Secret. Nocturnal. Intercourse.

I must admit to not paying as much attention to Russia as I should have these past few decades.

I spent a lot of time studying the Soviet Union in grad school at Georgetown. I even took Russian during my undergrad at Illinois, because back then, in the early 1980s, if you were into foreign affairs, Russia was it.

I was consumed with the Soviet Union since an early age. For some, back in those days, their anti-communism was rooted in pro-militarism. For me, it was rooted in my sense of (in)justice.

The other day I was going through my things and I found a letter I wrote, in high school, to the Soviet premier, I don’t recall which, protesting his treatment of some leading Jewish dissident. The place always irked me.

Soviet hat via Shutterstock

Soviet hat via Shutterstock

It didn’t help when I finally got to visit the Soviet Union in mid-winter, 1984.

It was a fascinating time to be there.  The relatively-new leader, Andropov, had just died after only 15 months in office, and Chernenko had just taken over.  And relations with the West were not great, as these were the Reagan years.

I was in the middle of my junior-year-abroad in Paris, and the local travel agents (the French still use travel agents, by the way) had ridiculously cheap all-inclusive excursions to Moscow and Leningrad. It was several hundred dollars, I believe, for the entire trip. So I jetted off to Russia for an eye-opening ten days.

And yeah, it was a police state as bad as American propaganda had claimed.

People on the street were scared to the death of talking to us. I’d have people sidle up next to me on public buses, and carefully whisper in my ear, so no one near them would know they were engaging in conversation with a westerner.  (I’ll never forget the one very tall, blonde, hot Russian man in the fur hat, squeezed up against me in a packed Moscow bus, who shocked the hell out of me by whispering, out of nowhere, at point-blank-range to my ear, wonderfully trilling his Rs like Chekov on Star Trek as he asked, “Does Mr. Reagan really want nuclear war?”)

Then there were the three deaf-mute black market traders we met hanging out at our hotel in Moscow.  The lead guy was named Yevgeny Morozov (or perhaps Mozorov, I don’t recall which – I remember his father was someone decently important at the time, it would be neat to find him again).  Yevgeny and friends would trade Russian fur hats, or matryoshka dolls, for American blue jeans and cigarettes – it was totally illegal, but a lot of kids did it.

Our group quickly befriended Yevgeny and company, and they hung out with us during most of our visit. Until finally, one night, they were taken away, before our very eyes, by the secret police.  And boy did we raise a stink with our “tour guide.”  (Fortunately, the boys were later released. But that evening left an indelible mark on us all.)

For all things Yevgeny, I was nominated class interpreter, by default.  I’d had only a year of Russian in college, with a horrible Russian-born professor, but I was always generally good at languages, so with my rudimentary Russian, Yevgeny’s equally rudimentary knowledge of English (he’d write key words down on a small piece of paper), and a lot of possibly-sign-language hand gestures I picked up from Yevgeny and the boys (things like touching your forehead to mean “think” or “know”), we got pretty good at conversing,

I’ll never forget the time that one of the girls in our tour group asked me to help her translate something one of Yevgeny’s friends was desperately trying to say to her.  She couldn’t make heads or tails of it.  (We were all American in our group, which tended to befuddle our official Russian interpreter/guide/police spy, who only spoke French. We were a tour group from Paris, and the Russians figured, incorrectly, that we’d all be French.)  So with the help of Yevgeny and me, and our trusty pocket Russian-English “slovar” (dictionary), I started very slowly translating the Russian boy’s VERYIMPORTANTMESSAGE for his new American friend.

The pages of the dictionary turned slowly until we had our first word.


An auspicious beginning.  The American girl urged me to continue.

Next word…


Huh, that was an odd one.  But I persevered.

Then finally we had our third word:


I almost burst out laughing, while my poor American friend turned pale.

The two of us, clearly in synch, both pretended not to understand what the phrase could possibly mean.  In the meantime, the Russian boy, increasingly frustrated, kept repeating the phrase over and over, thinking if he said it just a few more times, perhaps we’d finally understand.

So over and over, the poor kid kept repeating, louder and louder: “Secret nocturnal intercourse. Secret nocturnal intercourse!”

My other favorite story from my time in the Soviet Union is about a Soviet soldier we encountered on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Leningrad (flying that airline was a harrowing experience in and of itself).

