Rewriting History

Russian Biopic Will De-Gay Tchaikovsky

It’s bad enough that Russia wants to make life hell for its LGBT citizens. Now it’s trying to claim new victims retroactively. Faced with tough laws that criminalize just about any thing gay, the makers of a forthcoming movie about Pyotr Tchaikovsky have decided to de-gay the legendary composer in a fit of self-censorship.

The film’s screenwriter, Yuri Arabov, insists that Tchaikovsky was not gay. Instead, the composer was just “a person without a family who has been stuck with the opinion that he supposedly loves men.”

That’s not how earlier versions of the script seemed to read. Kirill Serebrennikov, the artistic director of the Gogol Theatre in Moscow, announced last year that he wanted to make a picture about Tchaikovsky but couldn’t find money for it because of the gay angle.

Film columnist Larisa Malyukova said that in a version of the script she saw last year, Tchaikovsky suffered over his love of a younger man. Now, says screenwriter Arabov, the script “has absolutely no homosexuality, it’s entirely not about that.”

Why the sudden change of heart? We’re sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the biopic is now partially underwritten by the Russian Ministry of Culture. That’s probably just an amazing coincidence.

And just for the record, there is overwhelming evidence, from Tchaikovsky’s letters to his brother’s autobiography, that the composer was gay. No matter how hard Russia may try, it can’t rewrite history.