Regarding the ongoing oppression of Russian gays and lesbians, I noted the following:
…the events we should be referring to are the pogroms that swept across Russia in 1903 and then again in 1905 and 1906, the most infamous being the Kishinev pogrom (though the Odessa pogrom was much more murderous with up to 2,500 Jews slaughtered). These weren’t organized from on-high–the Tzar wasn’t ordering these pogroms. Instead, it was a noxious mix of nationalists, middle-level and local authorities, in conjunction with anti-Semitic media and nationalist groups. That said, the anti-Semitic May Laws emboldened those who committed these atrocities, and legitimized their hatred. It started with anti-Semitic laws, and only later became violent.
The point is not to disagree with the condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay policies (which is laudible), but to place them in their historical context: this isn’t like what Hitler did in Germany, this is exactly how the the pogroms against Russian Jews began a little over a century ago.
Did I mention Cossacks? Why, yes, I did (boldface mine):
The last man we talk to that night is the Cossack. Or rather, we listen. Artyukh’s lieutenant fetches him for us. He’s a big man with sallow eyes and a mighty mustache, his head shaved on the sides and a sweep of black hair falling over his shoulders in a style traditional to Cossacks for hundreds of years before Canadians invented the mullet. His uniform is black with red piping, cinched at the cuffs and above his big black boots.
“Homosexualism is a war against Cossacks,” he tells us. So by rights homosexuals should be slaughtered. He recounts some of the ways Cossacks murder homosexuals. Historically speaking. “Of course, I cannot say this officially.” He cracks his first smile. “Cossacks,” he says, “are known for their humor.” For instance, gay men “like to put their cocks in the ass, so we put the shit on their cocks for them.” In fact, he says, sometimes they hold a man down and smear shit over his whole body. He chortles, waits for me to laugh. Do I not think this is funny?
Cossacks. Holy fuck.