Love's Labor Lost, Says City Hall
There was no love and dancing in the streets of Moscow or Berlin last week after the Moscow mayor's press office issued a terse message that appeared to ditch any chance of the capital having its own Love Parade on City Day.
The techno-dance festival that regularly draws more than a million people onto the streets of Berlin and hundreds of thousands in cities all over the world was abruptly rejected by the city after, it seems, City Hall confused it with a gay-pride festival.
"The city government will not allow holding this march in Moscow on City Day or on any other day because such demonstrations outrage the majority of the capital's population, are in effect propaganda of dissipation and force upon society unacceptable norms of behavior," the statement said, adding that homosexuality "goes against traditional moral values of most Russians, as well as the canons of the main religious confessions in the city."
Dumbfounded organizers said they would have understood a complaint about the extra noise and garbage that the parade would bring, but the reasoning used to call off the Love Parade was baffling because the festival in Berlin and elsewhere is a techno festival. In addition to music, the parade promotes a tolerance of lifestyles.
"Maybe it is a misunderstanding or ignorance of what Love Parade is about," said Bernd Matzke of the Love Parade's international affairs department, in a telephone interview from Berlin. "Love Parade is dedicated to the development of techno music."
"They confused it with gay pride," said Nikita Ivanov, head of the English-language part of the national gay and lesbian web site Gay.ru. "It's only marginally related to gays and lesbians."
He also slammed City Hall's statement as an insult to gays.
"We strongly condemn the statement of the Moscow mayor for it's anti-gay slur," said Ivanov. "We consider it incitement of social hatred toward a most vulnerable group."
Love Parade organizers said City Hall had fully backed the festival — which was to coincide with a celebration of Moscow's 854th anniversary on Sept. 2 — just weeks earlier.
"We were a little bit surprised," said Matzke, adding that he recently sat in on an upbeat meeting with the city's culture department. "They were all hands up for the Love Parade."
Indeed, the Moscow city government was so eager to have up to a hundred thousand people dancing in the center of the city that in preliminary negotiations it even suggested moving the parade downtown from an originally planned site at Sparrow Hills, organizers said.
Russian organizers, who already have a web site at Loveparade.ru showing the proposed parade route, were flabbergasted when they first saw the City Hall statement and have been working since then to find out what went wrong.
"We don't want our festival to be linked to gay pride," said one of the Russian organizers of the parade.
City Hall did not reply to repeated requests for comment last week.
Scrapping the plan to host Love Parade could mean the loss of revenues for the city. The original Love Parade pumps 250 million Deutsche marks ($112 million) into the Berlin economy each year.
Love Parade organizers wouldn't speculate as to what caused City Hall's sudden change of heart.
Ivanov suggested the strongly worded statement came under pressure from the Orthodox Church.
"We clearly see the hand of the Orthodox Patriarchy, which has recently confirmed its condemnation of homosexuality in its social doctrine, in this statement," he said.
The Orthodox Church refused to comment about the parade.
Its position as set out in its social doctrine is that homosexuality is "the sinful damage of human nature."
A criminal offense in Soviet times, homosexuality is still frowned upon by the majority of the population, although small centers of gay culture have developed in Moscow and other large cities.
Despite the City Hall statement, Love Parade organizers are still keeping their fingers crossed that the event will go ahead.
"It would be a great pity if we don't find a solution in Moscow," said Matzke.
This year's Berlin festival had problems of its own winning a permit for the event after environmentalists complained about the amount of garbage left behind last year. Two of Russia's top DJs, Sonar and Groove, were among those who played for the German crowds.
Regardless of City Hall's comments, a gay pride parade may one day take place in Moscow.
About 50 people participated in a gay pride parade in St. Petersburg last year, Ivanov said. Gay.ru is raising money to organize a similar parade in Moscow within two years.