Russian gay activist speaks at Columbia University

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Wednesday Mar 2, 2011

Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev spoke at Columbia University in New York on Tuesday, March 1.

Alekseev outlined the oppression and even violence he and other Moscow Pride organizers have faced since they first held the event in 2006. He also discussed the European Court of Human Rights' Oct. 2010 ruling that found Russian officials violated Moscow Pride organizers' right to assemble peacefully.

As EDGE previously reported, Alekseev's American speaking tour began in Chicago on Sunday, Feb. 26. He is scheduled to speak at New York's LGBT Community Center and in Texas, but his Columbia appearance came amid controversy over anti-Semitic comments he reportedly posted to his blog in late January.

Equality California and other organizations that had sponsored Alekseev's scheduled appearances in the Golden State withdrew their support after they said the activist had failed to clarify his statements. Alekseev categorically denied he is anti-Semitic. He criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supporting former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but Alekseev alleged former Human Rights Watch staffer Scott Long of starting "this campaign against me" on the same day he arrived in the United States.

"I would like to say that I have several Jewish friends who I treasure, including one Jewish American who played a significant role in Moscow Pride movement for years, helping to organize all our events in Russia," wrote Alekseev in a statement he released after he spoke at Columbia. "I adore her and I consider her as one of the most outstanding people I met in my life. Without her Moscow Pride campaign would not be as successful as it was."

He also noted his mother's stepfather was Jewish.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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