[Marxism] Kirill Kalugin: "My freedom defends yours"

Thomas Campbell avvakum at gmail.com
Tue Aug 5 03:11:23 MDT 2014

On August 2, 2013, Russian Paratroopers Day, Kirill Kalugin, a Petersburg
university student, took to the city’s Palace Square alone to protest the
country’s new anti-gay laws. He was immediately set upon by reveling
paratroopers (or as he himself suggested, by national activists
masquerading as paratroopers), an incident captured on video by Petersburg
news web site Paper Paper.


Kalugin returned to Palace Square this year on August 2 to protest Russia’s
increasing militarism and imperialist misadventures in Ukraine. He was
roughly detained by police some fifteen seconds after attempting to unfurl
a rainbow flag emblazoned with the slogan, “My freedom defends yours.”
Despite the fact that Kalugin held his anniversary protest right next to
Manifesta 10’s provocative metallic Xmas tree, his protest has so far gone
unremarked by progressive humanity (i.e., the international contemporary
arts community) and the foreign press.

The interview below was published last August on the local Petersburg news
web site Rosbalt three weeks after Kalugin’s first protest on Palace
Square. Unfortunately, it hasn't lost any of its timeliness, especially
given the almost total absence of an anti-war movement in Russia.


Saint Petersburg State University student Kirill Kalugin is half the age of
his eminent opponent, Petersburg Legislative Assembly member Vitaly
Milonov, although he is also a redhead. But hair color is not the only
thing the outspoken homophobe and outspoken gay have in common. Both claim
they love their motherland Russia and will never leave it.

Rosbalt’s Yevgeny Zubarev met with Kalugin in the city center, on Arts
Square. It’s a safe place because it is always chockablock with police.
There were also lots of police on Palace Square on August 2, [2013], when
Kalugin came there alone and unfurled a rainbow flag, but even a platoon of
riot police was not immediately able to wrest him away from an agitated
crowd dressed in sailor’s shirts for Russian Paratroopers Day.

 — Why did you do it, Kirill? Weren’t you frightened?

— I was frightened. Actually, there were supposed to be four of us out
there, but then I ended up going out alone. If there had been several
people, the police could have charged us with holding an unauthorized
rally, but this way it was a solo picket, which doesn’t require
authorization. As soon as I unfurled the rainbow flag, men in sailor’s
shirts grabbed me. But I don’t think they were paratroopers: I had seen
many of the assailants earlier at anti-LGBT protests. I think they were
nationalist activists masquerading as paratroopers. The police pulled me
from the crowd and put me in a car, but we couldn’t leave right away: the
crowd blocked the car, demanding that the police give me up. The riot
police intervened and cleared a path, and I was taken to the 78th police

— What did police charge you with? How were you punished?

— I don’t understand it myself. At first they wouldn’t let make a phone
call. The sergeants behaved rudely, and I couldn’t figure out what my
status was, whether I was detained, arrested or considered a suspect. Right
there at the police station one of the detained paratroopers rushed me: he
wanted to beat me up, but the police held him back. Then the brass arrived
and everything immediately changed: the police started talking with me
politely. It turned out I wasn’t being accused of anything. They even let
me file an assault complaint. But how that story turned out, I don’t know:
it has been twenty days, but I have had no news from the police.

— After this incident, Russian Orthodox patriots wrote several petitions to
Saint Petersburg State University demanding your expulsion.

— I’m a student in the physics department, specializing in medical physics
and bioengineering. It’s a tough department, and there is a lot of studying
to do. What matters to the deans is that students take all their exams and
tests on time, but they are unconcerned about their private lives.
Generally, it is not kosher in the scientific community to tell people how
they should behave in their intimate lives. So I’m confident all these
petitions are pointless.

— Your family must have seen how you were beaten on Palace Square on the
Web or on TV. What was their reaction?

— I was born to an ordinary Russian family in the town of Krasnoturyinsk in
the Urals. My father is an officer in the Russian armed forces, my mother,
a philologist. After the 2008 crisis, life in our town got really bad and
we moved to Petersburg, where I finished high school, got into university,
and began to live separately from my family. It was only then that I told
my parents I was gay. My parents were upset, especially my father, but they
recognized my right to live as I see fit. My brother also said it was my
choice. When I went out on Palace Square, they heard about it in the media.
They called me and were worried, of course. But I assured them I was not in

— How many times have you been beaten up in Petersburg for being gay?

— Never, except for the incident at Palace Square. My classmates at
university and my employers at the restaurant where I work part time as a
bartender do not care what I do in bed. Of course, after this incident I
could have been recognized on the street and beaten up, but this hasn’t
happened yet.

— There are thousands of commentators on the Web who are sure you went out
on Palace Square to get the right to leave for the west as a discriminated

— I don’t intend to leave Russia. I am sure that all these homophobic laws
will be repealed sooner or later, and all Russian citizens will be able to
live normally regardless of sexual orientation. There were similar laws in
Sweden thirty years ago, and gays were persecuted throughout the world the
way they now are in Russia. But then the situation changed. I am sure that
Russia also has to follow this path, and so I’m going to leave. But change
doesn’t happen by itself—people have to take to the streets and speak out
about this problem.

— Why do you act alone? There are lots of public organizations in Russia
that support gays. Many of them receive foreign grants. You could get this
money to fight for equality and all that, no?

— I don’t want to. I’ve had offers to join various organizations like that,
but I don’t want to. I’m not a politician. I just don’t want there to be
discrimination against people like me. Besides, it is easier for the state
to punish organizations than lone individuals. Organizations are more
vulnerable. What are they going to go with an ordinary guy like me?

— When you finish university you’ll find that jobs in your scientific
specialty are poorly paid and dead ends. This is another reason, aside from
sexual orientation, for going abroad.

— I still won’t leave. I know how things are going with financing for
science in Russia, but I don’t want to leave. In the end, there are grants
given to scientists for in-demand research. And in fact Russia is changing
for the better; the situation is improving in science, too.

— You have the opportunity to address Rosbalt’s thousands of readers. What
would say to all these people?

— I would appeal to people like me. Don’t sit quiet as mice. At least come
out. Let your loved ones know that you exist.

 — Why can’t you sit quiet and keep a low profile? Why do you come up with
these public protests during which you can be beaten or even killed? After
all, there is no practical sense to them.

 — Can I quote Goethe? “He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must
win them anew.”

— How old are you?

 — Twenty-one.


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