Anti-LGBT Russian government morality activist visits and harasses fursuit walkers
by Patch O'Furr
“Here it is – the price to be a representative of the Moscow Furry Fandom.”
Furry fan @Matvey_Muhin has a story that goes with media reports like this one from PinkNews: “Russia considers officially branding LGBT+ groups and furries as ‘extremists’“.
BACKGROUND: The reports look at political homophobia in the Russian government, and a commission that claims to protect morality. The reports say the commission chairman, Andrey Tsyganov, called for the government to help law enforcement by listing ideologies on their extremism list. The list includes the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) of Alexey Navalny, a jailed opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Listing these groups allows banning related gatherings and media, and Putin has been using it to squash his political foes.
That’s how Tsyganov wants to legally discriminate against LGBT people, supposedly to protect kids from “propaganda” — making it extremist to discuss LGBT people breathing and existing, as if they come from recruiting. The logic shows conservative belief of what a family should be, with a goal to enforce it by squashing LGBT people. Straight families with children are supposed to thrive through this false understanding of how sexuality works. They could just as soon seek power by squashing interracial dating.
Tsyganov started with such a reach, and blasted off from earth like Sputnik when he added LGBT+, radical feminist, child-free groups… and furries.
What’s the problem with furries, again? The logic is: (1) People on the internet make weird porn. (2) Some of them are furries. (3) Fandom freedom includes tolerance for LGBT expression. (4) Kids are in trouble while those exist. Those things don’t necessarily overlap, but it raises stereotyping about non-traditional gender and sexuality. This got furry porn site e621 banned in Russia (an easy target that shows the government was already watching.)
Furries face such attitudes rooted in old bigotry. Of course fandom isn’t exactly an identity, but it makes a community. Targeting their expression is just around the corner from direct homophobia. Compare how in the 1970’s, Disco music was targeted for being made by LGBT and minority people, even if the music itself is just music. So if furries belong on an “extremist” list, imagine getting attacked for dancing to the Ra-Ra-Rasputin song!
“Can you imagine that Andrei Tsyganov came to our furry walk Tsaritsyno, Kolomeskaya. He continued to accuse us of pedophilia in front of children. But Skip drove him away. When a high-level official comes to us personally, it shows his madness. Long story short – the Christian radical and anti-vaxer is attacking us (especially me and Skip). Here it is – the price to be a representative of the Moscow Furry Fandom.”
On the scene with the Moscow furries
I asked Skip for his personal experience. Skip told me:
“In August, the furries were going to take a walk at the Kolomenskoye park (Kolomenskaya metro station). The general gathering was in the underpass at exit number 2.
A man came up to us and asked: “Are you a furry?” I answered in the affirmative. From his side, accusations immediately came: “You were banned! Why are you still going out? You are LGBT propaganda!” I replied that no one forbade us and by law we have the right to walk in fursuits. We also said that the police sometimes approached us, but after finding out that this was an ordinary walk, they allowed us to continue.
To this, the man replied that he searched on the Internet who furries are and found a huge number of drawings with a sex theme. From this he judged about all who call themselves furries. Then he began to demand that we disperse and not walk. His words: “I live here – in this country, I have children. I do not want people like you to pose a threat to them and society.”
I objected: “We have the right to walk in public places and will not go anywhere. If you are a law enforcement officer, show your ID or just leave.” In response, Tsyganov said that he would call the police. To this I answered him: “Okay, you can call, but you will be fined for knowingly making a false call. And your personal opinion is not interesting to anyone.”
He was clearly unhappy that the “crowd of stupid schoolchildren” did not want to obey him and did not respond to threats. On his part, accusations came again that we were promoting “LGBT people and the like.” I had to raise my voice to him too.
I replied: “Do you believe everything that is written on the Internet !? Your, perhaps, stupid head has an unambiguous misconception about furries. Rule 34 exists so there will be 18+ content for everything. If you search specifically for it, you can find similar content on Anything. Go to the participants of the walk and see – we do not have flags and posters. And the number of guys and girls on walks is about the same, but you say that there are only gays. In addition, do not swear in front of children if you position yourself as a person that protects them.”
Not having received the desired answers from us, this Tsyganov began to try to shift the topic: “Unfortunately, our government is such that it does not do what it should – it does not protect society from such threats as you.” Perhaps he was trying to force us to say something against the authorities, in order to use it in the future. I asked him: “Judging by your manner of speech, you are an activist or oppositionist, right?” To which he answered: “Well, something like that.”
A woman who came for a walk with her daughter decided to join the conversation (addressing Tsyganov): “Why do you see only negative in everything?” He didn’t answer her. Seeing parents with children on furry walks was not at all part of his plans, since in this case the theory that all furries are gay was crumbling. He said goodbye and quickly left the passage, and did not go down to the subway. This surprised me a little, because at that time I thought it was just a passer-by. Only later did I recognize this man from the photo in the news. I think if we knew who came to us, then all those present at the furry walk would pay attention to him.”
