Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"A few weeks ago, fourteen Russian first-year air-transport cadets made a parody of a fifteen-year-old music clip, and now it’s all a lot of Russians can talk about"

State television covered the clip on talk shows and news programs, rebroadcasting it to millions of their viewers each time. “I see clear expressions of homosexuality,” a woman introduced as a sexologist told a reporter on the twenty-four-hour state news channel, which broadcast the video in its entirety. “It’s a provocation,” her sister, also a sexologist, added. The sisters were dressed in identical brown pants suits and white blouses.

And then the Russian Internet was flooded with clips shot to support the air-transport cadets, often hashtagged #Satisfaction. (I highly recommend that the reader watch all of the following videos, in the order in which they are provided.) There were the trade schools—construction, agricultural—and emergency services. Then there were the jockeys and the stable boys, the theatre troupe, the nurses, and the members of the Russian women’s biathlon team. Most clips contained a message of support and some identifying information—“Medical students in support of the air-transport cadets,” for example—and many of the participants made a point of wearing uniforms, if they had them.


The clips keep coming. They are so numerous, so exuberant, and come from such different corners of Russian society—from eighteen-year-old cadets to middle-aged middle-class sauna enthusiasts to the elderly communal-apartment dwellers—that they serve as the best proof yet that Russia is not nearly as conservative as the Kremlin has claimed in recent years. Sociologists have known this all along: even as Putin has positioned Russia as the center of an imagined “traditional-values civilization,” independent opinion surveys have shown that, to take two examples, Russians overwhelmingly support the right to abortion and are more tolerant of adultery than most nations outside of France. At the same time, a majority of Russians identify as Russian Orthodox and express virulently homophobic attitudes—most likely because the Church and queer-baiting are two pillars of the Kremlin’s ideology, and Russians are constantly reminded what kinds of opinions they are expected to express on these topics.