Maria Maksakova: “Russia’s anti-propaganda law damages international reputation”

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Maria Maksakova, a Russian mezzo soprano soloist with St. Petersburg’s Marinsky Theater and a prominent member of parliament (MP), spoke out at a meeting of the ruling party about the “colossal” damage the anti-propaganda law is causing to Russia’s reputation.

“I’m not against our family values, but couldn’t we take ‘non-traditional’ out of this law through amendments?” Maksakova asked, as reported by Buzzfeed. “And expand the law, so that any harmful propaganda of a sexual [nature]to minors became inadmissible.”

In her speech, given at a meeting of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, she stated, “We are seeing extremely negative consequences as the result of this law with the growth of hate crimes. Our country has suffered a colossal loss to its image around the world.”

A video of her speech is available to view online (link in Russian, no subtitles).

She continued, “Now we have a horrible problem, including with our investment climate, because for our artists it has become more and more difficult to work abroad.

“Musicians who are now in Europe, who sing in various theaters around the world, our wonderful colleagues, experience more complications of a discriminatory character, because they’re kicked out of performances, they leave orchestras. This is done with people who can’t really stand up for themselves, [and so]they simply lose work.

“I really would not like it…[if]my colleagues, who could make some sort of career in the West, lose [those opportunities]because of this unfortunate misunderstanding,” she said.

Maksakova was speaking on behalf of Russian artists such as herself, who are feeling the effects of Russia’s deteriorating reputation in the form of lost gigs abroad.

High profile artists, such as conductor Valery Gergiev, the director of the Marinsky Theater, have seen their performances protested by LGBT artists who equate his support for Putin with support for state-sanctioned homophobia.

At home, the law has lead to arrests and fines for gay rights activists who advocate for LGBT visibility in Russia. Arrests of these activists have been heavily covered by the media, and have fueled international debates over the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Many LGBT activist groups have called for states and corporations supporting the event to withdraw in support of the LGBT community in Russia.

“I am very sad to see that the Olympic Games in Sochi for which we have so long and anxiously prepared will come to pass with less brilliance and passion because of this unfortunate initiative that was so hastily—and I believe without thoughtful discussion—adopted by parliament,” Maksakova stated at the meeting.

The response to Maksakova’s remarks has been muted; while the MP herself referenced speaking about the issue at Parliament, she did not elaborate further on her position to press after the meeting.

Valery Prokhorov, head of regional projects for United Russia’s liberal branch, said that the anti-propaganda law had not been on the agenda for the panel that met that day, and that the members of parliament present were surprised by Maksakova’s remarks.

“It was not very clear what she wanted to say,” said Prokhorov about her speech. “Although the issue she raised was interesting.”

429Magazine

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