Followup: A complaint to an opposing leader, and a correction to media reports.
@Matvey_Muhin didn’t let Tsyganov’s attitude go without defense. He said:
“Fortunately, opposition leader Sergey Mironov helped us and sent a complaint against this madman. I hope that he’ll be punished for his libel.”
Here’s the appeal to Mironov (a group leader in the Parliament of Russia). They made contact on VK, the Russian Facebook:
Hello Sergey Mironov! This is me, Matvey Mukhin. This time the topic is so serious that I decided to write to you not in VK, but here. The fact is that today our furry community discovered the TASS news that the chairman of the commission for the protection of children from destructive content under Roskomnadzor, Andrei Borisovich Tsyganov, called our furry fandom an extremist community. Moreover, he put us on a par with such phenomena as the LGBT movement, the radical feminist movement and the child-free movement, to which we have nothing to do. Such a statement by a top-level official inflicts damage on our reputation, which can lead to difficulties in coordinating furry walks in parks, holding national-all-Russian and international-international conventions, and holding other cultural events. Despite the fact that furry fandom is apolitical, we are outraged by this attitude towards our community. Please, respond to such an attack on the kind and cute furries who make the world a better and kinder place for us, eradicate violence and hatred. As a representative of the Moscow Furry Fandom, I ask you for help, as a Menshevik of a Menshevik. Help me regain public confidence, Sergei Mironov. Don’t let the trust of your constituents go.
Best wishes, Matvey Mukhin
Mironov relayed back that English-language media got something wrong. Skip and Matvey said:
“A member of the public chamber is not an official of [Russian federal agency] Roskomnadzor. So, Tsyganov is not an official. Only an opposition activist.” — “It is surprising that all the media say that Tsyganov reflects the position of the state and Roskomnadzor. But this isn’t the case.” — “The Public Chamber represents activists; Tsyganov belongs to the radical Christian anti-vaxx movement ROS.” So he’s more like Anita Bryant than a lawmaker.
Skip answers more questions about Russian furries
(Dogpatch Press:) Is Russian fandom very big or does it have just a few meets with people who know each other well? How did the walk come together?
(Skip:) “About the walk: It was an ordinary summer walk. Approximately 20 participants attended. I don’t remember who the organizer was. The fact is that in Moscow there is a group on the social network and Telegram, where those who wish make events. Anyone can be the organizer. There is moderation, but it is very loyal. There are 4529 participants in the group from Moscow and the surrounding area.”
(DPP:) 4529 is bigger than I expected. American groups seem to be split up in small areas so they don’t all share the same places to talk.
(Skip:) “About 10-15% of the total population of Russia lives in Moscow. No wonder the group is so big. It’s possible there are about 10,000-20,000 furries in Russia, but most of the events are held in Moscow. I have 5029 friends on my social network (vkontakte) who are definitely furries, but that’s definitely not all. Not everyone has furry avatars. Many are not on this social network. I broadcast live from walks.”
(DPP:) Do you know how Tsyganov found the walk? Do you think he searched the net or watched inside the Telegram group?
(Skip:) Perhaps he found a group on the VK social network. This group is available to everyone. We aren’t hiding and are always waiting for new members.
(DPP:) What do you think he hoped would happen, was he trying to provoke you to do something wrong? Are you mad, and is anyone paying a price or getting hurt from it? Has anyone followed him and tried to attack you? Will furries have to change what they do to protect themselves?
(Skip:) In the video I shared, there was discussion of the incident. But the very conversation with Tsyganov is not there, unfortunately. He tried to provoke us, used NLP speech techniques. He did not threaten physical harm. From me he received the answer that we do not break the laws. He didn’t succeed in making me angry. I only had to raise my voice in response to his aggressive manner of speech. Furries of Moscow continue to organize walks as before.
Since I have experience in dealing with such people, I did not succumb to provocations. In this sense, he was definitely not lucky. In Russia, there have been cases of provocations against anime fans. The teenagers were given an LGBT flag, then filmed and the police were called.
The Russian media got the news that Tsyganov would prohibit furries, child frees, LGBT people, and feminism. But in society it was perceived negatively. Bloggers began to defend the furries. People said that Tsyganov was simply sick or incompetent.
Crazy ideas have already been proposed in Russia. For example, create a dress code for all Russians. Also, there were ideas to prohibit people from talking about their nationality. Most likely, they will not implement such a thing. These statements are made by officials to gain popularity. These are usually just words.
Some people might call this part of old-fashioned totalitarianism… but it sounds like 1950’s America when they used to attack music that let black and white people mingle. Do you think American freedom lover types will speak against overreach of power against “extreme” people, when they’re just extremely fun and furry, but treated extremely unfairly?
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