I was in the aisle seat on the right, he was in the aisle seat on my left, and he was utterly adorable.  Probably around 19 years old, like the rest of us.  In full uniform.  And we all immediately had a crush on him.  So I tried to engage him in conversation.

Soviet medal via Shutterstock

Soviet medal via Shutterstock

Our little soldier wasn’t budging.  There was no way he was going to engage us (only later we noticed that several senior officers were seated a few rows behind).

As we landed in Leningrad, I had an idea: I’d offer him a piece of gum.  No good Russian could refuse a choice piece of western chewing gum, right?  And, mind you, this was French chewing gum – and the popular brand at the time was called “HOLLYWOOD,” just to add to the western glamor of it all.

So, as we all got up to get our overhead luggage, I pulled out a piece of Hollywood and offered it to my deliciously blonde Russian.  He ignored it, and kept getting his bag.


Dejected, I turned my back to grab my carry-on.

Just then, I felt a hand from behind reach into my palm, and carefully take the stick of gum.

Without saying a word, the young Soviet soldier then picked up his bag, walked off the plane, and never looked back.

I was, and am, glad I visited the Soviet Union.  I had some great experiences, and met some neat people.  But it was a freaky, disturbing place – and yes, it really was a police state.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, a lot of us regretted spending so much time studying the Soviet Union.  The USSR was no more, and suddenly the-most-important-field-in-the-world felt a bit like having gotten a doctorate in Latin.

But now that so much is going so wrong in Russia, and I’m seeing more than a few glimpses of my old Soviet friends in Putin’s crackdown on his gay and trans citizens, it seems I’m finally, sadly, getting a chance to put my education to good use.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | 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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59 Responses to “Secret. Nocturnal. Intercourse.”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    I take it that means you don’t want to be embarrassed by asking? edit

    Joe McCarthy had the same kind of humor. Read the books so you have a chance of discussing the Russian Revolution with a smidgen of intelligence.

  2. FLL says:

    The only thing I deleted was humor. As you can see, nothing of any substance was deleted. I deleted the humor because I thought it would distract you from something I found much more interesting, which was the observation about Kerensky. Thank you for your reply about Kerensky.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    Shall we ask if you’re Guest?

  4. FLL says:

    My real comment, below, is that which state you’re registered in is not of great interest. Please keep expanding on Kerensky and Lenin. By the way, humor is not an agenda.

  5. HelenRainier says:

    John, can you draw any parallels of the Russia you visited with America today? This was interesting reading.

  6. Bill_Perdue says:

    FLL’s real comment, which betrayed his real agenda before he edited it and tried to disguise himself by deleting it (deleting merely changes the name but retains the comment but changes the name to Guest) “My main reply to your comment is just below, but I absolutely had to make this a separate comment. I am sooooo sorry. I didn’t mean Utah, I meant Nevada. Your blathering about voting “none of the above,” that is, when you “bother to vote,” is covers the Internet from one end to the other. “Firedog Lake” (Dec. 2011), “Queerty” (Sept. 2009), “The Bilerico Project” (Sept. 2008)… e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. You even have a fan base (though not in a good way). Attached below is a hilarious reply from “Queerty.” But even though you vote “none of the above” in Nevada (when you bother to vote, of course), please allow me some literary freedom. In my mind’s eye, you will always be kissing up to a bunch of Mormon Teabaggers in a small town called “Planet Kolob, Utah.” Call it poetic license.” Taken from my inbox as a reply from Discus.

    Not voting for Democrats or Republicans is a sign of sanity. Voting for them is a sign that some, like FLL are rightwing supporters of wars, attacks on unions and Social Security and on the Bill of Rights. I’m happy to advise people to write in Manning or Snowden or vote socialist or just sit it out on Tuesday, the 4th of November, 2014 or on Tuesday, the 8th of November 2016. I’ve said the same for decades, it’s what separates leftists from rightists like FLL.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    Kerensky was a reformist, aka, a liberal, a pro-capitalist loser. You know the type – Clinton, FDR, Gore, Obama, JFK and LBJ, Carter and Truman. All were Bonapartists and all turned right. None accomplished anything that will guarantee the survival of American capitalism.

    Working people expected a revolution and expected the Bolsheviks to lead it. You’ll have to do a lot more reading before you can even ask competent questions.

