Munich city council to discuss Gergiev case today

Munich city council to discuss Gergiev case today


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2013

A good deal of disquiet remains after the conductor’s press conference yesterday, when he denied any knowledge of Russia’s anti-gay laws. The matter has been rushed onto today’s council agenda. Our man on the spot says it’s a long agenda, with 71 points, but the Pink List feel strongly enough about the city’s new conductor to keep the issue alive. See UPDATE below.

Here is a further selection of the conductor’s comments, confirmed to us by the Munich Philharmonic:



“Ich bin ein vielbeschäftigter Künstler” (I’m a very busy artist).
On equating homosexuality with paedophilia, Gergiev said that there were increasing reports of paedophilia and kidnapping of children in Russia. “People are really angry.”
Asked whether he supported Putin’s law that makes it illegal to even talk about homosexuality in front of minors, Gergiev replied that he would be happier if children would learn more about Pushkin and Tchaikovsky.
 “Of course, there is no place for discrimination in the artistic community. If someone is discriminated against in my presence and I remain silent, that is my responsibility.”
But he was a musician and not a politician, Gergiev noted. He could only speak about his area of expertise.
“I’m not a member of the Duma or of the government,” Gergiev said.
UPDATE: Mayor Christian Ude said he feels that Gergiev has managed to clear up his “unclear” and “unfortunate” comments. Ude added that the city council’s anti-discrimination regulations were binding for all employees, including Gergiev.


  • sdReader says:

    Not good enough, Maestro!

    Go work exclusively in Russia, if this is the best you can do!

  • David says:


  • ed says:

    I cannot believe the level of hypocrisy, bigotry and political correctness being exercised to single out Maestro Gergiev just because he is a citizen of Russia and doesn’t kowtow to the mob’s interpretation of the Russian law AND actively demonstrate against it, or sign an LGBT loyalty oath. While we’re at it, let’s not just run him out of town, let’s shackle him, rendition him, and indefinitely detain him in a black hole. Anyway, Gergiev’s not your real target, is he? It’s someone else and we all know who that is.

    sdReader, come back from the Twilight Zone, put down your pitchfork and get real. Maestro Gergiev is clearly not prejudiced and has done much good for many, many musicians and non-musicians alike, both through, and separate from his music making. So, maybe, pal, it would be better to lay off and make someone else your ‘piñata de jour’.

    Still, suppose instead we follow your logic, and really begin to prioritize. Then how about all of those musicians in the West who have remained silent about their countries’ war or occupation policies- policies that have denied others even the basic right to stay alive. I haven’t heard a peep, sd Reader, about those, except sometimes to learn that the few that do speak out are squelched.

    Let’s hope the City Fathers in Munich have some good sense, and put this politically motivated tempest in a teapot in perspective, and, ultimately, to rest.

    • sdReader says:

      I’m back from the Twilight Zone — last night’s Gergiev concert — and I’ll try to be real for you, Pal Ed.

      Gergiev hung himself up as a piñata when he campaigned for Putin and confused homosexuality with pedophilia in an interview, a confusion mirrored in Putin’s new anti-gay law.

      I agree that G is probably not prejudiced, and I imagine that Putin himself is too pragmatic a man, and has seen too much in his long spying career, to be phased by any combination of consenting adults in bed.

      But that, as Norman has shown in several posts on this matter, ignores the point.

      I see no need to prioritize, as you suggest, on matters of human rights, and war is another discussion. Does this meet your requirement of logic?

      The City of Munich has contracted, as I understand it, to pay its new “employee” upwards of €4 million for part-time work between 2015 and 2020. He will be expected to follow the rules.

      • Musiker says:

        Was it a good concert, sdReader, just out of personal interest?

        I think Gergiev is currently hard to beat in Stravinsky and other Russian repertoire and hope to make it Munich to hear him as soon as possible.

        Did he hit it off with the orchestra?

        How did audience react to him and to the protesters?

      • ed says:

        sdReader- When Gergiev is in Munich, I imagine he would respect German law in this matter- he does anyway- which is what the City fathers should concern themselves with, not his association with Putin.

        As for the Russian law, it does not take away the right of consenting adults to practice homosexuality. The right it impinges on is the right to advocate the practice of homosexuality to minors. That may or may not be a human right. The right not to be murdered is.

        • Musiker says:

          My, my. Your vocabulary is very confused and bizarre.

          “Practice homosexuality” and “advocate the practice of homosexuality”.

          Do you “practice” heterosexuality? Do you get better at being heterosexual the more you “practice”?

          How does somebody “advocate” sexuality of whatever nature?

          Do you “advocate” heterosexuality?

          Is your sexuality something you freely choose, like going to a store to buy a pair of shoes?

          Even if — in your warped view of the world — you believe it is, aren’t we human beings allowed a freedom of choice?

