NPR Bemoans 'Stronghold of Traditional Values and Religious Beliefs' in Russia

Friday's All Things Considered made it clear that NPR is not just one-sided when it comes to the domestic agenda of left-wing homosexual activists, but it also slants toward them with foreign issues. Correspondent Michele Kelemen boosted a collaboration between visiting members of the "Rakurs" LGBT group from Russia and their American counterparts in Washington, DC and Maine.

Kelemen zeroed in on the testimony of one Rakurs member who lamented how the Russian city of Arkhangelsk has supposedly turned from a place "open to different views and trends" to a "stronghold of traditional values and religious beliefs in the Russian north".

In her introduction for the NPR journalist's report, host Melissa Block noted that "Russian gay rights activists are making the rounds here in the nation's capital. They want the U.S. to keep up pressure on Moscow ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. They're not calling for a boycott...they want to raise awareness about anti-gay discrimination in Russia."

Kelemen first turned to Rakurs' Oleg Klyuenkov, who gave the "open to different views and trends" label to Arkhangelsk. She continued with her "stronghold of traditional values and religious beliefs in the Russian north" phrase, and outlined how the celestially-named city had apparently turned against Klyuenkov's peers:

MICHELE KELEMEN: ...Arkhangelsk was the first region, he says, to pass laws restricting the rights of LGBT activists, making it impossible for his group called Rakurs – or 'perspectives' – to hold rallies. Arkhangelsk recently lifted that local anti-gay law, but only because it conflicted with a new federal law....That Russia-wide law bans propaganda to minors about – quote, 'non-traditional sexual relations'.

Oleg Klyuenkov & Lyudmila Romadina, LGBT Activists in Russia; & Innokenty Grekov, Human Rights First; Screen Cap From 6 November 2013 Video Report at http://portland.wcsh6.com/news/news/754323-sister-city-lgbt-activists-speak-portland | NewsBusters.orgThe correspondent then played three straight soundbites from Innokenty Grekov of the Human Rights First organization [pictured at right, with Klyuenkov, on the left, and Lyudmila Romadina, mentioned below]  and from Robert Lieber, whom Kelemen described as a "Portlander". However, she omitted that Lieber is an art professor at Southern Maine Community College who is an unofficial representative in the U.S. for an infamous ultra-feminist Russian punk rock band who desecrated the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow in February 2012. The band's plight has become a cause celebre for the anti-Christian far left internationally.

Later, Kelemen cited how another Russian LGBT activist – Lyudmila Romadina – "learned a lot by sitting down in Maine with members of PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays".

The full transcript of Michele Kelemen's report from Friday's All Things Considered:

MELISSA BLOCK: Russian gay rights activists are making the rounds here in the nation's capital. They want the U.S. to keep up pressure on Moscow ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. They're not calling for a boycott.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, they want to raise awareness about anti-gay discrimination in Russia.


MICHELE KELEMEN: Oleg Klyuenkov comes from the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk, a port city which, he says, used to have a reputation for openness. (clip of Oleg Klyuenkov speaking in Russian) 'It was a city that was open to different views and trends', he says. But now, Arkhangelsk is becoming a stronghold of traditional values and religious beliefs in the Russian north. Arkhangelsk was the first region, he says, to pass laws restricting the rights of LGBT activists, making it impossible for his group called Rakurs – or 'perspectives' – to hold rallies.

Arkhangelsk recently lifted that local anti-gay law, but only because it conflicted with a new federal law. So, Klyuenkov says this was no victory for his community. (clip of Klyuenkov speaking in Russian) 'I think the local authorities see this as their victory', he says, because they managed to get their law passed on a federal level. That Russia-wide law bans propaganda to minors about – quote, 'non-traditional sexual relations'.

Klyuenkov is talking about all of this with U.S. officials and lawmakers. One of the organizers of his trip here – Innokenty Grekov of Human Rights First – is hopeful that U.S. activism can make a difference, even if the U.S. government has little leverage with Moscow.

INNOKENTY GREKOV, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: It's unclear what moves Russia these days, but we're pretty confident that boycotting the Olympics will do little to advance civil society or LGBT rights groups in Russia.

KELEMEN: Worried that boycotts could backfire and fuel anti-gay sentiment in Russia, these activists are taking a different approach. They just visited Portland, Maine, the sister city of Arkhangelsk, and Grekov says they will make sure that LGBT issues are raised during sister city celebrations this month.

GREKOV: When the Russian delegation comes to town – comes to Portland, Maine – they will hear from – from Portlanders – from the mayor – about the need to address concerns of LGBT individuals; of LGBTQ youth.

KELEMEN: And Portland officials plan to visit gay activists in Arkhangelsk next time they're there.

Portlander Robert Lieber came up with this idea, as he searched for ways that Americans could help LGBT communities in Russia.

ROBERT LIEBER: Finding an appropriate way, where we're not finger-pointing – but certainly one way is that Portland is actually doing great right now. It's a very happy, vibrant city, and a large part of it is, primarily, because we voted down discrimination a few years ago, and we are very LGBTQ friendly.

KELEMEN: It's not clear how much Portland's experiences can translate to the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk. But Lyudmila Romadina, who started a gay support group in Russia, says she learned a lot by sitting down in Maine with members of PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. (Lyudmila Romadina speaking foreign language)

'In Russia, people are not open to talking about these issues – the psychological state of gays', she says, but there are lessons to be learned from groups like PFLAG. First, though, she says she and her colleagues have to figure out what's possible under Russia's ban on so-called gay propaganda. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center