    Start with John Reed’s “Ten Days that Shook the World” or Leon Trotksy’s, “The Russian Revolution” or for the loser POV, N N Shukanhov’s ‘The Russian Revolution 1917″ or go to the files of the Loser in Chief at;query=;brand=default

  8. Bill_Perdue says:

    Good. I thought you might be defending Utah. It’s a very unhealthy place for gays to live, although not as bad as New York with it’s murders and kidnapping-tortures of gays. The best thing to note about Utah is the massive growth of the LGBT movement there and it’s combativeness in the face of state and cult bigotry. They remind me of the folks at

    NBC is right centrist, just like Fox News. Fox is a front for Republican right centrists and MSNBC is a front for Democrat right centrists. Both are enemies of world peace, both are enemies of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, both represent parties that want to prosecute and torture whistleblowers, both approve of NDAA and FISA and both approve of Obama’s racist murders of American citizens like Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed and both refuse to repeal what’s left of DOMA or pass ENDA.

    You can deny it all you want but Democrats and Republicans are the same party. “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently… and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Gore Vidal – Matters of Fact and of Fiction: Essays 1973-1976 (1977)

    In the last elections About 206 million Americans were eligible
    to vote.

    Of the eligible voters a total of 146 million Americans, or about 75%, actually registered to vote. That reflects mounting rage about the depression and insistent demands for positive action by voters. Of those registered voters Obama got roughly 54.5 million votes or a bit under 50% of the total final vote (as distinguished from both the eligible and registered votes). Romney got about 53.5 votes or just under 49% of the total vote. Approximately one quarter didn’t register and among registered voters about one third didn’t vote. Obama and Romney split half of the eligible vote and non voters comprised the other half of eligible voters.

    We need more states like Nevada that gives us the right to vote for none of the above since it seems that people who don’t fall for Democrat and Republican lies are a big and growing voting bloc.

  9. FLL says:

    Yes, you’re registered in Nevada. That’s not a topic of great interest. Much more interesting is your insightful comment about Kerensky at the top of the thread.

  10. FLL says:

    That’s an interesting observation about Kerensky. Expand on that a little. Was the surprise that you allude to a justified response because Kerensky was going in the wrong direction. You mention that working people were not surprised. You mean they were not surprised that Lenin won over Kerensky? Do you think that Kerensky was surprised because he was clueless and misguided and unable to understand the aspirations of the working people? How does Lenin compare in that respect?

  11. FLL says:

    My main reply to your comment is just below, but I absolutely had to make this a separate comment. I am sooooo sorry. I didn’t mean Utah; I meant Nevada. Your blathering about voting “none of the above,” that is, when you “bother to vote,” covers the Internet from one end to the other:
    “Firedog Lake” (Dec. 2011), “Queerty” (Sept. 2009), “The Bilerico Project” (Sept. 2008)… e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. You even have a fan base (though not in a good way). Attached below is a hilarious reply from Rudy on “Queerty.” But even though you vote “none of the above” in Nevada (when you bother to vote, of course), please allow me some literary freedom. In my mind’s eye, you will always be kissing up to a bunch of Mormon Teabaggers in a small town called “Planet Kolob, Utah.” Call it poetic license.

  12. FLL says:

    As I said at the top of the thread, there is a march this Saturday at the Chicago-area headquarters of McDonald’s. The stated goal of the march is to get McDonald’s to drop their sponsorship of the Sochi Games. No commenter that I have yet run across on the Internet, other than you, has suggested “divesting” from any entity outside of Russia in response to recent events. Signorile certainly hasn’t suggested that, although you included a link to his article. Divestment from Russia can work as well as divestment from South Africa worked in the mid-1980s. As far as I know, no one at all agrees with your suggestion to divest from corporate sponsors, although a boycott of companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola is a future possibility. Can you link to anyone who agrees with you? Signorile does not.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    The question I raised was not about NBCs duplicity but whether or not we should divest. We should boycott and divest, whatever you say and whatever the consequences for MSNBC Obama supporters like Maddow, and irrespective of whether or not she goes to Sochi.

    Why are you raising events in Utah. What has that got to do with your propensity to be personal? Do you somehow associate me with Utah?

  14. Bill_Perdue says:

    So was Kerensky.

    Putin is a Bonapartist trying to balance himself between the old Stalinist bureaucracy and the new gangster capitalists while ignoring the working class in Russia.

    !n 1916-17 Kerensky did the same, balancing himself between the Tsarist bureaucracy and the new capitalistic class and their party the Kadets. The result was a surprise to everyone but working people:

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    I provided facts. Democrats don’t. They have nothing but personal attacks when presented with facts.

    War is not peace and fascism is not communism.

  16. Papa Bear says:

    Rotflmao! You’re such a kidder…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well, Russian leaders still believe there’s “evidence” of an alien invasion. That says it all to me. Their PM ordered Obama to “inform” everyone of the aliens.

  18. Lay off the crack pipe, man.

  19. karmanot says:

    That’s true. However there were two exceptions in Russian history: the city states of Kiev and Novgorod —– brief flowerings.

  20. quax says:

    Yep, sorry have to agree with Bill Perdue. This is such an oversimplification it’s not even funny.

    To help the plight of gays in Russia, you really need to understand what’s going on.

    A simplistic ‘it’s all Fascists’ explanation won’t do.

  21. Anonymous says:

    In Russia, many people have the excuse of not being exposed to science. In America, some people voluntarily avoid science. We call these people “fundies”

  22. quax says:

    Having been to Moscow after the collapse I can assure things changed dramatically.

    Viewing Russia through the prism of the Soviet Union is like trying to understand the reign of Robespierre based on experiencing the court of Louis XIV.

  23. FLL says:

    I don’t disagree with you that NBC, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all the rest could have leaned on Putin to stop the recent law from being signed. I read Signorile’s article in Huffpo earlier this morning, and I thought it was very informative. Here is his conclusion, which I agree with:

    “It’s horrendous that the IOC, the USOC and the corporate sponsors allowed the law to get passed without applying pressure and sending the message that the Olympics won’t happen in Russia unless the law was scuttled. Now, facing international outcry and boycotts, it’s not enough to get assurances that athletes won’t get arrested. We must demand that they put pressure on Putin’s government to get the law repealed.”

    Signorile doesn’t focus on any one particular sponsor, but mentions them as a group. It’s interesting that Signorile doesn’t suggest that people divest from the current corporate sponsors, but only suggests that people demand that they put pressure on Russia, for instance, by withdrawing their sponsorship of the Sochi Games. Signorile might be in favor of threatening the corporate sponsors with a boycott of their products, but he’s not suggesting permanent divestment from those companies. I think Signorile would agree with the people in the California legislature that the target for permanent divestment should be Russia itself. And yes, in the interest of keeping things political rather than personal, I understand that there are a lot of very positive developments coming out of Utah these days, for example, so many municipalities and counties enacting new civil rights legislation. In no way was I implying that the State of Utah in general was going in the wrong direction. Utah is, in fact, improving greatly.

  24. quax says:

    I think it’s a safe assumption that the majority of Russians have never been exposed to any of the research and insights that challenged the Western public to change their stance with regard to sexual orientation.

  25. quax says:

    Agreed. Very insightful link.

    Putin’s strength as well as vulnerability is that he is in it for himself. There is no larger ideological program at work. He simply cultivates the old and new authoritarian forces to cling to power. Unfortunately he is really good at it.

  26. Bill_Perdue says:

    Putin is very dangerous and the focus of the right ward turn in the R. He represents a combination of the old Stalinist bureaucracy, who infest every level of government and the economy and much smaller but much more violence prone Russian orthodox and ‘old believer’ cults.

    The growth of the non-Stalinist left in the RF is describe here:

  27. quax says:

    BeccaM, there were massive protests against Putin in Moscow. Pussy Riot did not operate in a vacuum. While Putin’s KGB past is important to understand him, it’ll be a mistake to reduce modern Russia to the Soviet Union. Russia still in many aspects offers more liberties than China, part of this is simply lack of the technology to censor the Internet, but this still counts for something.

    Putin unfortunately is as smart as he is ruthless. He needed a scapegoat and gays are the perfect target, given that homophobia is widespread in Russia.

    To win this fight, Russians of all walks of live, need to be reminded that Putin’s politics is what’s ailing the country, not some imagined “homosexual maladie”.

  28. Bill_Perdue says:

    I wasn’t insulting you. I was congratulating you for catching up. I’ve been proposing divestment and boycott actions for a while now. But you opposed such actions against NBC. NBC should be the focus of our actions. Now at least you promote divestments against McD and others. Maybe someday you’ll propose divestment’s against NBC for their role in all this. (See the HuffPo quote above.)

