Histories of Religion and Homophobia in Eurasia

A conference as part of the Fell Fund supported project “Between Russia and Europe: Homophobic Politics and LGBT Activism in Eurasia”, Russian & East European Studies unit, Oxford School for Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford

11-12 April 2019, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

“Histories of Religion and Homophobia in Eurasia” will explore what is known about religion and the history of its approaches to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizenship in the republics of the Former Soviet Union. Today these institutions offer a conduit of transnational homophobic influence, with relevance to wider global trends. But the scholarship on the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and other regional Orthodox churches (Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian) and their historical attitudes to homosexuality is underdeveloped. Even less is known about varieties of Islam in the former Soviet Union and the history of Muslim approaches to LGBT questions in the region.

We know from the work of Eve Levin and Natalia Pushkareva that Russian Orthodox hostility to deviant sexuality has medieval roots, but there is very little scholarship explaining how this attitude evolved after 1700. A particular gap in studies of the history of Imperial Russian sexualities is a focus on religious dogma, ideas, and public discussion about homosexuality and gender deviation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recent historiography on theological matters in late Imperial Russia posits a dynamic and intellectually active Church: how did it conceive of sodomitical sin, lesbian love, and gender deviance, in this period, to whom did it address its concerns about these issues, how forcefully, and to what ends?

Emergent work on Western Christianity posits modernising trends in churches applying liberalised norms and increasingly medical, psychological, or psychiatric perspectives to LGBT issues in the twentieth century. What became of Russian and neighbouring late-Imperial modes of thinking theologically about same-sex love and gender dissent during the Soviet era? Were there similar modernising trends in ROC theology after 1991, and how did the current ROC support for the Kremlin’s conservative-nationalist official homophobia evolve? After 1991 the US religious right and Russian conservatives developed important links, but the nature of these ties and their influence on Putin’s ‘traditional values’ discourses remains under-documented and under-analysed. In the aftermath of the Chechen detention, torture and murder of gay men in 2017, the evolution of ‘traditional values’ agendas in Islamic societies in the Russian Federation and in Central Asian republics is a critical issue we seek to explore.

We invite seminar paper proposals on these questions and related themes from historians, political scientists, and scholars of religion. Our interest is historical, but we wish to
understand the contemporary dimensions of these issues from a wide range of disciplines. The language of the conference will be English.

Please send us a 350 word abstract with your paper title and description, as well as a 150 word biography. Deadline for Proposals is 17 January 2019. Please send your abstract to: rees.enquiriesarea.ox.acuk.

We welcome scholars from all academic levels, and we hope to offer packages of support tailored to individual circumstances. Targeted financial support will be prioritised for young scholars. The conference is supported financially by the University of Oxford’s John Fell Fund. We intend to have an informal arrival event in the evening of Wednesday 10 April 2019, followed by one and a half days of conference discussion ending midday on Friday 12 April 2019. Works may be selected for publication in a conference volume or article cluster, and therefore we will give preference to unpublished original research.


  • Dan Healey, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford
  • George Chauncey, Department of History, Columbia University


31. Oktober 2018


17. Januar 2019