MOSCOW — The day last month that Russian lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill establishing fines for spreading "propaganda" supporting homosexuality among minors, leading Russian media personality Anton Krasovsky was fired after publicly revealing that he is gay.
While anchoring a late-night TV show on Jan. 25, Krasovsky, 37, said that not only is he gay, he is also "as human as President [Vladimir] Putin, Prime Minister [Dmitry] Medvedev" and the members of the parliament.
Krasovsky, who served as editor in chief of Kontr TV, an Internet and cable television network launched by the Kremlin in December, said in an interview recently that human rights and liberties are violated more and more and that "mutual hatred and resentment is being instilled in the Russian society from above."
Some questions and answers from that interview in a restaurant at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow:
What was your message and what was the motivation behind it?
It was in no measure a political or a social manifesto on my part. At some point I simply realized nice and clear that I was increasingly growing ashamed of myself.
As a gay in a homophobic country I have grown used to lying my head off on a daily basis. Every morning I wake up with a thought of what lie I have to tell today. I am fed up with it. I am not going to lie anymore!
The lying I have been made part of is ruinous for Russia.... I understand they would have forgiven me the "I am gay" part and joked it away or pretended it had never happened. But the part that I am "as human as Putin" must have been too much for them to swallow.
Do you understand that you might have ruined a promising career with state-run television?
I am a man of their system.... I believed then and still believe that it is easier to change the system from within the system. [Late former President Boris] Yeltsin would have never done what he did to change the country if he had been outside the system.
I kept trying to persuade myself all the time that working for the Kremlin also gives me a better chance to combat idiots and idiocy at all levels. But they soon found a way to show me who ran the show as I was trying to stop short of turning into a Kremlin propaganda tool.
When did you decide you could take it no more?
The point of no return for me was the adoption of the law [banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans] and then the initial passing of this homophobic law. The last drop was the talk show I anchored a few days before [the firing], which was devoted to that bill prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality among minors.
For all my professional skills and experience I felt uncomfortable conducting it. At some point I asked some gay activists invited as guests, "When did you realize you were gay?" And suddenly one of them hit me back with, "When did you realize you were straight?"
Some opposition ideologues expect you to join their ranks and boost their cause with your popularity and charisma. What is on your agenda now?
I don't want to take sides.... If I don't want to support the czar that doesn't mean I want to side with the Lenin, Trotsky and company of current Russian opposition. I don't want to become a Russian Harvey Milk. As a matter of fact I don't see how a Harvey Milk type can suddenly rise from within the Russian quiet gay community, which doesn't have the guts to stand up and fight for their rights and their equality in a nation where it is more appropriate and less shameful to be a thief than a gay. I don't want to fight with the state; I want the state to leave me in peace.
By passing the gay propaganda law the state officially declares all Russian homosexuals people of the second sort that children should be hidden and protected from.
What other issues worry you in Russia today?
Now they are talking about reinstating a death penalty. What will they come up with next? Exit visas or new hard-to-get foreign travel passports? Things I thought unimaginable only a few months ago suddenly loom ahead as a near possibility. I can't get rid of a strong, palpable sensation that the atmosphere in Russia is getting more depressing and sinister by the day without any trace of light in the fast-descending darkness all around us.
It is a known fact that you vigorously supported Putin during his first presidential campaign? What has happened to you or with Putin since that has compelled you to change your attitude?
I voted for Putin in 2000 and I am not ashamed of that, and I respect Putin for his job of leading the country out of its economic and political turmoil at the time and for resolving the armed confrontation in Chechnya.
What really beats me now is what his plan is, if there is a plan.
Why are they so desperately trying to polarize the entire society? Why are they trying to pit one group of people against another? What are the gains from a majority hating people from the Caucasus as if the war there has never ended and as if they are our sworn enemies? What do they gain if the aggressive majority continues to hate and despise gays who pose no danger and would be quite comfortable with simply being left alone?
Why do they want to pit the rest of the country against the pro-Western part of it? Why does the Kremlin all the time go along with the assumption that democracy is about a majority being always right and thus allowed to pester the minorities? Why doesn't the state feel obligated to protect the minorities from the majority? Why create more and more groups of outcasts to channel the collective hatred of the majority?
Putin is step by step repeating all the mistakes our last czar, Nicolas II, made. Obviously sensing that his formerly solid base of middle-aged women from lower middle classes is no longer that solid, Putin and his entourage are now trying their best to bow to the interests of the lowly proletarian classes — disgruntled, morally depraved and hardly literate lumpen masses of youths.
What could be the consequences of this policy?
The way they are going, one day Putin and his men in the Kremlin will be visited by a sudden realization that now they are themselves in a vulnerable minority and that those uncontrollable lowly masses they have fostered have finally come for them.
I didn't vote for him in 2012, and I won't vote for him in the future. I would like very much to live to have a chance to see somebody else in this job now.
As "a man in the system" do you see signs that the close-to-the-Kremlin elite is as split as the society now?
Many people even in the Kremlin and around it are growing tired of Putin. They have things to lose, and they won't for long stand aside and applaud Putin for quarreling with the United States and Western Europe to the point where they won't be able to travel to America and Europe and enjoy the riches they have stashed away in Western bank accounts.
If this crazy policy is not reversed, Putin will end up with no support base by time of the next election in 2018. That is if he politically survives that long anyway. And if he does the only way for him to win the next presidency will be by stuffing ballot boxes inside-out.
Unfortunately Putin lacks the will and talent to become a Russian Thomas Jefferson; he squandered that chance history gave him.
What are you planning to do now?
I don't have a clue. I am in limbo. It is impossible to be a materially successful independent journalist in Russia. If you simply speak your opinion and stick to it, you eventually become an enemy to all forces of the political spectrum.
There is less and less fresh air for me left in Russia. And what is left I don't want to breathe in any more.