    What lie are you promoting now. Where am I promoting an infomercial for Fox News? Citing Gay Russia or HuffPo has nothing to do with Fox. Nothing I said has any relation to what Faux says. MSNBC is the right centrist mirror image of the right-centrist Faux. .

    Try to keep it political.

  29. karmanot says:

    But ‘saddle’ does have it’s tempting visualizations!

  30. karmanot says:

    Great story telling John, more….more! :-)

  31. FLL says:

    I’m not “catching up.” As you yourself say, “insults will get you nowhere.” And spare us the informercial for Fox News. Tell the folks in Planet Kolob, Utah to switch the channel away from Fox News every once in a while and get their information from a wider sample of sources.

  32. Bill_Perdue says:

    Glad to see you’re catching up.

    Boycotts and divestment actions aimed at the IOC and it’s corporate sponsors like NBC, Coke. McDonalds and Prpctor and Gamble. The campaign should be centered on NBC, which was aware of the progress of the Russian bigot law as early as 2006: “Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that before Sochi was chosen for the 2014 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders, including American multinational sponsors of the Winter Olympics, as well as NBC Universal, which has the broadcast contract, carefully tracked the path of the legislation… .” emphasis mine

    Boycotts and divestment campaigns against NBC and the others, coupled with support for the call by LGBT Russians for their planned action at Sochi are the best ideas to fight Russian government and cult homophobia to date.

    And it’s still early. We have lots of time to hone our political weapons, always in consultation with our Russian brothers and sisters.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:


    Communitarianism is not communism, defined in the Communist Manifesto as “The… the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.”

    Communists and socialists are workers parties, fascists are parties of the rich. After the late 1920s and early 30s the USSR was controlled by Stalinist, who were aptly described as they ‘syphilis’ of the workers movement, but there was no large scale private property in the USSR to defend. The state owned industry and most farming as opposed to fascist Germany,m Italy and Spain where the rich ruled the economy. Stalinists are not fascists.

  34. lynchie says:

    Unfortunately it will always be the strong over the weak. The rich getting richer over the poor and elderly. For the life of me I don’t understand the people who spout the belief that the poor and elderly have to have “skin in the game”, “shared sacrifice”, etc., etc. Sad to say we do have skin in the game our squalid lives which the 1% seem only to eager to take away from us. The lack of compassion and the invoking of the bible in the same sentence is extremely depressing. Anyone who is caught helping someone or giving a hand up the ladder is immediately suspect. Money and power has truly destroyed this country and i have little help for future generations. The constant chant of “I have got mine, fuck you” is brain washing the young.

  35. lynchie says:

    you think not.

    O’highness is all for it. small steps till we feel we have to report everyone’s actions so we sell our souls to turn in others.

  36. Bill_Perdue says:

    Rightwingers, defined for American politics Democrats and Republicans, virtually always deny the growth of the American police state. That includes all Democrat and Republican politicians, apparatchiks and avid supporters, but it does not include those who vote for the twin parties. The American political system became a duopoly in 1887 and there is no chance of reforming it. The twin parties will continue to vomit up one lesser evil after another and some will continue to be fooled by them.

    Democrats and Republicans don’t see the connections between the indefinite detention provisions of Obama’s NDAA and similar laws and practices in Nazi Germany, the zionist colony in Palestine and colonial era South Africa. And they ignore the fact that former police states in Argentina and Chile, Spain, Greece, and elsewhere can revert at any moment.

    Fascist and Stalinist governments are police states but most police states are neither, they’re capitalist or colonialist (South Africa, the zionist colony in Palestine, the French colony in Algeria).n These are states with their backs to wall, facing popular revolts and reacting by becoming police states.

    They deny that massive and invasive snooping is a symptom of a police state. They ignore the arrest and torture of whistle blowers and the racist murders of US citizens as being symptomatic of a police state.

    They deny that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is under strident and increasingly destructive attacks by Democrats just as it was by Republicans in the Bush era.

    They deny that Obama is putting the final touches on the American police state.

  37. BeccaM says:

    I know. I allowed myself a brief glimmer of hope for the Russian people when Boris Yeltsin staged his coup.

    It may have been naive, but I keep hoping for us hairless hominids to grow the hell up and start behaving decently.

