Russian Orthodox Priests Want to Take Back Alaska and Save Its Non-Gays
Back in the day (by which I mean from 1733-1867), Alaska was a Russian colonial possession. In 1867, we bought it off the Russkies for two cents an acre. That may sound like a measly sum, but in those days two cents was considered riches—you could buy a pair of Air Force 1s with it and still have enough change left over to start your own slave colony.
Anyway, last weekend, a Russian Orthodox group known as the Pchyolki called bullshit on that deal and demanded that Alaska be returned to Russia. These guys previously gained notoriety for their reaction to Pussy Riot’s controversial performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, when they produced a handy guide for any Russian Orthodox Christians unlucky enough to be accosted by blasphemers. Apparently you’re supposed to destroy their electronic equipment with holy water, spit in their faces, and keep in mind to “avoid shedding of blood in the church itself, but if the scorners are violent outside the church grounds, you shall fight back accordingly.”
Media reports suggested that the issue of gay marriage had prompted the demand to get Alaska back. Predictably, the group isn’t too happy about two guys exchanging vows and with Obama said to be considering that very act, the Pchyolki are taking preemptive action to protect the state’s Orthodox Christian community. I phoned up Nikolay Bondarenko, the Pchyolki leader, for a chat.
VICE: Hi Nikolay. Why are you questioning the legitimacy of the USA’s ownership of Alaska?
Nikolay Bondarenko: Because the original deal wasn’t done properly. Legally, the USA shouldn’t own Alaska. In the legal documents of the original deal that sold Alaska to the US government in the 1960s it specifies the terms of payment—it says that Russia will sell Alaska to America for $7.2 million and payment of the equivalent of this sum should be made by gold. But in fact the payment was made by check. Why was that? It is not known where that actual check is now, so we can’t even prove that Russians received that payment. At the time Russia and the USA were allies, so whoever was responsible for that deal must have done it on purpose.
Why do you want Alaska back?
As a human rights organization we have to think about the rights of the Russians and other Orthodox people of Alaska. Article three of the original agreement highlighted that all people living there will be treated by the government according to their traditions, beliefs, and religion, and the majority of residents were Orthodox. When Obama announced his plans to legalize same-sex marriage, we realized it will really affect the Orthodox population of Alaska and it will directly violate the agreement.
Have you wanted it back before now? What prompted you to file the lawsuit?
We could have claimed it back a few months ago; we could have claimed it back 100 years ago. The formal “trigger” was the Schneerson Library case, when, a few months ago, an American court ordered Russia to hand over the library to Hasidic jews of America with a $50,000 fine for every day it wasn’t returned. This was very outrageous and caused a lot of discussion.
How do you rate your chances of getting it back?
We have much better legal grounds to get Alaska back than they had then, so we are quite positive about our chances.
HEY HOMOPHOBES, STOP CALLING INDIVIDUALS “ORGANIZATIONS” TO MAKE YOURSELVES SEEM MORE LEGIT
On Wednesday, a coalition of over 40 homophobic hate groups got together to run an ad in USA Today urging the Boy Scouts of America to continue discriminating against gay people. (I’m not sure if “homophobic hate groups” is the preferred term, BTW. I think they call themselves “family protection superhero squads” or something. Whatever.)
As I’m sure you know, the Boy Scouts of America are in the process of reviewing a policy that forbids gays from joining their club. In the year 2013. The ad presents a list of 42 organizations who want all concerned parents to call the Scouts and ask them to keep their rules the old, mean way.
Looking down the list of “undersigned organizations” in the ad, I’d heard of a few of them. Like Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America. But the majority were new to me, and seemed to have been named by picking buzzwords like “family,” “america,” “foundation,” “values,” etc. out of a hat.
I decided to call them to try and find out what they’re all about. Here’s a breakdown of what happened:
Helping the Malaysian Government Find Gay Dudes on Grindr
The Malaysian government has a throbbing, vein-popping hard-on for gay guys. In fact, they’re so concerned about the homosexual population’s “rampant” activities that they’ve sent 66 “effeminate boys” to be straightened out in the most macho, testosterone-driven pastime known to man: paintballing. Better that, I suppose, than the other prospect for gay men in a country where homosexuality is illegal: a prison sentence or the totally un-homoerotic punishment of being bare-bottom caned in public by another guy.
Besides the government’s foolproof scheme of sending a bunch of gay teenagers to spend time with each other in an effort to make them not gay, the education minister has also just published a handy guide on how to “spot a gay.” That guide suggests looking out for stuff like a “Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body,” “A fondness for V-neck T-shirts,” “A tendency to carry large handbags,” and (shocker) “An inclination to be attracted to men”—so the general public of Malaysia can join in, too.
I spoke to Jerome Kugan of Malaysian LGBT rights group Seksualiti Merdeka to find out how many homophobic vigilante citizens are following the guide and rounding up hordes of muscular men in V-neck T-shirts.
VICE: Hi Jerome. So, is anyone actually taking this guide seriously in Malaysia?
Jerome Kugan: Discussions about sexuality are still very taboo in mainstream Malaysian society, even though we’ve always had our fair share of sexual diversity. Most Malaysians don’t really want to face the issue because it’s quite personal, but this absurd guide, whether it’s taken seriously or not, is part of a growing movement within the conservative right that sees LGBTs as deprived of moralistic and religious values.
Are you concerned that, if this going to be the norm, Malaysia’s next generation is going to be raised as homophobes?
Yeah, that’s definitely a major concern. We at Seksualiti Merdeka feel like the government is practically giving people a licence to perpetrate acts of vigilante bullying against innocent Malaysian LGBTs. Also, the majority of Malaysians are Muslim, so the influential local religious bodies already view being gay as a symptom of moral degradation, like a social sickness that needs to be rehabilitated. A lot of religious Malaysians buy into that idea, but as long as there are voices of resistance, I think there’s still hope.
Is there a particular reason it’s been brought up again like this?
Some of us think that the government is fuelling anti-LGBT sentiments to turn it into a moral and political scapegoat issue. There’s an upcoming general election, so they’re trying to link the issue with other parties as some kind of smear campaign.
Wow, that sucks. Lastly, settle this for me: Every single gay guy in Malaysia wears a V-neck the whole time, right?
[Laughs] No, but they are quite popular in chic urban enclaves. I have a few in my closet, but I reckon, after this official guide, they’re going to get a whole lot more popular.
THE VICE GUIDE TO SPORTS
You either give a shit about sports or you don’t, and the delineation between these two types of people is usually pretty clear. Just so we’re all on the same page: Hosting a Super Bowl party or casually rooting for your hometown team is not the same thing as actual fandom. Real fans check sports sites (used to be the sports page) constantly, buy jerseys, talk back at talk radio, experience for-real emotions when their team loses or wins big, and WILL kick your ass if you make fun of their favorite player for long enough.
If you don’t “get” sports, extreme fandom seems like a psychological disorder—like, why are you so happy and jumping up and down and screaming because some guy hit a ball? And if you are a fan, you respond to these questions with a response like “YOU DON’T GET IT, PUSSY! THAT MAN WHO JUST HIT THE BALL GOT US INTO THE PLAYOFFS AND HE IS GREAT LIKE GHANDI, AND OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO CREAM MY FUCKING PANTS RAHHHHHHHHHHH!”
As a service to the world and in an attempt to prove that, like laughter, athletics can serve as a universal language, we’ve written a handy guide that, with any luck, will help bridge the gap between these two groups, like the great relationship Bill Clinton fostered between the Israelis and the Palestinians. (A fair comparison, because fans and non-fans are two groups who will never, ever understand each other. For now we’ll just make fun of both).
Plenty of fans use “we” when referring to a team: “We played well Tuesday; we really fore-checked that midget into the board with disdain; we saved money signing this rich asshole for slightly less money than the other asshole who wasn’t as rich.” Don’t do this unless you: 1) work for the organization; 2) are semi-regularly making love to someone on the team; or 3) are on the team. We understand that you like yours a ton and watch every single game intently and are convinced you would be a good GM, but when the Islanders leave your stupid town for another equally moronic but more profitable shithole, you’ll be cursing yourself for imagining a bunch of stupid strangers actually had a stake in your sad little walled-in life.They won the game. You sat on the couch and ate Wild White Nacho Doritos and tried half-heartedly to masturbate to the annoying lady in the insurance commercial.
“Now, son, I have some bad news for you: You’re a Mets fan. There’s just no two ways about it. See, I’m a Mets fan, my father was a Mets fan, and just like my alcoholism and my crippling inability to discuss my feelings, I’m passing my fandom down to you. I’ll take you to Mets games, school you in Mets history—we were really good in the 80s, when the players were doing a lot of good coke—show you my VHS tapes of games I recorded, and force you to play little league so you understand the game. Even if you try to reject your fandom, some of it will stay with you, so that one day you’ll be in an airport bar, see the highlights of yet another Mets loss on ESPN4, and curse the Lord Jesus Christ under your breath. Sorry. I am aware this makes no sense, but you are definitely going to have to live this way.”