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.

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  • jwrappaport

    What a colossal, disgusting work of fraud. Just as the Soviets tried and failed to suppress Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality fifty years ago, so to shall Putin and his goons in a different century.

    I remember the first time I played his Fifth Symphony. I was about 15, and I had just met the first man I ever loved. Living with Tchaikovsky’s music, reading his letters and about his life, made me realize that I wasn’t alone: there were many other people like me, many of whom well understood the agony of the closet, yet they drew strength from their suffering. It was the finale of that symphony that gave me the courage to come out and be true to my deepest convictions. To the man who gave me such comfort, to the man who gave me such a gift of self-empowerment – no honor could be to great, no gratitude deep enough.

    To, Tchaikovsky, my greatest musical inspiration and confidante from beyond the grave: I can think of no greater insult than to lay claim to your cultural treasures only after laying waste to your memory. These people are tyrants, and I take some comfort in knowing that gay couples will still be enjoying Swan Lake long after Putin’s regime of horror is dead.

  • MikeE

    oh for god’s sake, Tchaikowsky even had a brief fling with Camille Saint-Saëns. Anyone trying to show Tchaikowsky as anything other than a gay man is an intellectual fraud.

  • Charles175

    Changing history is one of the first steps in the rise of totalitarianism.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    It will get people talking about it more, the opposite effect. Putin must really be latent.

  • Taliaferro

    “No matter how hard Russia may try, it can’t rewrite history.” Actually, Russia, or the Soviet Union, has a long history of rewriting history. So too do most countries, including the U.S. Ask any Native American or black person or southerner. It is the victors who write history, not the losers.

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