  38. BeccaM says:

    By the way, This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Bryan Fischer praises Russia’s anti-gay pogrom

    On Friday, Voice of Russia Radio presented an interview with homosexuality “expert” and Christian radio host Bryan Fischer (and head of the SPLC-identified anti-gay hate group, the American Family (sic) Association, (ed.)), who praised that country’s campaign of violence and intimidation against LGBT people. The far-right minister said that Russia’s attitude towards LGBT people “is not being homophobic, it’s homo-realistic” and reiterated one of his favorite tropes, that LGBT people are dirty disease-carriers who go against “God’s design.”

  39. Phil says:

    You have to keep in mind BeccaM that this is a country with ZERO history of being free and democratic. Even most E. European countries had some experience with democracy at some point in the 20th century.

  40. BeccaM says:

    It’s almost surreal to realize how many people don’t have to remember not to say “Soviet Union” when referring to Russia now.

    But anyway, I think one of the saddest things of all is how Russia seemed to be poised to make real progress towards becoming a free and democratic country — and all they did was exchange one set of fascists for another. I mean, it’d be like here in the U.S. if we suddenly elected J. Edgar Hoover to be president-for-life.

    How quickly Russia went from “possible partner for the future” to “nearly irrelevant” to “as bad as the Soviet Union.”

  41. BeccaM says:

    Aye… I’ve noticed how here in America, it’s an ignorant minority that believes “homosexuality == pedophile” and that gays only increase their numbers by ‘recruiting’ and molesting children.

    In Russia, this appears to be a solid and nearly overwhelming majority. It’s as if their attitudes on sexuality are still in the 1950s and all the research and science over the last half century regarding sexual orientation simply doesn’t exist.

  42. Ugh. We are nowhere near that.

  43. Indigo says:

    Being a gay teenager in the States in the 1950s involved a lot of that kind of social subterfuge.
    Scary days.

  44. Indigo says:

    It’s so richly allusive to un certain je ne sais quois. :-)

  45. Anonymous says:

    Not to mention many are just plain ignorant. From Wiki: “Respondents over 40, people of average or lower education or low incomes, and rural people — the sectors retaining the inertia of Soviet thinking — are more likely to believe that homosexuality is a disease requiring treatment, and that homosexuals must be isolated from society.”

  46. FLL says:

    One interesting parallel between the 1980s and today is the fear of speaking your mind. In a CNN opinion piece (link here), LZ Granderson comments on why a recent public opinion poll in Russia about gay rights may yield inaccurate results (emphasis mine):

    And with the Pew Institute finding 84% of Russians believe society should reject gay people, perhaps some saying they object to gays for fear of arrest, the world should question how far Russia intends to go.

    I had to read that over again at first, but then it made sense. Under Russia’s new law, you can be arrested by police if you look gay or even if you support gay rights. So why wouldn’t ordinary Russian citizens be afraid to answer honestly? Why wouldn’t they tell a poll taker that object to gay people (even if they didn’t) just to avoid possible arrest, or at least unwelcome attention on the part of the authorities?

    Старые времена. (Just like “old times,” no?)

  47. UncleBucky says:

    It’s not the “governments” per se, though. It’s the corporate elite or the aparachik IN the government (let’s say, the “Inner Party” of Orwell’s world) that mess things up.

    The world is beset with “hot shots” who get control of governments, and who have absolutely no regard for the People, who would objectify a person (poor, lower class, middle class, etc.) as cogs in the machine they use to produce power, money and control.

    That’s your quarry. “Hot shots”. Eliminate them, and well, ah yes, more of them arise and want to take over. And then if they are compromised, more step up….

    Just like sharks’ teeth….

  48. Houndentenor says:

    I had a professor who specialized in Russian music (especially theory, and in particular the music and writings of Taneyev). He got to spend a semester in Russia in the late 1970s. He said that even looking at books in the library was viewed with suspicion, as if there were any state secrets in Russian music theory texts from the late 19th century. That’s how crazy it was there. It was indeed a police state. That wasn’t just western propaganda. I don’t think things have changed much. They have some capitalism now but the people aren’t any more free.

  49. UncleBucky says:

    One thing we all have to discuss is the “NAME” of the government in the Imperialist Russian, then Soviet, then Russian states and successor states. “Communist” it never was. Maybe “Dictatorial Communist”. But never “Communist”. The nuns that taught us were communal, and practiced communal or probbly communist ownership, and the kibbutzes in Israel, communal farms and settlements in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and even some of the Mormon (ugh) settlements were partially “communal” or “communistic”, albeit under a strict authoritarian rule.

