Letter from Moscow

I was telling a Latvian lady a short while ago about my trip to Moscow; that I was meeting with the Russian government to thank them for their strong pro-family position at the United Nations. She shook an ancient bony finger at me and said, You cannot trust them. If they are for you, they are for you for other reasons. They are liars!

After I attneded a Russian sponsored conference in Rhodes last years, a friend and colleague separated from me for many months believing I had fallen in with KGB oligarchs and gangsters.

This feeling runs the other way, too. In Moscow, government and non-government people have told me that America wants to undermine the values and morals of the Russian people. They point to a speech, which likely was never given, by CIA director Allen Dulles who is supposed to have suggested undermining Russian morals and turning their women into prostitutes. It’s mentioned here, but as apocryphal.  

They also quoted something supposedly said by Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom they mistakenly think was in the Reagan administration, that America needs to undermine the only institution left in Russia: the Orthodox Church. 

It is hard to argue with them, though not on these errors. After all, Russia and much of the world is awash in American-made filth, pornography mostly. When I meet new diplomats at the United Nations, they expect to encounter pimps, prostitutes, and pornographers. They’re shocked to meet people who pray. 

America is now leading an initiative to spread the homosexual agenda globally. We are appointing openly gay ambassadors among traditional peoples. The Dominicans are up in arms about this. And it’s a U.S. foreign policy priority to advance the gay agenda whenever possible. We hold gay parties at embassies, even in places, like Pakistan, where it offends. 

But Russia is under the microscope of human rights and homosexual activists for recent laws meant to curb the homosexual advance. The Russian Duma (parliament) almost unanimously passed a law banning homosexual propaganda aimed at school children and public manifestations like parades. 

Gay playwright Harvey Fierstein very nearly had an aneurism in the New York Times this week. He made several utterly false claims about the law such as that parents who speak positively of homosexuals to their children can have them removed. And they can be jailed. He said the new law would allow security forces to identify and jail tourists suspected of being gay. All of this is false and the Times ought to be ashamed for publishing it. 

Even conservatives are getting into the act. Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller website ran a column last week calling homosexuals to battle in Russia. 

I was in Russia this week to thank its government for its strong position on these issues at the United Nations, and to let them know American conservatives favor the recent homosexual law. 

I was curious about the claims by Fierstein and the gay press that there is “a war on homosexuals.” Quite by accident I discovered otherwise. 

I stayed at the Hotel Metropol, one of the oldest and most prestigious hotels in Moscow. Outside the hotel Monday morning I observed a post-operative transsexual man, now “woman,” casually strolling down the street in black Capri pants and a tight sweater, open to expose new breasts.

          The Kremlin and St. Basil’s

No one noticed or even looked at him. And he did not seem concerned with being spotted and harassed, let alone arrested by state security forces. 

The next night, I walked near the Bolshoi and spotted three hairy men in dresses. Again, no one noticed or arrested them. 

Curious, I went online and Googled “Gay Moscow.” Rather than being cowed into silence or otherwise driven back into the closest, gay Moscow is out and proud. A few dozen websites advertising restaurants, bars, even bathhouses, were there for Harvey Fierstein’s enjoyment.  

We hear many things about Russia these days:  corruption, crackdown, authoritarianism – from Human Rights Watch, ACLU, Amnesty International. And from conservative folks, too. But, I wonder if things are so clear-cut as we are led to believe. 

Claims about a Russian war on gays is false. I wonder what else is false. What I know is a religious revival is going on in Russia. And the Orthodox Church is leading it.

Russian Railways czar Vladimir Yakunin, whom I met with, recently engineered a visit to Russia of the True Cross of St Andrew.   Five-hour lines in the rain awaited anyone wanting to venerate it. Happily, Yakunin arranged for me to cut the line. 

I met also with young tech billionaire Konstantin Malofeev whose office is festooned with religious icons. He is working to bring Russian Orthodox and U.S. Christians closer together. 

Malofeev and many other Russians see themselves as a Christian nation sent to help other Christians around the world. For them, at least, that’s why they support the Assad regime; he’s better for Syria’s Orthodox Christians. 

He wonders if some sort of grand global alliance between the Orthodox and Catholics can be achieved and what effect that might have on the global culture war advanced by the sexual left. I wonder, too. 

The global conversation is religious. Seculars may dominate the West. But beyond, they are not really in the picture, except insofar as they can impose their ideology through international institutions and development assistance.

Our voices could be much more powerful if we make common cause with those who many seem to have a vested interest in silencing.

We should take the lead from Pope Francis. In the early days of his papacy, he received Metropolitan Hilarion, external relations director for the Russian Church. Hilarion gave Francis a famous and powerful icon, important to the Orthodox, but to Russians in general: Our Lady of Kazan. Francis gave it to Benedict when they met for the first time after his election. 

Russia is rightly criticized for some of its acts, but it may also be under attack for reasons we cannot wholly see. 

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.