          Or are we only allowed to “choose” what the authorities — religious or secular — permit us to?

          The act of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in itself harms or threatens or jeopardises no-one.

          Intolerance, bigotry and hatred harm, threaten and jeopardise all, create misery and hardship and suffering and engender violence, rape and murder.

          It is an evil and pernicious lie that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people seek to recruit by way of “propaganda” or “advocacy” and it is a lie that defies any logic or has any basis in fact.

          It simply isn’t true.

  • Steve Foster says:

    This is such a non-issue.

  • CDH says:

    Barack Obama ran for office with a “promise” to close Guantanamo Bay, one of the biggest symbols of the absence of human rights or law in history, within a year of election. He is careening toward retirement after two terms and it looks unlikely he will have closed it by then.

    I am not discussing the political rights or wrongs or even realities of this. But a lot of people have made an eloquent case that the removal of any human or legal right in any country is a blight upon civilisation. Are all American conductors who are known to have voted for Obama to be called to account for the fact of Guantanamo or the failed promise to close it? If so, why just conductors? Let’s go for all opera singers, all orchestral players (locked out or otherwise), and why restrict ourselves to music?

    In other words, taking out anger at Putin’s policies because Gergiev has publicly endorsed him is ludicrous. Gergiev is probably just self-interested, and he got a lot for the Mariinsky out of Putin, whatever else. But his statements have consistently been to the effect that he harbours no anti-gay feeling. Until and unless that is seriously challenged, I think hounding him over this issue is sheer scapegoating.

    • Indeed; very well said. Funny how German employers are not requiring all American artists to openly condemn the bugging of Angela Merkel’s mobile telephone (which is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg).

  • Brian says:

    My thought exactly.

  • harold braun says:

    This discussion is bullshit,really.Bullshit,fueled by hypocrisy and build on non artistic grounds.

  • ed says:

    Musiker- Setting aside the semantics, the law does not criminalize the condition, or act of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, nor does it criminalize adults for engaging in sexual acts with one another, regardless of one’s sexual identity or orientation. It does bar both: 1) the propagandizing of pedophilia to minors, and, 2) the propagandizing of ‘sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism amongst minors’. In this regard, the statute appears to define ‘propagandizing’ as “the purposeful and uncontrolled dissemination of information in a publicly accessible way”.

    On the issue of pedophilia, which deals with the intimate- i.e., sexual- relations between adults and minors, I don’t think there is much of a disagreement. The real concern is whether it is good policy to teach children that non-traditional relationships are not equivalent- i.e., are less equal- than traditional marital relationships. In my view it is that part of the law that is mistaken, even if it is reflective of a more general cultural bias in Russia. Whether preventing the uncontrolled public dissemination of such information to a minor is the same as denying a ‘human right’, however, is an open question.

    Acts of rape, murder, violence which you cite, are not in any way legalized by this law.

  • ed says:

    One further point, the law does not specifically say that children may not be raised in non-traditional households. If it did, that would be a different matter.

  • Musiker says:

    Ed: I’m assuming that this is your translation of the Russian wording of the law.

    But what does “the purposeful and uncontrolled dissemination of information in a publicly accessible way” actually mean?

    It is preposterous.

    Being informed or told that there are lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in this world, being informed or told that these people are also capable of having long-term. stable, loving relationships — even if those relationships don’t fit in with the heterosexual norm — does not increase the risk that children will become gay.

    Informed, open, tolerant and level-headed discussion about sexuality in its different forms, does not pervert or coerce anyone or harm their psychological or physical well-being.

    Children are bombarded with heterosexual “propaganda” — or in your words “purposeful and uncontrolled dissemination of information in a publicly accessible way” — from the moment they are born.

    But that’s OK, is it?

    Strangely, all that “propaganda” doesn’t succeed in turning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people into heterosexuals. So why in heaven’s name, should it work the other way?

    The psychological damage is done when bigots and hate-mongers tell teenagers and young adults — who are already undergoing the scary process of discovering their sexuality — that’s its wrong or “sinful” to feel attracted to someone of their own sex.

    Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people would be the last people in the world to want to force their sexuality on someone else, because they know what it’s like.

    They’ve had heterosexuality forced down their throats — via film, television, the media — all their lives.

    They know the misery and suffering that can cause. So what possible interest would they have in coercing anyone into any other sexuality than that person’s own?

    People who are comfortable with their own sexuality are more likely to be comfortable with people of a different sexuality to their own.

    From a statistical point of view, the overwhelming majority of people in this world are indeed heterosexual. No-one has any problem with that, least of all lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

    That’s the way nature is.

    But to pretend that the minority don’t have the same fundamental human right to love the person they choose, regardless of their gender, and not to have to hide or keep quiet about that love, is wrong.

    Putin’s preposterous legislation does exactly that.

  • ed says:

    I agree with almost all of what you say- as a matter of policy. This Russian law regulates the proselytizing of children (and some Russian cities have banned public demonstrations), but not all of the rest as you suggest. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is a mistake not to educate our children to understand that we are all part of a larger community and accept us all as we are. There is no denying that homophobia exists in Russian society (as it does everywhere else in the world, including the United States and Great Britain). At the same time there is no denying that the separate and very real problem of child trafficking or pedophilia (which the law in a separate provision addresses) also exists in Russia (as it does here and in Britain). And, it is a mistake to fly into a panic about what the law itself is not, or to blame a single individual for a societal or parliamentary decision, or for not joining a movement to publicly oppose that societal or parliamentary decision. Moreover, had one more U.S. Supreme Court Justice voted differently in June, one would might have been in the same or similar position here in the States with these issues and problems – remember the California state law against non-traditional marriage passed by popular referendum that was overturned by the Supreme Court?- (and, in fact, in some regions of the country we still are). Also, keep in mind that we seem now to be entering another Cold War, and issues such as these are easily manipulated by cynical leaders to distract us from their wars and other serious geopolitical conflicts.

    Enough. Let’s give this one a rest for now and listen to some music. Gergiev, anyone?

  • m2n2k says:

    Music is great, ed. But life is bigger and even more important. As you said, homophobia in Russia is very strong, but the trouble is that this discriminatory law reinforces and further legitimizes homophobic attitudes, thus encouraging homophobic violence. This discussion, ed, is far from being “enough”. It has barely scratched the surface.

  • ed says:

    You’re right, this discussion is only the beginning, but sometimes it helps to pause at an occasional fermata to catch one’s breath, or refresh one’s soul with some good music or art.

    You are also right that there is a bias in the Russian law in favor of traditional versus non-traditional relationships, but I would question whether the law per se encourages homophobic violence. The law clearly does not seek to bar or criminalize homosexuality, or sexual acts between adults of the same gender- at least, the legislation (or legislators’ note) by its terms so states, as have Russia’s leaders, including Putin (who was not a member of the Duma that passed the bill). Nor has the issue lacked vigorous debate in Russia itself. See, for example, the Moscow Times at: )

    But beware of being manipulated by cynical leaders who selectively demonize only their opponents, and do so for reasons unrelated to those rights they claim to protect . As an example, some of the Ukraine factional leaders that the US and EU (and such lunatics as John McCain) publicly support as expressing the will and “human rights’ of the Ukrainian people, persons such as Oleh Tyahnybok, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk, are openly anti-semitic and/or homophobic, yet we hear nothing of it from McCain or our State Department, or the pompous idiots in the EU Parliament; and, recall that, just recently, the Supreme Court of India upheld a draconian anti-homosexuality colonial-era law, notwithstanding the Indian Constitution’s supposed guarantee of ‘fundamental rights’- including, specifically, ‘equal rights’- to all of its citizens. In other words, the Indian Supreme Court essentially held that the rights claimed were not fundamental but were a policy matter that could only be changed by the Indian Parliament. If our leaders, and the mainstream media – Murdoch, et al – were serious about protecting LGBT rights they would weigh in there as well, and would start by cleaning up their/our own act, and also recognize that human rights and democracy don’t always mean the same for different peoples and cultures. If one seeks change, one must convince ‘the people’ to accept the legitimacy of one’s position, and in the case of Russia and elsewhere, maybe that means starting by educating the adults.

    Now, I will keep quiet…..for a while.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “Human rights and democracy don’t always mean the same for different peoples and cultures.” Funny to hear that again, since this has been for years the chief excuse of every tyranny, especially (since probably inventend by) the communist one, Mr Putin’s political cradle.

    • m2n2k says:

      The article the link to which you have provided so generously makes several good points and states correctly that the Russian law in question is “enforcing inequality”. But it appeared in an English language publication intended for native English language speakers, definitely not for most Russian readers, and was written by “a Canadian author of gay romance fiction” – and you are citing it as an example and/or proof of “vigorous debate in Russia itself”(?!) – that is simply laughable. If your other point is that some Western leaders do not pay enough attention to this issue, I have no problem agreeing with that. But “educating the adults” cannot be achieved by misinforming younger generation or at the very least by keeping them in the dark – ages, that is -essentially uninformed.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        What I have always found fascinating in Mr ed’s position (a quite familiar one) is the apparent contradiction between to kinds of arguments, which reminds me of an old joke : “first, I have never borrowed it; second, I’ve given it back long ago; and third, it’s been broken in the first place”. Here the first argument is “universalist” : it’s just as bad in the West (it isn’t, of course, so it’s all bogus, but at least it’s a try), and the second is the above mentioned anti-universalist one. It’s changing criteria in midstream : 1. your temperature is the same as mine; 2. anyway, the termometer is broken.

        BTW, the choice of a “foreign, and therefore objective witness” would also be a classic.