MOSCOW—Anton Krasovsky’s mouth is full of swear words. He is angry with pretty much every liar and propagandist in Moscow, the city he loves and wants to change.
At times it seems that his courage would disappear the moment he stops cursing. And courage is what he needs most right now, as Krasovsky is the only openly gay person in the country of Russia—with a population of more than 140 million—who dares to compete in the Kremlin-controlled election process.
The majority of Russian politicians and bureaucrats agree that LGBTQ people are abnormal. Just the idea of being one single warrior in the political field soaked in hate and thriving homophobia would scare many away from the arena.
Last month, speaking on independent radio station Echo of Moscow, Krasovsky revealed the news: in September he would run for mayoral election in Moscow, if the authorities allow him to. (He is registered as a candidate but to actually take part in the election he will have to collect signatures of 110 municipal deputies before July 3.)
“I almost pissed my pants when I decided to run for Moscow mayor,” Krasovsky admitted to The Daily Beast in a recent sit-down interview in one of Moscow’s hip coffee shops, Coffeemania. Here, in Moscow’s old town Kitai Gorod, many recognized Krasovsky’s face.
Five years ago, in June, 2013, 436 Russian MPs voted in favor of a new bill to ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The bill forbade both individuals and media groups to distribute literature or any other materials about gay rights. Many LGBTQ families fled the country in fear of the state taking their children away from them.
Since then, President Putin has been criticized for not doing enough to help the gay men killed and persecuted in a vicious crackdown in Chechnya. The noted British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell protested precisely this at the beginning of the World Cup, where the homophobia and anti-LGBT politics of Russia has again come under the international spotlight.
About why he mounted the protest, Tatchell told The Daily Beast at the time, “It’s tremendously important that President Putin doesn’t score an unchallenged public relations coup with the World Cup. He needs to be called out over the persecution of LGBT+ people, his suppression of the civil rights of Russian citizens, and his war crimes in Syria.”
The Daily Beast asked Krasovsky why he had gone into politics, when many Russian gay men and women were fleeing the country. “Because everything sucks here,” Krasovsky said. He was convinced that, even if the Kremlin did not allow his participation in the election, the experience would be useful for his political career.
In the past few years Krasovsky has managed election campaigns for two opposition candidates, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s and a pop socialite Ksenia Sobchak.
The idea of riding a black car or shaking hands with President Putin’s friends sounded rather humorous to the new candidate Krasovsky, a former Russian Vogue magazine correspondent.
“Somebody like Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov would not shake my hand; but if he wants to shake a hand of gay, I will shake his hand back.”
In Russia officials are not shy about their homophobic views. There is a sign on the door to the office of MP Vitaly Milonov, at State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament: “Banned entry for Sodomites.” Milonov is one of masterminds behind the anti-gay “propaganda” bill—in 2016 he claimed that gay people “rape kids.”
For years, Russia's small community of LGBTQ activists have endured harassment from violent nationalists and police. Most Russian gay people have given up the struggle for their rights—they either plan to escape or prefer to live quietly in their small circles.
When many of his friends immigrated, Krasovsky preferred to stay in Russia, although with his long experience of working as a magazine writer and a TV presenter he might be able to find a good place for himself in New York or any European capital.
There have been worse times in his life, he said, which left him among very few survivors. “I think about 90 percent of my friends from Moscow bohemia circles have killed themselves by alcohol and drugs and the rest have built themselves into the current state system. It is a miracle that I did not drink myself to death,” he admitted to The Daily Beast.
This is not the first time Krasovsky has shown his courage in Russia.
During his coming out on the Internet Kontr TV in 2013 Krasovsky said: “I am gay but I am just as human as Putin.”
Last year, in an interview published on Facebook, Krasovsky admitted that he had been living with HIV since 2011. As a volunteer and activist, Krasovsky and his friends have been pushing authorities for taking measures, legalizing methadone treatment, for fighting HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia.
Although the Kremlin has sanctioned homophobia throughout the country, Krasovsky insists that ordinary people do not hate LGBTQ people.
“It is an illusion that Russia is a homophobic country by its nature,” Krasovsky insisted to The Daily Beast. He sounded irritated, when he spoke about stereotypes created by media. “My homosexuality has never helped me but it has never been in the way of my career goals. If people are constantly told that queers are bastards, and to beat them because all they want is to walk in the streets naked, some go and do beat up LGBT people.”
During the past month Krasovsky has been holding daily public meetings with his electorate in different districts of Moscow.
“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, and of some illegal construction sites or schools closing down in their neighborhood.”
When Krasovsky was young his family lived in tiny rooms and communal apartments for most of his childhood. He was born on the outskirts of Moscow in the provincial town of Podolsk (which has a population of 302,831) where Krasovsky went to school.
He continued his studies in Ukraine, in the town of Rivne, where his engineer father worked at Rivne Nuclear Power Plant. “When I turned 14, I moved to Moscow and discovered the life of underground bohemia—many of my friends were using cocaine at the time.”
During the Perestroika years in the late 1980es Krasovsky belonged to counterculture circles of Soviet hipsters, calling themselves “Stilyagi.” “We were all listening to Elvis Presley, went to Viktor Tsoi’s concerts. I dressed up in second hand clothes from Teshinsky market. I had some hellish white jacket at some point. Look, I was never rich, I never had enough money to buy expensive clothes.”
Krasovsky’s friends met on Thursdays at an underground club called Moloko. Krasovsky studied Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, the training ground for Russian poets. His company of hip looking youth mingled with a queen of Soviet and post-Soviet rock and roll, Zhanna Aguzarova.
If, as he says, some of Krasovsky’s friends ruined themselves by drugs, others turned into Vladimir Putin fans. Krasovsky path was different. “I am still happy that changes came to my country; my family had never experienced any dramatic financial losses, we were never hungry during the period that some describe as the ‘bloody liberal regime’—any changes are always good.”
Running for Moscow mayor, Krasovsky sees his role, as a candidate, to fight for equality for all. “Of all politicians I prefer Obama, I am social democrat by my political views, I want to take part in the election to show the current political elite how to fight for human rights and freedom.”