    No, what the government in Russia is (and Soviet Union was), is FASCIST or a dictatorial state that encompasses both corporate and government structures in one faceless, emotionless and ponderous control of the people. Such a state abhors differences, and as such, they have no way to accomodate different religions, philosophies, lifestyles and personalities. Pogroms were the way to control Russian Jews, Artists and foreign (such as German) settlers. All of that was circumscribed by the Orthodox Russian Church along with its partner, the Tsarist State. When the Tsarist State, along with its Orthodox conspirators, finally failed the People, a “Bolshevik Communist”(Minority Communist) elite or cadre took over in the name of the People, but again they couldn’t abide by the many differences of peoples, such as Poles, Germans, Jews, and “artistic” people and so, like some of my relatives, they were sent to Siberia or simply exterminated.

    This strategy of circumscription or annihilation continues in Russia, and may spread to adjacent states, such as Belarus, the ‘Stans, the Ukraine and any autonomous states formerly in the CCCP.

    The Fascists have taken over Russia. They are trying to take over Western Europe. They are trying to take over North America. And the Chinese ain’t saying a thing — watch out Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, etc.

    Danger. Danger, Will Robinson.

  50. Peoria guy says:

    Christmas we were taken to a huge restaurant on Arabat ? Wild, wild drunken event with foreigners and Russians together. I stumbled out to look for a bathroom and ended up downstairs right into a Gay party and bumped into guy in full makeup. I ran out to get my partner but a guard pushed us and refused to let us back in.

  51. lynchie says:

    But we are moving in that direction. When his O’Highness suggests that people should report co workers or neighbors who they are suspicious of smacks of the Russia we all abhor. It is against the law to be a whistleblower but apparently ok for you to rat our co workers or neighbors. So much for the land of the free.

  52. I like the word saddle!!;)

  53. Damn it! That was the word. I even looked “saddle” up in the dictionary, because I knew the word was wrong, but couldn’t find anything on what the right word was. Changing it now, thanks :)

  54. And that was the interesting thing, BJ. Of the people we met, which were few, we never really met anybody mean (other than the secret police who dragged our new-friends away). Take the guy on the bus, he was sincerely concerned that Reagan wanted war, and the guy didn’t want war.

  55. Oh god, you just made me remember the bizarre radio that each of us had in our rooms. You could turn the thing down low, so it was just barely (but still quite) audible, but the thing had no switch to actually turn it completely off. Was right out of 1984.

  56. Peoria guy says:

    Interesting. We were in Russia in the winter of 1978. Didn’t really meet any Russians because of the language barrier, but one night while walking around Moscow a young boy tried to talk to me on the street but his girlfriend kept pulling him away. An old man at a coat check did try to whisper to us but never make eye contact. There were several gay guys in our group of US teachers and we quickly found each other. The tour turned into a rolling Gay party that went way over the top. Looking back this was a dumb thing to let happen and I’m sure the Russians figured out our story real fast from the strange looks I started receiving. Our room was searched because the room key disappeared then suddenly was found. One of the best memories was traveling overnight to Lenningrad on the first class sleeper train.

  57. Bj Lincoln says:

    Growing up in the 60’s, I was taught to fear the Russians. That fear turned to a great dislike for the way their people were treated. It was not until Phil Donahue had a special that was a hook up with an audience in Russia to exchange questions. Until then I had not seen a real Russian.
    They looked just like us! The women were not huge and manly dressed in drab dresses. They had the same clothes and color we had. They had concerns about the world and relations with the US just like us.
    That is when I realized people were more alike than different with the same worries for their families and jobs. This started my interest in world history and politics.
    I now have a Russian mother-in-law who is a blast. Thanks to translators for my phone we are getting past the language barrier. We don’t get to visit much so when we do it’s about catching up but I do know she has no desire to go home. Jobs are few and don’t pay well. The people are not happy with the government or the discrimination of minorities. In many ways it’s much like your description of watching their back.
    It’s so sad that most people around the world could get along if it were not for governments, those often influenced by religion, who generate hate and mis-trust of others.

  58. This is a good description of a true police state. For all the problems America has, luckily we are not Russia.

  59. john teets says:

    “… people saddle up next to me on public buses.” Um, “sidle.” Otherwise, an entertaining post.

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