This article originally appeared in Le Monde.
Journalist Anton Krasovsky has committed a significant act in the small world of Moscow's elite - he revealed he was gay.
It was January 25, on Kontr TV - a Kremlin-backed Internet and cable television network he helped to launch. The debate focused on the latest initiative of the Kremlin: the adoption by Parliament of a law prohibiting "propaganda" of homosexuality among minors, punishable by fines of up to 12,000 euros. Such measures already exist in rural cities. But ever since its decriminalization in 1993, the Russian government hadn't organized such an attack on homosexuality - considered by many Russians as a deviancy. A sad legacy of Soviet times.
Aged 37, Krasovsky has frequented the corridors of power for long enough to be immune to sentimentality. That evening, during a show, he dropped a bombshell. He announced that not only was he gay, he was also as human as President Putin, Prime Minister Medvedev and the members of Parliament. He was fired on the spot. Videos of him were deleted from the Kontr TV website and YouTube.
"Russia is a philosophical black hole, nothing is important - and neither is my action," he says. But then why come out so publicly? Because, he says, of the worrying turn the country is taking since the return of Putin to the Kremlin in May 2012.
The multiplication of repressive laws and the development of a populist state, based on the promotion of patriotism, the Orthodox Church and anti-Americanism ended up dissolving the layer of cynicism that was protecting the journalist. This has a name: it is conscience.
"Everything is leading us to a pit where I do not want to fall," says Krasovsky. "Maybe I'll end up there like the rest of the country. But I do not want my name associated with the process. I fight for human rights, not for gays. The time has come to take risks for our rights without waiting for someone to serve them on a fucking platter. Martin Luther King, he was killed!"
Krasovsky was the editor of a popular show for the NTV channel, the Kremlin's favorite weapon to discredit the opposition. In autumn 2011, the man who swears like a sailor when his thoughts are racing, became the pilot of a funny project: the entry into politics, at the request of the Kremlin, of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. "An excellent manager for peacetime, but not a new Yeltsin emerging from all this mud," says Krasovsky.
Today, Krasovsky believes that his career prospects are shot in Russia. He is planning to go abroad for a few months, "in Italy or the United States," to write a book. "It will be about life in the 1990s, the fears, a hero who lies to himself, gays, business and politics."
Oddly enough, Krasovsky is a mix of courage and denial. He believes that "there is no real homophobia in Russia" and that for a gay Russian to be in the closet has deep-rooted "psychological reasons."
"Homosexuals should be liquidated"
In reality, the situation is much starker. Being gay in Moscow and St. Petersburg often forces concealment strategies. No physical contact whatsoever in public. Meeting places are discreet. In October, 20 masked gunmen stormed into a club in Moscow, the 7FreeDays. Several people were injured, including three seriously. No politician, or famous singer or actor has ever come out as a homosexual.