Sergey Khazov-Cassia, along with four other speakers, will be part of a group discussing gay life in Russia.

THE Glory, a leading LGBT venue in London  and ACT UP London is to host an event – “Russia in Search of Equality” – on Wednesday, February 2 at 7.30pm featuring Khazov-Cassia, author of The Gospel According To, a publication that can only be sold in Russia with a plastic covering that prevents people from examining its contents.

The Index on Censorship, in an interview with Khazov-Cassia about the The Gospel According To, said that when Russia’s “gay propaganda” law was introduced in 2013, it enshrined in law homophobic attitudes that were already rife in society.

Today, Russia’s LGBTQ population largely keep details of their private lives quiet for fear of landing on the wrong side of the law, and Khazov-Cassia’s books are sold wrapped in plastic for the same reason. They also come with age restrictions to deter younger readers.

Said Khazov-Cassia:

It is sold in plastic wrapping so it doesn’t break the law. Plastic coverings ensure the book’s cover and title (which may imply the genre of literature it contains) is covered as to ensure readers are discouraged from buying it… Big bookstores didn’t take this book, [but] it sold quite well through internet shops.

The Gospel According To is Khazov-Cassia’s second book and deals with queer repression, discrimination but also liberation within modern Russia.

Much of the novel’s theme also concerns the attitudes of Russian people towards homosexuals. The Gospel According To is – in some parts – candid in its use of sex. It is this content that Khazov-Cassia believes limits the appeal among non-LGBTQ Russians. Said Khazov-Cassia:

This book has quite a lot of sex scenes. Some of the people helping me write the book, such as lawyers and people who work with prisons, are not LGBT at all, they are just activists, so I felt a bit red-faced about some of the content.

The Index on Censorship points that:

Although literature with gay themes has a long history in Russia (there are writings from as early as the 11th century, for example), the past century has not been favourable towards this literature and its authors. Gay Soviet writers faced persecution, and the hostility has only increased under Vladimir Putin. At the heart of the issue is the church.

The role and extent to which religion still plays a part in Russian society is contentious. Khazov-Cassia is unconvinced that the Russian Orthodox Church is as dominant as people are led to believe. While most people in the country still follow Christianity in some form, it is not a society that feels particularly religious to Khazov-Cassia. He believes it is in legislative circles where the country feels the most impact from the church.

Image coutesty Sergey Khazov-Cassia

Khazov-Cassia, pictured above in London in 2020. above, is an award-winning Russian journalist and writer living in Moscow and working for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. His first novel A Different Childhood  was published in 2014.

Some of his articles can be found here.

Both his novels reflect the life of a gay person first in the Soviet Union and then in the modern Russia. Apart from novels Sergey writes articles and shoots documentary films including on LGBT+ subjects, women rights, immigration and human rights in general.

The LGBTQIA+ History Month Special event will also feature Reka Valerik, a film-maker from Chechnya living in Europe. His film Silent Voice tells a story of Khavaj, a young MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, who fled Chechnya when his brother discovered his homosexuality and promised to kill him, under the persecution of Kadyrov’s regime.

The evening will be hosted by Dan Glass, Gay Liberation Front activist, co-founder of “Queer Tours of London – A Mince Through Time” and Bender Defenders. He is also the  author of United Queerdom From the Legends of the Gay Liberation Front to the Queers of Tomorrow.

The Glory is located at 281 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AS.

Although a free event, donations are being asked for to support Queer Women From the North Caucasus Project.

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