Being intolerant of intolerance
12.09.2011 - 14.09.2011
Sometime during the summer I gave up tweeting. Like most people, I love Twitter for finding out news fast (or getting different perspectives on stories whose main details have been done to death by the usual media outlets) and amusing 140-or-fewer character concoctions, but I was boring myself with what I was writing, and when this is being read by no more than 50 people it makes you question whether there's any point to it. By contrast, I love writing this blog, and from the site stats it seems like a large number of people enjoy reading it (1157 and counting for my post on Stockholm). Using this ever-so slight position of influence, I would like to explain my title and why - for now at least - I urge you to delete St Petersburg from any travel itinerary you have or may be planning.
From a British perspective, Russian politics seems pretty warped and rotten (an opinion supported by what I heard several people say to me or within my earshot while in the country), but recent goings-on in St Petersburg really take the biscuit. A few weeks ago I received an email from LGBT rights campaign group All Out concerning moves by the city's government to outlaw all public reference to being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender. Thanks to a concerted worldwide campaign in response to this news, the proposed legislation was dropped, only to be revived and - horrifyingly - passed on February 8th. Apparently this vote needs to be ratified in a final vote scheduled to take place in the next few days (detailed background information is hard to find online, in English anyway), but until such time as the city's powers-that-be see sense and ditch this abhorrent proposal I recommend you go to the campaign on the All Out website (http://allout.org/en/actions/russia_silenced) and add your name to the email petition straight away.
All being well, by this time next week I can delete this post and replace it with one celebrating the many positive aspects of St Petersburg as a city - although part of me is loathe to do that given an intolerant minority will continue to wield considerable political influence. For now I'll carry on working on writing up what I saw and did in Moscow, while leaving you with this link to an apposite piece of short-lived public art in St Petersburg: