Friday, September 15, 2006

Slava Mogutin: Beautiful and intelectual

Journalist, poet, writer, photographer, and performance artist

Born in Siberia as Yaroslav Y. Mogutin, at 18, he moved to Moscow, where he began writing literary criticism and articles on gay issues for several Russian newspapers and journals. The relaxation of censorship and proliferation of gay journals that began with Gorbachev's glasnost and accelerated with the breakup of the Soviet Union meant that emigre and underground writers could be rediscovered and new writers could be published as well.

A few serious gay writers have appeared on the Russian literary scene as well. Among these the most noteworthy is the poet Mogutin. He soon began to publish his first articles, Slava became the target of a criminal prosecution for his outspoken writing and for being the first openly gay personality in the Russian media.

He was charged with "open and deliberate contempt for the generally accepted moral norms; malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence; corruption of public morals, propaganda of sexual perversions, psychic pathology, brutal violence; using profane language; inflaming national, social and religious division..."

The political and legal harassment increased after his widely publicized attempt to officially register the first same-sex marriage in Russia with his American partner. On April 12, 1994 Mogutin made news by attempting to marry his boyfriend, Robert Filippini, at the Moscow Palace of Weddings. By the age of 21, he had gained both critical acclaim and official condemnation for his outspoken writing.

As an openly gay writer in Russia during Perestroika, his controversial opinions on homosexuality did little to endear him to the authorities, who harassed him to the point that he was forced to leave Russia for New York. In 1995, he was forced to leave Russia and was granted political asylum in the US, with the support from Amnesty International, American PEN, and other human rights groups.

He is the author of 6 books in Russian, including the autobiographical America in My Pants (1999), the best-selling collection 30 Interviews (2001), and SS: Superhuman Supertexts (2000), his most experimental book to date, which was banned for sale in all the emigre book stores in America, but won prestigious Andrei Bely Prize, the oldest unofficial literary award in Russia. Mogutin took up photography shortly after emigrating. Since 1999, he has been showing his work internationally and has contributed to a wide range of publications.

No comments: