London protest against pro-Putin Valery Gergiev

Concert leafleted over conductor’s collusion with repression

Gergiev’s statement is flawed: He defends & misrepresents anti-gay law

London, UK – 8 November 2013


Concert-goers arriving for Valery Gergiev’s performance of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust last night at the Barbican were greeted and leafleted by human rights and LGBT protesters. They criticised his support for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Russian government stands accused of widespread human rights abuses, including the harassment of journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, anti-corruption campaigners and LGBT activists.

The good-natured, peaceful protest included chants of: “No to Gergiev. No to Putin. Human rights for all Russians” and “Gergiev! Stop supporting Putin. Stop supporting tyranny.”

The placards had slogans such as: “Gergiev supports tyrant Putin & anti-gay law” and “Putin arrests peaceful protesters & opposition leaders. Gergiev backs Putin.”

Participants waved sparklers. The protest theme was: “Sparkle for freedom in Russia. Putin suppresses, we sparkle.”

Photos of the protest:
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The protest was organised by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, with the support of the African LGBTI network, Out & Proud Diamond Group.

The previous Thursday, 31 October, Peter Tatchell interrupted the opening night of Gergiev’s new London Symphony Orchestra season at the Barbican, criticising the pro-Putin stance of the Russian conductor.

Stung by criticism, and in response to our protests, Gergiev issued a public statement in his defence earlier this week. He said: “I do not discriminate against anyone, gay or otherwise.”

“While his personal commitment to non-discrimination is commendable, Gergiev’s statement does not renounce his support for President Putin, whose regime does discriminate against gay people. It also arrests opposition leaders and peaceful protesters on trumped up charges, in a bid to intimidate and silence critics,” said human rights campaigner and protest coordinator, Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Gergiev has defended the anti-gay law, reportedly falsely claiming that it is solely concerned with paedophilia.

“According to a report by the Dutch newspaper, Volkskrant, on 10 September, he said: ‘In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia.’

“This is untrue. The new law is being used to criminalise any public expression of support for gay equality in a situation where it might be witnessed by a young person. It specifically prohibits the suggestion that homosexuality is as equally valid as heterosexuality. Russians have been arrested under this law for merely saying that same-sex love is normal, even with no evidence that a young person saw it.

“By making a public statement that focuses solely on gay rights, Gergiev has misread our objections. Our protest is not just against homophobic persecution in Russia. It is also against his support for a president who has overseen a sustained assault on Russian democracy and human rights.

“Gergiev’s fall back defence is that he is a mere ‘artist’. Not true. He chose to be political by publicly endorsing president Putin and defending the anti-gay law. He should therefore not be surprised when people protest against his unsavoury political associations.

“Thursday’s protest took place on the 96th anniversary of the 1917 Russian revolution. Some people argue that Russia needs a new, non-violent democratic revolution. Putin is taking the country backwards to autocracy. As well as escalating repression against the LGBT community, civil liberties and dissidents are also under attack. His regime has incarcerated political prisoners in jails that resemble gulags. Gergiev endorses Putin, despite this shameful repression. That’s why we need to protest.

“His loyalty to Putin has been rewarded with personal honours and massive state grants for his pet projects. Gergiev is a great conductor but he colludes with a tyrant and shows little respect for freedom and equality,” said Mr Tatchell.

Edwin Sesange, from the African LGBTI network, Out & Proud Diamond Group, also attended the protest. He added:

“As we mark the Russian Revolution of 1917, most Russians, especially LGBTI people, are suffering a reversal of their freedom. The repression is worsening under Vladimir Putin, who is supported by his prominent celebrity supporter, Valery Gergiev.

“Valery should not be given the red carpet at the Barbican while most Russian LGBTIs are suffering. We are sending a clear message that supporters of abusive regimes are not welcome. The public should boycott Valery Gergiev’s concerts,” said Mr Sesange.

Valery Gergiev’s name appears on a list of high-profile supporters of Putin, according to the Moscow Times.

In the run up to the last Russian elections, he publicly stated that he was voting for Putin.

His support for the repressive Putin regime was confirmed by Private Eye: Number 1350, 4-17 October 2013.

Valery Gergiev is principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the world famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.