring at us.

The report containing the slur was disseminated via the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official Twitter account, and was spotted by Buzzfeed’s Max Seddon who mentioned it in a tweet:


The use of the anti-gay slur by the Russian Foreign Ministry comes on the heels of a draconian anti-gay crackdown in the country.  This past summer, Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda” – a law that basically makes it illegal to be openly gay in Russia, and makes it illegal for anyone, including straight people, to express an opinion supportive of gays.

As a result, violence against gays and other minorities increased markedly in Russia, including the formation of vigilante groups that kidnap young gay teens and then torture them on camera – the videos are then posted on Russian social media.  The Russian government has refused to prosecute the perpetrators, even though their faces, and home towns, are clearly visible in the videos.

This increase in violence, both racist and homophobic, has led to concerns about the athletes and guests attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi next month.  The Russian authorities have said in the past that they will arrest any Olympians, or guests, who run afoul of the “propaganda” law.

Speaking of queers….


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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30 Responses to ““Queers”: Term Russian Foreign Ministry calls gays in human rights report”

  1. Sergey Hapov says:

    Когда по сути ответить нечего, когда все в чем тебя обвиняют – это правда, тогда начинают придираться к словам. Тут не так написали, там их оскорбили. Лицемерные твари!

  2. karmanot says:

    Life according to ‘Reader’s Digest’ and the Rockwell illustrated version of the Constitution.

  3. karmanot says:

    Nice try Denise—no go.

  4. karmanot says:

    Yep. burlap and barbed wire are so chic.

  5. Denise Magicamente Muir says:

    Couldn’t this just be a translation error? Maybe the person, the translator, writing the English version made the transition towards the more offensive term so the blame is perhaps to be sought in his/her attitudes towards “nontraditional orientations”. Just a thought, as we must never forget that the English translation published by any department that is non-native English is always in the hands of the translator when it comes to the cultural references, nuances, meanings and flavour conveyed.

  6. Ninong says:

    Here’s the Russian: нетрадиционной ориентацией
    “Nontraditional orientation.”
    Google Translate says that means “gay.” So apparently this is the new politically correct Russian equivalent of the English politically correct word “gay.” In the Russian vernacular, the word they use “pedik” is really a version of “pedophile.”

  7. Supookeed8087 says:

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  8. Bill_Perdue says:

    How so.

    They all support unlimited wars of aggression, they’re all tools of the rich, they all want to gut Social Security and Medicare, they all support NAFTA, they all oppose the Bill of Rights and they all support gutting the standard of living of working people but in different ways. Clinton exported jobs and gutted welfare. Bush cut taxes on the rich and exported jobs. Obama gave trillions to the rich, ignored unemployment, exports jobs wants to gut Social Security and Medicare, and he betrayed socialized medicine.

    I know many think that they’re different because Obama and the Clintons rebranded in the vain hope that we’ll forget their bigotry and Bush didn’t. But is rebranding by two out of three admitted bigots a valid reason for not wanting to lump them all together in spite of their common to pursue right wing strategies and policies?

  9. emjayay says:

    Not that Russia hasn’t taken a turn for the homophobic while the rest of the civilized world is rapidly going in the opposite direction, but like I said, it could just bad translation. Again, the clunky writing sounds like an educated but tone deaf translation. If it isn’t perjorative in Russian but is in English, then that’s what it is. If they were trying to be sneaky, they would have sanitized a homophobic Russian statement for Western consumption.

  10. emjayay says:

    Putting Bush, Clinton, and Obama in one bunch is ridiculous.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    Since Russia became a haven for capitalist gangsters and cultists under Putin the Russian government has moved far to the right. Like successive US regimes the Putin /Medvedev regime made a right turn, passing anti-gay laws like DOMA and DADT, took a two faced approach to violence against gays and pandered to the cults. They’ve unleashed a growing wave of violence and organized homophobia that it will take years to combat and overcome.

    Putin is no better than Clinton, the Bushes or Obama. The good news is that our struggles are turning the tide here, at least in terms of public acceptance for equality. Even Obama and the Clintons rebranded. It will take time but given the increasing ferment among workers in the RF, which will open doors for us, we’ll win there too.

