Histories of Religion and Homophobia in Eurasia conference

“Histories of Religion and Homophobia in Eurasia” will explore what is known about religion and the history of its approaches to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizenship in the republics of the Former Soviet Union. Today these institutions offer a conduit of transnational homophobic influence, with relevance to wider global trends. But the scholarship on the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and other regional Orthodox churches (Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian) and their historical attitudes to homosexuality is underdeveloped. Even less is known about varieties of Islam in the former Soviet Union and the history of Muslim approaches to LGBT questions in the region.

We know from the work of Eve Levin and Natalia Pushkareva that Russian Orthodox hostility to deviant sexuality has medieval roots, but there is very little scholarship explaining how this attitude evolved after 1700. A particular gap in studies of the history of Imperial Russian sexualities is a focus on religious dogma, ideas, and public discussion about homosexuality and gender deviation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recent historiography on theological matters in late Imperial Russia posits a dynamic and intellectually active Church: how did it conceive of sodomitical sin, lesbian love, and gender deviance, in this period, to whom did it address its concerns about these issues, how forcefully, and to what ends?

Emergent work on Western Christianity posits modernising trends in churches applying liberalised norms and increasingly medical, psychological, or psychiatric perspectives to LGBT issues in the twentieth century. What became of Russian and neighbouring late-Imperial modes of thinking theologically about same-sex love and gender dissent during the Soviet era? Were there similar modernising trends in ROC theology after 1991, and how did the current ROC support for the Kremlin’s conservative-nationalist official homophobia evolve? After 1991 the US religious right and Russian conservatives developed important links, but the nature of these ties and their influence on Putin’s ‘traditional values’ discourses remains under-documented and under-analysed. In the aftermath of the Chechen detention, torture and murder of gay men in 2017, the evolution of ‘traditional values’ agendas in Islamic societies in the Russian Federation and in Central Asian republics is a critical issue we seek to explore.

Convener(s): Professor Dan Healey (REES, Faculty of History) & Professor George Chauncey (Department of History, Coloumbia University)

Speaker(s): Full programme available here:


To attend this event please register for your free ticket here.