Pro-Putin conductor propaganda law: ‘It’s nothing to do with gay’

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Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who is known for his close friendship with and continual support for President Putin, has spoken about Russia’s ‘anti-gay’ law, claiming it is “nothing to do with gay” and “never applied”.

In an English-language interview with Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, the conductor was asked about the infamous bill, which Putin signed into law a year ago this week.

He disputed the label attached to Putin’s law, saying: “It’s not anti-gay… Nothing to do with gay. It’s about propaganda in schools, in schools, what they call ‘non-traditional’. I don’t understand all these things; I also don’t understand the campaign [of protests against his performances].”

He went on to claim that the impacts of the law are exaggerated by western media, saying: “I didn’t know about this law. I learnt about this law in the west. Nobody knows about this law in Russia because [the] law is never applied. No one is put in prison, no one is killed, no one is arrested.

“We have no idea what is this law in reality to do with our lives here. No idea. Nobody here is about this at all.”

Gergiev has personally come under fire in recent years for his apparent support of this law.

In 2012, protestors from Queer Nation New York interrupted the start of a concert of the Mariinsky Orchestra, which Gergiev was conducting. They shouted: “Gergiev, your silence is killing Russian gays”, before being escorted from the premises.

Addressing this incident, Gergiev said: “When they tried to spoil my concert in Carnegie Hall, I still get standing ovation, so I don’t know if it helps them or helps me. Because there are two or three people shouting in the hall, but then two and half thousand people give me standing ovation. So I think it’s maybe playing even in my hands.”

In 2013, Gergiev’s concerts faced additional protests, at the Metropolitan (New York) in September and at the Barbican (London) in November.

Ahead of the London protest, Gergiev denied that he had supported any anti-gay laws. He reiterated this in December, in a letter to authorities at Munich, where he is due to become chief conductor of the Philharmonic in 2015.

In May 2014, the conductor penned a letter saying that the West should respect “taboos” which remain present in Russian society, which was interpreted as a veiled reference to homosexuality.

Gergiev also spoke at length about Ukraine in the interview, and particularly pointed out the wide variance in reports from international media.

“The worldwide coverage [over Ukraine] is totally different here and in CNN, for example, or BBC World,” he said. “So totally different that it’s amazing we are living in an era of internet. People talk about completely two different worlds.”

He added: “I think we, all together, have to find, where is the truth, or what is the truth? I don’t want to be a messenger because I don’t want to play a different role to my role of musician.” He criticised other performers for taking excessively political personal stances.