  12. BeccaM says:

    In somewhat related news, another Sochi Olympics village ‘mayor’ — Svetlana Zhurova — spoke out in favor of Russia’s anti-gay pogrom laws, capping it with a transphobic “joke”.

    Zhurova claimed that many European politicians who oppose the law had told her in private that they actually supported it and that Russian celebrities who support the law had been told by their sponsors to stay quiet. She added, “I just think they shouldn’t show a cartoon on TV — excuse me, I have two boys — where a king loves another king.” She went on to tell a “joke” about the law: “If someone says he’s Napoleon, he’ll be taken straight to the appropriate institution. If he says he’s a woman, then basically nothing happens to him, he’s fighting for his rights.”


  13. A few points. The report was translated into English by the Russians themselves, so it doesn’t really matter what the original report says. Clearly someone at the Foreign Ministry wanted to get a message across to English speakers. Secondly, I went back to the original report in Russian, and found that they use the phrase “nontraditional orientations” to mean “gay” in that paragraph. And I spoke to a Russian friend who says yes the phrase is benign, not pejorative. But when translating it to English they went for “queers”? That’s intentional. Not to mention, it’s also slang, which is even weirder for the Foreign Ministry to be using English slang. Very messed up.

  14. Houndentenor says:

    Reminds me of Fran Lebowitz’s quip about the US:

    “If you removed all of the homosexuals
    and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American
    culture, you would pretty much be left with “Let’s Make a Deal.”

  15. Houndentenor says:

    The Russians have never admitted that Chaik was gay. Never. It’s even still hard to get access to his archived personal papers for that reason.

  16. Houndentenor says:

    Before commenting I would like to know more about what the original Russian said and who translated it. (It’s also possible that it sounds worse in the original, but I’d like someone who reads Russian to make that determination.)

  17. emjayay says:

    I would think that the problem is poor translation, given the use of “queer” in a positive way in English speaking countries for a couple of decades. Except the rest of the writing is fairly good. It does however have the sort of clunky sentence stucture and phrasing of a literal translation. Assuming it was originally in Russian, you would have to see that to really make a reasonable conclusion about this.

    (Oh look someone else simultaneously wrote sort of the same thing.)

  18. Bill Kenny says:

    Was this originally in Russian? If we know what Russian word is used it might shed light on this. I agree, though–the whole paragraph reeks of bigotry.

  19. BeccaM says:

    Well, it is entirely consistent with their anti-gay pogrom-enabling laws and policies now.

    Sure, that one word does jump out as “crap, they actually said ‘queers’?” — but the words all around it are equally horrible in their lack of ambiguity. I actually find “alien view of homosexuality” and “some kind of natural social phenomenon” to be far more alarming, because it’s clear they’re attempting to utterly dehumanize LGBT people.

  20. Monoceros Forth says:

    Well, you know, Tchaikovsky wasn’t really gay. That’s just a slander put about by decadent Western propagandists.

  21. Monoceros Forth says:

    Queer as a clockwork orange.

  22. Indigo says:

    Well, in that case, we’re just going to have to queer their entire Olympic endeavour, NBC included.

  23. heimaey says:

    I suppose you could look on the bright side and think at least they didn’t use “fag”?

  24. devlzadvocate says:

    Don’t be surprised if the opening (and closing) theme is Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”. They REALLY like that.

  25. devlzadvocate says:

    I would never offend Russians by calling them “Ivan”, Cossacks, Russkis, Natasha and Rasputin or Vodka N—-rs, but then this isn’t an official report. If it was, I might use one of those slurs.

  26. A_nonymoose says:

    What did you expect from Commies?

  27. bkmn says:

    I’m sure they are trying to scrub their past of any reference to how great and fabu the “queers” were.

  28. Jim Olson says:

    Nice! Well, at least we have more clarity about where we stand…

  29. jomicur says:

    Queers, eh? Like Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, etc., etc.? Tale all the “queers” out of Russian culture and pretty much all you’d have left would be Ivan the Terrible and Vlad “the Impaler” Putin.

  30. dcinsider says:

    This is going to make for one boring Opening Ceremony if you don’t let the “queers” design it.

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