Since 1931 in the Soviet Union male homosexuality was illegal and prosecuted by USSR Penal Code. Consensual male homosexual anal intercourse was punished by imprisonment of up to three years (Article 122 of the Penal Code of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). Lesbian sex did not constitute a criminal offense but Lesbians were subjected to forced psychiatric treatment.
Although Soviet legislation has moved the gay population on the edge of social life, gay men had several advantages those years (excluding the Stalin period of Soviet history of course). First of all they were invisible for the rest of population because Soviet propaganda never spoke about any gay issues. Homosexuality as the human sexuality in general didn’t officially exist in the Soviet Union. Staying in underground Soviet many gay men as well as Lesbians feel themselves more comfortable with their intimate experiences as now. Because the Soviet people didn’t know anything about gay sex, it was much easier to find one night stands with accidental straight partners. The fear to be exposed by militia (police) leaded many of them to the mental disease hospitals.
The years of Gorbachev ‘s perestroika commemorated unprecedented splash of gay liberation movement. Being on the wave of general democratic tendency in the Soviet society gay liberation gave political birth to such well-known and indisputable leaders as Roman Kalinin or Valeria Debryanskaya.
That was the time of heroes, social giants and radical dramatic changes. The time when the population of great monstrous country was ready to accept any democratic values, including the rights of sexual minorities. Unfortunately Soviet gay people have lost this unique chance to win equality and esteem.
However the Ukraine was the first among the former Soviet republics to repeal criminal responsibility for non-violent male homosexual intercourse between adults. It happened on December 12, 1991 after the Ukraine has gained state independence from Moscow on December 1. So this year we anticipate celebrating a full decade since the Repeal of criminal prosecution for consensual homosexual intercourse between adult men in our country.
Today it is quite hard to determine the reasons for such progressive responsiveness by Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of the Ukraine). In any case, the country was on the highest democratic rise, so everything was possible. The recommendations of the European Community seemed persuasive even for conservative deputies and the law was passed without obstacles. Many gay and straight Ukrainians were surprised listening to the radio return about new Parliament decree that evening.
To summarize what happened, on December 12, 1991, Verkhovna Rada passed the Law “On making amendments in Penal and Penal-Procedure Codes of the Ukrainian SSR”. According to this law, Article 122 of the Penal Code of Ukraine was fixed in new wording. Article 122 henceforward provided punishment only for homosexual contacts that involve violence. That opened new period of the gay rights in the Ukraine.
However the hopes of Ukrainian gay men for better life and social acceptance were absolutely vain. On January 1, 1992 the state prices for food and other goods of the first need were aborted and the living standard of Ukrainians dropped dramatic the democracy lost.
Hungry and angry people began to search of scapegoats for their sudden abject poverty. The hate became most favorite attitude of Ukrainian society. People started the witches’ hunting wanting to find out the reason of their gone hopes. The gay men as well as M. Gorbachov, the USA, Jews, domestic nouveau riches and new criminal units symbolized the reasons of economy breakdown.
Paradoxically this tendency was slightly seen in the years of total economic chaos, but has developed itself definitely later. Many significant political figures have used it to gain the votes on parliament elections. Ukrainian gay community was prepared neither to such kind of political propaganda nor to democratic struggle for own rights. Fresh established gay liberation groups such as “Hanymed” leaded by Lilia Taranenko in Kiev or Oxana Botscharnikova‘s Foundation in Kharkov (aka “Pink Panther”) haven’t gain any authority among gay population because of its fear to be exposed.
All-Ukrainian Assotiation “Hanymed” was registered in the spring of 1994. Yet that organization’s Statute barely mentioned gay men and lesbians and emphasized the problem of AIDS. This was typical of the gay liberation in Ukraine. The only context in which Ukrainian authorities allowed homosexuals to be mentioned was in the context of the AIDS epidemic problem. Botscharnikova’s Foundation “Defense Of Sexual Minorities’ Rights” was registered in the fall of 1995. Its Statute also emphasized the prevention of AIDS epidemic and safe sex propaganda. However reprisals against sexual liberation groups in Kharkov 1996 and criminal prosecution of their leaders forced Mrs. Botscharnikova to emigrate. Association of gays, lesbians and bisexuals of Nikolayev “League” was registered in December 1996 but under the pressure of authorities has to stop with activity.
The typical feature of gay activism in Ukraine in the years (after disillusionment in mass gay liberation organizations such as Association “Hanymed” or Botscharnikova’s Foundation) was the appearance of numerous impostors posing as the leaders of Ukrainian gay movement. Realizing for sure that NO gay movement will be possible in Ukraine contemporary, they noticed that there are many philanthropic institutions in Western countries willing to support gay liberation process in FSU.
Several phantom GLBT groups and centers exist in Ukraine nowadays. They send numerous representatives to the international gay conferences, Gay Games, etc. asking for moral support and material resources for “Ukrainian freedom fighters”. The world gay community greets them with cheers avoiding to be bothered by obvious truth: the only true intention of the impostors is to come faster to Western money. They are absolutely unknown to gay people of their own country. Phantom gay movement has “good old” traditions in Ukraine: failure of the IX Regional Conference of ILGA for the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in May 1995 gave the idea of it for the progeny.
As a matter of fact, the conference was held but the main part of the money allocated by ILGA for conducting the conference disappeared in an unknown direction. Organization “Dva Koliory” which was in charge of the conference was expelled from ILGA.
Till now the Ukrainian gay movement has to be in underground and if you ever hear about mass gay organizations in this country as well as about such actions like CSD-celebrations or Gay Pride parades, be sure – people who report them aren’t telling truth: they usually do it with aim to obtain the money invested in “Ukrainian gay liberation”.
Main professional gay liberation scammer of Ukraine is Andriy Maymulakhin. Together with his accomplice Olexandr Zinchenkov he runs sophisticated fraud based on “providing legal, counseling and medical services to Ukrainian gay community”. Some services are provided indeed, but only to close relatives and sex-partners of both scammers. Kiev-based gang leaded by A. Maymulakhin and O. Zinchenkov (better known as Gay & Lesbian Center “Nash Mir”) has facilitated the pockets of Western donors for over 5.000.000 (five millions) United States Dollars.
Editorial Note: This article was written for “Gay Ukraine International” in January 2002, but it still reflects the situation with “gay liberation movement” in our country. Now the main LGBT leader if Ukraine is Volodymyr Kiriiazi.