Homosexuality in Authoritarian States

  By: Willem Nesbitt

The contrasts, comparisons, and evaluations of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia are seemingly endless, though of course done for obvious reasons. While most of these comparisons occur in the realms of warfare and political policy, the readings by Thomas Kühne and Dan Healey offer a unique, overlooked axis of analysis – that of homosexuality and the concept of “manliness” within these authoritative states.

            Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, unsurprisingly, outlawed homosexual practices, Heinrich Himmler’s “homophobic family policy,” which stemmed from his “obsessive fear of homosexuality,” (Kühne, p. 393) not too dissimilar from the Soviet politburo’s “enthusiastic” embrace of criminalizing male homosexuality in the 1930s (Healey, p. 32). The banning of sexual practices and sexualities opposed to the traditional heterosexual status-quo is simply par for the course for authoritative governments, but the readings also reveal that there was also a certain amount of ambivalence, or at least opaqueness, within both Germany and Russia at the time. The banning of homosexuality in Russia turned a blind eye to lesbianism, instead centering the crime around the act of “sodomy” (Healey p. 32), and likewise, Thomas Kühne’s writing reveals that the practices and guidelines of the SS advocated for husbands and fathers to take on roles that were more traditionally “feminine”, such as child rearing and close friendship with other males. While Healey focuses in-depth on the concepts of homosexuality and queerness within Russia’s gulag system, Kühne centers his paper more-so around the role of the male within German society and the Nazi regime, leaving me to wonder more on the views of homosexuality in Germany. Of course the Holocaust saw the inclusion of homosexuals within its terrible events, but the case of Hitler (at least temporarily) turning a blind eye to Ernst Röhm’s homosexuality leaves me curious.

One Reply to “Homosexuality in Authoritarian States”

  1. This was really intriguing to read. Something that really struck me was that the banning of homosexuality in Russia focused on the act of sodomy, and the criminalization of male homosexuality in the 1930s. You could say that not much has changed about the Russian attitudes towards homosexuality: in the case of Chechnya, for example, they have been detaining and killing mostly LGBT+ men since (at least) 2017, and some women as well. Ramzan Kadyrov has even denied the existence of gay men in Chechnya as well as denying these allegations of LGBT+ men being killed and detained. It is really interesting to look at the historical parallels in this situation, especially with the comparison between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany that you have already made-is this a situation in which it’s beneficial to compare historical and current events to better understand a situation?

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