APPARENTLY THERE WAS A LOT OF TOLERANCE TOWARDS HOMOSEXUALITY IN RUSSIA DURING THE EARLIER CENTURIES. THERE IS EVIDENCE OF HOMOSEXUAL LOVE IN SOME OF THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS FROM KIEVAN RUS DATING TO THE 11TH CENTURY. AND EVEN THOUGH THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CONDEMNED MEN WHO WERE LOVERS OF MEN, THERE WAS NO LAW AGAINST IT AND HOMOSEXUALITY WAS EVEN NOT UNCOMMON WITHIN MONASTERIES. THIS ALL CAME TO AN END IN 1832 WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY BECAME PUNISHABLE BY EXILE TO SIBERIA FOR UP TO 5 YEARS.
Russia has seen many changes in its turbulent history. People have lived under regimes and leaderships that differ as the night from the day. And with those political shifts, laws and regulations changed just as much. Strangely enough the October Revolution of 1917 did away with the Criminal Code and new regulations eliminated the offence of muzhelozhstvo (men who lie with men) from the law. Unfortunately decriminalization in the early Soviet period did not mean an end to persecution. The sexual liberation that accompanied the Revolution was to be short-lived.
Today, being gay in Russia is not easy. The laws seems to be unclear on what is and is not allowed. Though there is no law against homosexuality, gay men and women are also not legally protected against discrimination and harassment. And though homosexuality is officially removed from the list of mental illnesses since 1999, both St Peterburg and Moscow, the leading cities of Russia, adopted a law against “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” in order to “protect the children from destructive influence” which eventually also resulted in a hundred years ban on gay pride parades in Moscow.
There is something very sexy about Russian men. Is it their physical appearance? That often rather pale skin, light hair and stoic expression in their eyes? Is it the language they speak, with rolling sounds and deep voice? Or could it possibly be that the excitement for Russian men is ignited by the fact that they seem to be so inapproachable? The feeling of being able to see but not touch. Max Orlov is an admirer of the male physic and expresses that flawlessly with his photographic art. Thanks to his photography, we can take a sneak peek in what Russia has to offer in male beauty. Thanks to his talent, we can enjoy Russian men from a distance, and imagine what it could be like to be with them. Or to be like them. The pure simplicity of his series with Yuri proofs this. Yuri is an athlete and works as DJ in Moscow, though he did not grow up in the city. He moved here after having lived a big part of his life in a small Russian provincial town.
Of course we all know that homosexuality is not something you choose. If so, would you choose it living in a country that condemns it? It cannot be easy to be gay and live in Russia. The current “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality probably makes it liveable, but it doesn’t give you the freedom to live your life you deserve to have a human being. Hopefully talented people such as Max Orlov, and the courage of models such as Yuri who so clearly show that Russian men are to be admired and to be loved, will eventually open the political eyes of the countries leadership and invest a common feeling of tolerance and acceptance, not only there but also in the many other countries that are still not ready to embrace homosexuality as the simple expression of love between two people. –BM-
MAX ORLOV | BEAUTIFULMAG