Russia isn’t known for gay-friendliness or fair elections: The country has a law forbidding any “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and the federal government pretty much decides who wins. So it’s remarkable that Anton Krasovsky, a 42-year-old openly gay politician, is currently running for mayor of Moscow. He’s the only openly gay political candidate in the entire country and it’s unclear if he’ll even be allowed to run, but he says he needs to, “Because everything sucks here.”
A one-time Russian news anchorman, Krasovsky has previously run campaigns for Russian actress Ksenia Sobchak and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, two opposition candidates who challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dominance over Russian politics. Neither candidate won, and if Krasovsky runs, he says it’s unlikely he’ll win either. But he still thinks it’s worth raising his political profile to address inequality in Russia.
“It is an illusion that Russia is a homophobic country by its nature,” Krasovsky says. “My homosexuality has never helped me but it has never been in the way of my career goals.”
He continues, “People do not care if you are homosexual or not, nor is anybody interested in your HIV or any other health problems; people want to talk with me about the city demolishing houses in their district, of communal services failing, of some illegal construction sites or schools closing down in their neighborhood.”
Nevertheless, the cultural climate against the queer community in Russia is harsh. The semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya has a campaign of kidnapping, torturing and killing LGBTQ people now well into its second year. The original author of Russia’s queer propaganda bill openly refers to gay people as sodomites and child rapists. Pro-LGBTQ rights protests are forbidden by police. As such, The Daily Beast reports, most queer activists have either escaped Russia or settled quietly into their small social circles.
“I think about 90% of my friends from Moscow bohemia circles have killed themselves with alcohol and drugs,” Krasovsky says, “and the rest have built themselves into the current state system. It is a miracle that I did not drink myself to death.”
When Anton Krasovsky first came out while serving as a host on Internet Kontr TV in 2013, he announced, “I am gay but I am just as human as Putin.” Within hours of coming out, he was fired from his job.
He had come out as HIV-positive two years before and has used his activism to push Russian authorities to combat HIV in Russia. An estimated 850,000 to 1.5 million Russians are currently living with HIV, and only 37% are on any sort of treatment, revealing a wide gap in preventative care.
Anton Krasovsky has to collect the signatures of 110 municipal deputies before July 3 to see if he can even run. If he does succeed, he wants to become a voice for disenfranchised Russians.
“I want to take part in the election to show the current political elite how to fight for human rights and freedom,” he says.