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The secret gay history of Russia

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Did you know Russia was one of the first countries in the world to consider a form of same-sex marriage?

Find out more in our private tour in St. Petersburg with Vasiliey Pistoletov - the first russian gay-guide, who coming out more than ten yours ago.

Russia used to be one of the best places in the world to be gay.

Once slammed as the ‘land of sodomy’ by its western European neighbors, there have been many years in its tumultuous history when many LGBTI people could live freely.

In the 1920s, Russia even became the first country in the world to consider same-sex marriage.

So how did Russia become the largely homophobic nation we know today?

Gay sex as a ‘crime’ in Russia

Lesbian sex has never been a crime in any part of Russia or the Soviet Union. Sex between men, on the other hand, has faced more persecution.

Under the Orthodox Church in the 15th and 16th centuries, sex between men was considered a sin. But even then, believers could use confession and were rarely disciplined.

There was no state law against sodomy until 1716, when Peter the Great decided to westernize the empire. He included a clause against ‘men lying with men’ in his Military Articles, so it only applied to the army and navy. Consensual gay sex led to flogging, while male rape could bring death or life in prison.

In 1832, a sodomy law was enacted punishing civilians with ‘birching’ or deportation to Siberia for four to five years to work in the internment camps.

This was still less strict than many western neighbors. In comparison, England hanged 55 men for gay sex between 1805 and 1835.

After a reform of the penal code in 1903, this was drastically reduced to three months imprisonment. Prosecutions became rare, and a gay subculture developed.

Exceptions made for ‘gay heroes’

During this time, the country’s greatest composer Tchaikovsky was under threat to be jailed for the ‘crime’ of being gay. But because of his cache, it was unthinkable to arrest the cultural hero. After his death, acknowledgment of his homosexuality was suppressed.

Only in our private tour you will find out Tchaikovsky’s secret gay history that Russia doesn’t want you to know!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of Russia’s most iconic cultural figures.

125 years after his mysterious death, his magnificent symphonies, operas, and ballets – including all-time classics Swan Lake and The Nutcracker – are performed by orchestras and still enjoyed by people around the world.

But behind Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous melodies and explosive orchestral climaxes lies the complicated story of a gay man. His sexuality brought him both joy and despair. But his country denies he was gay, and any evidence that suggests so.

You will follow a unique tour route with our best gay guide Vasily Pistoltov to uncover together the untold secret history of Russia’s most celebrated musical son.

On this tour you will visit the museum-apartment of the great Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, taste delicate croissants with ice cream in a gay cafe, and in the evening specifically for your group will be Swan Lake ballet presented at the Yusupov Palace Home Theater with a male composition.

Also in the palace you will learn another love story of the famous aristocrats of St. Petersburg - Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich.