Stephen Fry Eloquently Calls For Ban On Russian Olympics, Compares Putin To Hitler


An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, ‘the banality of evil.’ A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milonov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the ‘values’ of Russia are not the ‘values’ of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian ‘correctively’ raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.”

Openly gay actor Stephen Fry‘s open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee calling for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where Russian citizens, as well as foreign athletes and tourists, will be subject to the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.

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  • Lefty

    Meanwhile, the Russian LGBT Network inside Russia have eloquently and respectfully asked to reconsider a campaign to boycott/ban the Russian Olympics…

    One wonder how many of the instigators of these various western responses to what’s going on inside Russia – or at least, what’s being reported in the West – have actually consulted the LGBT Russian activists inside the country who both know far better than any of us outside precisely what’s going on and the ramifications and also stand to lose the most should any ill-conceived and unilateral response from the West backfire in any way.

    I love Stephen Fry and don’t doubt his good intentions, but this seems like a very complex thing and first and foremost those on the inside who are fighting for LGBT equality inside Russia should surely be the ones we listen to first?

  • ouragannyc

    Lefty, I think he has a very valid argument when he says:
    “At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.”
    It would have been better to organize them somewhere else. It would have been a clear message to Putin and the Russian Parliament that bigotry and homophobia don’t pay.

  • Taliaferro

    I agree with Fry completely. The games should be held elsewhere. To allow young athletes to venture into Russia under the current regime is foolhardy and morally wrong. The original Olympics started with the concept of a truce among warring city states. Russia has offered no guarantee that athletes who are gay or lesbian will be protected; indeed, one fears that they might be enticed and made examples of to satisfy Russian bigotry and hatred. All countries should put equal rights ahead of fame and money to be gained from endorsements.

  • 2eo

    Stephen Fry is a living legend, a brilliant, witty urbane man with core beliefs and moral fiber befitting a 21st century human. Spot on Stephen.

    Him, Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, greatest living Brits, so proud to be of the same nation as them.

  • Christopher

    EI am a great fan of Stephen Fry and consider him one of Britain’s treasures. But, brilliant as he is, he sometimes gets things wrong. This is one of those times. As a practical matter, a boycott would do absolutely nothing to help LGBT people in Russia and would do a great deal to harm the people counting on the games for their incomes and careers. As a matter of respect rather than western arrogance, it would be wrong to act contrary to the wishes of Russia’s own LGBT community, who I tend to believe know more about the facts on the ground than either I do or Mr. Fry does.

    As a gay Jew Mr. Fry makes a comparison between Putin and Hitler that is not entirely hyperbole, but then seems to forget his own point when calling for a boycott. As someone who is also a gay Jew, I remember my history and the fact that many nations opposed to Hitler competed in the Berlin games- and a guy named Jesse Owens demonstrated through actions, not speech, the bankrupt nature of Hitler’s ideology. I am looking forward to a gay or lesbian athlete doing just that in Russia.

  • Lefty

    @ouragannyc: I agree, but also I’m conscious of the fact that much of the anti-gay policies in places like this and some African countries, for example, are driven or rather sold to the people, as it were, couched in anti-Western sentiment. Homosexuality is often said, by those in power there and the religious bigots with equal power, to be a “Western disease” or a “Western problem”, ie. it’s something which “we” have imported.
    It often seems that the real “monster” is the West, and gay people in these countries bear the brunt of this and become the scapegoats.
    My point is that, often – from what we hear of actual LGBT activists inside these countries – overt pressure from the West may actually play into the hands of these vile homophobic law makers and governments, rather than ending homophobia, how can we be sure this kind of activism from us in the West won’t be counter-productive and make things worse for gay people inside?
    Of course, we all feel angry at what we read coming out of Russia and Africa and so on; and we all feel angry and desperate to do something; but we must listen to those inside first and find out what we can do that will ultimately help them and aid there ongoing activism, surely?

  • fagburn

    Astonishing that people like Fry and posters here think they know better than LGBT Russians about this.
    Such arrogance!

  • balehead

    Fry is eloquent but arrogant! Another “faded queen” telling others what to do….cue the surprise..

  • MikeE

    @Christopher: And you would err. Jesse Owens’ victory in his discipline had absolutely zero effect on whether or not Hitler and his Nazi’s got the attention and validation they required.

    The Berlin games WERE an immense success, Germany had the highest medal count of those games. It gave Hitler ALL the validation he required, and allowed him to cement his position with the German people as “their saviour”.

    Allowing the Sochi games to be a financial success will not help Russian LGBT people, despite any calls from within Russia for such. It will ONLY serve to strengthen the Russian government’s stranglehold on its people. It will only serve to validate Putin and his cronies’ heavy-handed decisions.

    Remember that there is already a strong anti-LGBT bias within Russia, supported by its fundamentalist orthodox church.

    Strong international condemnation is the ONLY way to get the message across that human rights are human rights.
    And by attending these illegitimate games, any condemnation is immediately trivialized.

    Stephen Fry is absolutely right in his statements.

  • fagburn

    @MikeE: 1. Why do you dismiss what LGBT Russian activists are saying – ie they don’t want a ban or a boycott.
    2. If there’d be a boycott of the 1936 Olympics can you tell me how you think this would have changed Nazi policy?

  • Matt G

    I think regardless of what is done with the games it will be spun by the Russian government to make the west and LGBT russians look bad and the Russian government look good, that’s how fascists roll

  • RSun

    @Christopher: I have been swaying back and forth on this, but then I thought about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. History looks back at that as an “up yours Hitler!” due to Owen’s success as a member of an “inferior race.” Germany’s success at that games is overshadowed by this.

    I feel a boycott is not the right move. I would love for a out and proud gay athlete to succeed while the world is watching (like Owens). Way more powerful, in the long term, than a boycott can ever achieve.

    Russia isn’t the only Olympic host country with human rights issues. China, the US, Australia and Canada, to name a few, have all hosted yet haven’t been boycotted for those violations.

    In the end, it isn’t the country that is hurt by a boycott…it is the athletes.

  • Thomathy


    2. If there’d be a boycott of the 1936 Olympics can you tell me how you think this would have changed Nazi policy?

    Perhaps, if the world had had the sense to acknowledge and act upon the, by that time, all-but-well-known treatment of Jews and others under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and what became the Final Solution, many victims of the Holocaust could have been saved.

    What happened, rather, was the express silence of world leaders who well knew what was happening and remained silent and the outright denial of others that anything so awful could possibly be happening.

    Had anyone thought to make issue of the treatment of Jews and others, even to the extent of denying Germany the right to host the Olympic Games, which indeed were seen to legitimise the German Government and its actions, war might have been joined sooner than 1939, when by that time many hundreds of thousands were already in labour camps or murdered and Germany had securely conquered half of Europe and matured a difficult to defeat war industry.

    The parallels, at least in the sense of legitimisation are very difficult to ignore. Further, the implication that the Russian Government is scapegoating a maligned segment of the population to solidify it’s power of a disaffected population is another parallel that cannot be ignored easily. What is happening, very clearly, is the path similarly taken by many regimes that have committed mass-murder, through official government policies or otherwise, and that is the quiet and (internationally) largely ignored stripping of rights or dehumanising of a segment of the population to such end that they can be carelessly murdered.

    Russia is practiced at this and should we begin to hear more frequently about the deaths of LGBTQ Russians until ultimately there are too many dead for it to be considered anything other than mass-murder, I do hope people are reminded of other times and places (Rwanda, Ukraine, Bosnia, Sri-Lanka …to name a very few) where the world ignored the warning signs and the result was, at least, tragic.

  • 2eo

    @Thomathy: That my friend is the most effective demolition of an argument I’ve ever read on this site.

  • the other Greg

    Notice that Fry says “I have visited Russia….”

    Only a year ago, the boycott talk was all about how no LGBT or ally should even VISIT Russia for any reason! (i.e., spend money there). That included cruise ship tourists, Madonna, whoever.

    Now apparently there’s a loophole: as long as you lecture a few homophobes during your visit, the visit is kosher. So why can’t Olympic athletes do the exact same thing?

    Either Fry is saying (a) his own past visits were pointless and shouldn’t have been done, or (b) only celebrities of a certain rank & status should attempt such things. Many Olympic athletes are better-known celebrities than Fry is – and a previously little-known Jesse Owens type could win and focus much attention on these issues – so what exactly is the difference? Fry obviously means well, but hasn’t followed his own logic on this.

  • RSun

    @Thomathy: Great post though I still don’t think a boycott is the best move. I would rather see a system in place that doesn’t award Olympics to countries with human rights violations in the first place.

    My own country (Canada) has a horrible human rights record in dealings with our aboriginal population, yet Vancouver was boycott free. I realize this isn’t quite the same as the Russia situation, but still, it makes me wonder how we pick and choose which are “worthy” of action. If we are going to boycott because of gay rights violations, we should be just as vocal about other Olympic hosts’ human rights issues.

    Great debate though!

  • 2eo

    @fagburn: Haha you had a moan on your blog about him disagreeing with you. Also your blog is dire.

    I like how you can’t rebuke anything he said, and instead tried to make a joke, you also failed on that front.

  • 2eo

    @fagburn: You can’t even moan as I write regular articles for 2 blogs on your like list. I won’t tell you which obviously as my actual name is out there and I don’t trust petty people who moan in a blog when someone disagrees with them.

  • the other Greg

    @RSun: Good point! Fry himself actually says here: “Stage them elsewhere in Utah… anywhere you like.” Uh, not all gay people are cool with Utah either!

    You mention indigenous peoples: Brazil doesn’t have such a great record there either. There are always reasons to boycott. (How the hell did China ever get 2008?)

    And whether or not anyone thinks Berlin should have been boycotted in 1936, the problem arose because it was chosen many years before that in the ’20s during the Weimar Republic. Few offensive political regimes can be anticipated eight or twelve years in advance.

    The Olympics need a PERMANENT home, as they had in ancient Greece. This would not only avoid the perennial boycott dilemmas, but also all the corruption and nonsense involved when cities compete for the games.

    Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976 and didn’t finish paying for them for 40 years.

    It’s incredible that well-meaning people in Boston, Chicago etc. seriously want the Olympics for 2024. With the increased security costs alone, eventually cities will be paying the Olympics to go away.

  • MK Ultra

    Don’t fool yourselves.
    Hitler didn’t start out by throwing Jews in concentration camps. That came much later.
    He started out first by doing exactly what Putin is doing. Demonizing and blaming all of society’s ills on a minority.
    Russia is already locking immigrants up in “camps”.
    The fact is, the world ignored this problem once and over 6 million people were tortured, experimented on, beaten, lost all their possessions, jailed, and brutally murdered.
    It would be a mistake and actually quite naive and stupid to think it wouldnt’ happen again especially when the beginning warning signs are already there.

  • Lefty

    With respect, the comparisons to Hitler are way off the mark.
    As far as the anti-gay laws in Russia currently causing such alarm (and rightfully so) go, the closer comparison would be to Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing government’s policies in the UK in the ’80s. The now notorious Section 28 prohibited anyone from “promoting homosexuality” to children in schools.
    The Russian law is more far-reaching and far more concerning, obviously, but it seeks to do essentially the same and even uses exactly the same language.

  • fagburn

    @2eo: Well, that took all of two seconds on Google to find out.

    yours in direness


  • fagburn

    @MK Ultra: If only they had e-petitions in Nazi Germany that would have stopped them.

    PS I think you’re being ever just a little bit hysterical. Just a thought.

  • MK Ultra

    fagburn , Well luckily I think very little of you and your little opinion. You seem a little “special” at best.
    Just a thought.
    And anyone suggesting this is still about “promoting homosexuality to children” is a bit hysterical. How come you don’t stand up for american evangelicals when they use the same EXCUSE.

  • fagburn

    @MK Ultra: The fact that you put the last word in CAPS still didn’t make it make any sense.
    Care to try again?

  • 2eo

    @fagburn: I can understand how someone being correct would get you in a muddle. Seems very easy, but meagre things bother meagre minds.

  • MK Ultra

    Of course it wouldn’t make sense to you! Maybe I should write really simply so you can understand.
    Don’t worry. I won’t use big words. I know they terrify you.

  • Lefty

    @MK Ultra: “And anyone suggesting this is still about “promoting homosexuality to children” is a bit hysterical.”

    I don’t think this law or the similar law instigated by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the UK in the 1980s was ever about what it purported to be about.
    It was about using LGBT people as a scapegoat in order to be seen to be doing something, but using language that is impossible to pin down (ie. just talking about homosexuality without condemning it can be seen as “promoting homosexuality”), so it spreads uncertainty and essentially fosters an atmosphere where people become silent on the subject – this is exactly what happened in UK schools after the introduction of Section 28 in the late-1980s.

    The Holocaust was way beyond just scapegoating a minority for political gain. It was an attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic group, to erase them from the face of Earth. This was not about political gain, but the result of what I can only insufficiently describe as a widespread moral sickness (or evil, if you prefer) in the Nazis and the German people at the time (and beyond).
    What’s happening to LGBT people around the world in many of these countries right now is horrific enough; there’s no need to falsely conflate what’s happening now to LGBT people throughout Russia and elsewhere with the most unspeakably evil and immoral crime against humanity in modern history.

  • 2eo

    @MK Ultra: Have a look at his blog, his ramblings are fully explored there, he even has some delusional folks who agree with him, however he engages with indexing spambots far too regularly for any sane man.

  • MK Ultra

    Oh, Lefty, perhaps you forget that gay men were also targeted in the Holocaust.
    I know, I know – an inconvenient fact in your little rant about how it’s really just all about protecting the children.
    You’re an apologist. I get that. You don’t think it’s horrible what’s going on in Russia. You’re actually here to defend it under the guise of “well I think it’s horrible too.
    The holocaust began the exact same way. Once again, an inconvenient fact to you’re russophile attitude.
    You want to soft sell the Russian atrocity. Go ahead. No one here buys it.

  • 2eo

    @Lefty: “there’s no need to falsely conflate what’s happening now to LGBT people”

    And there we have it, Lefty is not gay, but a trolling apologist, no member of our community ever refers to us at LGBT people, we refer to them as us.

  • Lefty

    @MK Ultra: Why are you even reducing these horrific incidents to mere bullet points in a diatribe against a stranger on the internet? Can you not see the horror in packaging all this up for some mundane little internet point-scoring scheme?

    I’ve laid out my opinion respectfully. Nowhere have I defended Russia or what the Russian government is doing?
    Is refusing to only speak in shrill or reactionary hysterics the same as being an “apologist”, then? That’s astonishingly depressing. What hope do LGBT activists inside Russia have, when anyone saying we should listen to them first and find out what they want us to do to help them is labelled a traitor to… well, who? As LGBT activists inside Russia are being ignored here, who exactly are we betraying?

    “You’re an apologist. I get that. You don’t think it’s horrible what’s going on in Russia. You’re actually here to defend it under the guise of “well I think it’s horrible too.”

    So, I don’t think it’s horrible, I’m actually defending Russia when I say “I think it’s horrible”.
    What an astonishing intellect you have.

    PS – yes, gay men were targeted by the Nazis along with other minorities, too. And thousands suffered appalling torture and even death. But it was only the Jewish people who were systematically wiped out. In their millions. Again, to conflate any of this with what happened to the Jewish people in the Holocaust is borderline offensive.

  • fagburn

    I guess 2eo and MK Ultra are the same nutso person – bit sad…

  • Lefty

    @2eo: What are you talking about? I’ve argued alongside you on here on several threads over the last few months and now I’m an apologist troll who isn’t even gay???
    Leave it out.

  • CalgaryBill

    An effective action I’d like to see; for those of us in gay friendly countries, I’d like our national Olympic bodies to be pressured into changing the countries Olympic uniforms. I think it’d have a salutary effect if the uniforms were redesigned to include a LARGE pride rainbow. That’d force the Russians into either denying entry to an entire country, or arresting entire teams or else allowing gay ‘propaganda’. Show the Russians that the world will not quietly bow down to the evil empire. A side effect would be showing the IOC that human rights transcend politics.

    If a boycott occurred it would be the IOC and Russia taking the action.

  • Thomathy

    RSun, I’m Canadian. On the matter of the particular abuses of the Canadian Government against aboriginals in recent history, I’m unsure if past abuse amounts to a good comparison with contemporary policies like those in Russia.

    However, I would like the IOC to develop a harder line going forward that would encourage governments, like ours, to work more swiftly to mitigate the results of past abuse and correct present issues to ensure abuse doesn’t happen if we want to be considered to host again.

    The IOC should certainly have a policy against hosting games in countries that are in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    And that up there was not a debate.

    fagburn, yawn.


    The Holocaust was went way beyond just scapegoating a minority for political gain.

    Fixed that for you. It is the matter of the years preceding the Final Solution that justify comparisons and, accurately, serve as warnings not to ignore the signs (something the world has been very good at doing ever since).

    It was an attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic group, to erase them from the face of Earth.

    It was that and it was also the systematic murder of more people than the entire Jewish population of Europe at the time. Some 12 million Slavs were murdered, nearly more than the total of all the other targeted populations combined.

    But historical inaccuracies and realities aside, the fact remains that there is certainly precedence to merit greater reaction to these laws than we’re seeing (even laws like this outside of Russia). It definitely can’t be denied that LGBTQ people are being systematically targeted by laws that, sometimes literally, dehumanise them and result in murder.

    And, really, what exactly would the harm be in reacting more strongly to Russia’s laws? Would it be so bad to find out later that there was an overreaction? I could live with having ‘overreacted’.

  • Triple S

    @RSun: When has Australia EVER had human rights issues? And I mean in the modern day, not things that happened in a time that no longer exists.

  • RSun

    @Triple S: @Thomathy: While abuse of our (AUS & CAN) aboriginal populations occurred years ago (BUT not THAT long ago) the affects in our modern world are VERY evident. Lower literacy rates, lower mortality rates, impoverished communities, high rates of substance abuse, much higher ratio of prison populations and the list goes on. All I was getting at is that the spotlight should be broadened a little wider.

    All countries have some work to do.

  • RSun

    @CalgaryBill: I’d like to see that too.

  • Kangol

    Putin is horrible, and Russia’s legalized homophobia is monstrous.

    But he is not Hitler, and it’s cavalier to toss around the name of someone who saw the planned and unplanned slaughter of 6+ million people, including gays, lesbians and transgender people. Stephen Fry knows better.

    Criticize Putin and Russia. Demand they change their laws to stop legalized homophobia. Boycott the country and its products.

    But please do not trivialize the horror of the Holocaust by cavalierly tossing around Adolf Hitler’s name, Stephen Fry.

  • MK Ultra

    People need to stop acting as if the Holocaust was the be all and end all of atrocities throughout humanity.
    Yeah, there have been several.
    And making the Holocaust the “event that shall not be named” isn’t helping anyone.

  • BrandoPolo

    This point is well taken from Stephen Fry, given the relative inclusiveness of British gays.

    However, if the gay community in America is really concerned about hate they can start right here in Chelsea and WeHo. The segregation and bigotry in the gay community and in gay media is astounding. American gays need to sweep around the front door of our own Aryan Hitler Youth bars/porn/publishing/fashion empires before we go over to Russia’s porch with brooms in hand.

  • hyhybt

    The notion of MOVING the Olympics this late is simply preposterous. It’s not a matter of what ought to be done at this point, but of what’s possible. They could be cancelled outright (though that wouldn’t benefit anybody) but it’s far too late to move them, even to a city that’s had them fairly recently. Getting ready to host the games takes years.

  • stadacona

    Stephen Fry is a far-left extremist. Putin is more moderate than Stephen Fry. Stop giving publicity to this English twit.

  • fagburn

    @stadacona: For a “far-left extremist” Stephen Fry seems to spend a lot of time sucking up to the Royal Family, and making TV ads, and etc etc etc…

  • 2eo

    The rule is if Stadacona doesn’t like them then they are right.

  • RomanHans

    Really? People are seriously replying to Lefty, an idiot who said “yes, gay men were targeted by the Nazis along with other minorities, too. And thousands suffered appalling torture and even death. But it was only the Jewish people who were systematically wiped out.”? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read in years.

  • susansylvester

    just as Rebecca responded I’m surprised that any body can earn $8431 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this website >>>

  • Lefty

    @RomanHans: Sorry to stick to the facts. What exactly did I say that was “stupid”? Please, enlighten is (and the history books).

  • Lefty

    @RomanHans : Himmler, the chief architect of the plan, and Hitler termed it “the final solution of the Jewish question” – their goal was to annihilate the Jewish people.
    Read some history, dear.

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