Two years ago the Russian parliament gave the go-ahead to a hugely controversial law banning “gay propaganda” across the country. The very wording of the document evoked some of the darkest memories of the Soviet past, when homosexuality was punished by law and ostracised by society. The watershed event marked the beginning of new and uncertain times for sexual minorities — and the return of an almost forgotten state monopoly on private life.
Yet for two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, this history of sexual persecution was forgotten, and the formerly “sexless” nation rediscovered its hunger for experimentation. Sex of all varieties dominated public life in 1990s Russia. It was all over the TV, where popular evening talk show About That stole the thunder from politics, and in the streets, where adult shops and overly explicit billboards replaced propaganda posters. Sex was in the air. But its most vivid reflection could be found in popular culture, particularly in music, which encapsulated the hopes, dreams and secret desires of the new generation.
We’ve picked some of the most popular music videos which, having once topped the charts on national television, now serve as a nostalgic reminder of a time when Russia was gayer than ever.