CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with artistic and general director of Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, spoke about the scrutiny over gay rights in Russia, and how this legislation may affect the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
During the interview, Gergiev told Fareed, “I myself question very much why the country needed something like this law,” regarding the anti-gay legislation that recently passed in Russia. He said this while emphasizing that this law is viewed differently in Russia.
Gergiev on the anti-gay legislation passed in Russia right before the Sochi Olympics
ZAKARIA: The Sochi Olympics have raised, as a controversy, an issue that you have also gotten embroiled in, which is this issue of gays and gay rights. What do you think of the law that was passed in Russia that internationally is read as being extremely hostile to gays?
GERGIEV: I think it was seen internationally as a bad thing happening in Russia. I think in Russia, the view was different. The way people read this law is slightly different or sometimes very different. First of all, I myself hate any form of discrimination. And as the head of an institution, it's a big institution, we have more than 3,000 people working for the Mariinsky Theatre, I would never allow any sort of discrimination to take place. But in Russia, I think it's a very controversial issue. And now, because of the Olympics coming very soon, everyone thinks of safety. So I am sure it's not the issue number one and number two, number three, safety, and very successful scenario for the Games, structurally and organizationally. But I think not one sportsman or anyone who comes will be upset with it. I simply can't imagine anyone in Russia who wants to upset the world's community during the Sochi Olympics or after or, of course, not before. I myself question very much why the country needed something like this law. And I didn't even read it. Honestly, I didn't have time. I only learned about this law when things started to happen that I heard about, people being against this happening in Russia.
A transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: Valery Gergiev is one of Russia's best known celebrities. He is the artistic director of St. Peterburg's Mariinsky Theater. His skills and passion as a conductor have led to great renown around the world. He is also an official Russian ambassador to the Sochi Olympics and a friend of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He has a unique perspective on Russia today – on concerns about crackdowns, on anti-gay legislation and much more. I caught up with him last week in Davos.
ZAKARIA: Valery Gergiev, a pleasure to have you on the show.
VALERY GERGIEV, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MARIINSKI THEATER: Thank you. A pleasure to be here.
ZAKARIA: But you made a reference to safety. And, of course, President Putin also made a reference which suggested - what he said was, I have nothing against gays, but there is an issue that concerns me about pedophilia. Now, what has outraged many people, I think understandably, is the connection that is being drawn between gays and people who are pedophiles. Why would President Putin or why would you - why would you single out gays as being particularly...
ZAKARIA: - likely to do it?
GERGIEV: No, nothing to, in my view, there is no connection at all, in my view. I didn't hear all the discussion President Putin had with, I think, a group of five or six journalists, but I had that much time to hear. And they spent some time talking about these issues. I didn't hear this. I don't think there is a parallel direct line
ZAKARIA: A lot of people have criticized your relationship with Vladimir Putin. They see Putin as a - as a strong man, as somebody who has not been good for human rights. And they view you as an artist, as somebody who should stand up for human rights. And yet, they see you being very close to President Putin. What is your response?
GERGIEV: First of all, I think - I think a lot of people are wrong about President Putin. That's my view. I am myself not a student, so I'm - I saw many, many people. I met many heads of state. I look at their policies or their actions better to say, especially toward culture. Many of them are totally uninterested. And I think President Putin belongs to a very small group of world leaders, a very small group, who thinks that this is actually very important. And he would do something - he recently came to the rehearsal of the children's chorus, rehearsal. It was Christmas Day in Russia, basically. The president, like all of us, has a right to simply be free, you know. He chose to be there with the kids who represented all regions of Russia,
ZAKARIA: But having the president show an interest in art and opera is one thing. On the other hand, political freedom in Russia has gone backward in the last 10 years, wouldn't you say?
GERGIEV: Yes and no. The '90s was not really a freedom you dream of. That's my, again, modest opinion. I know you for some time and I am no reason to invent anything, again. And I'm so grown up, I made up my mind on many, many things already. And I looked at Mr. Putin for many years. I just looked. And I wanted him to act, not to promise. And, that's why today, I can talk about him, because I just look at actions. And, again, it's not only important thing for the country, culture, it is important. Russia without culture is not a country, let's say. It's just a huge piece of land. A country makes it, together with culture, an entity. And then it's a country with a big C.
ZAKARIA: Valerie Gergiev, a pleasure to have you on.
GERGIEV: My pleasure.
Human Rights are universal, they are not based on the laws of an individual country. When a country such as Nazi Germany passes laws that step by step strip a disliked minority such as Jews or homosexuals of their civil rights, that becomes a concern for the whole of humanity.
Russia is signatory to the United Nations International Declaration on Human Rights, and to the Olympic Charter, in both of which it is in clear and flagrant breach. It is therefore entirely appropriate for citizens in other countries to agitate in support of vulnerable minorities unable to speak for themselves, as is now the case in Russia, where it is an offence for an openly gay person to be a good citizen, successful or to defend LGBT civil rights. We can be sacked from our employment, evicted from our homes, and beaten up in the streets without recourse to legal protection.
When people's belief on a social issue is so clearly wrong, and the practice of that belief leads to the destruction of individual dignity, then it becomes the duty of the government to provide education. Government should also be entirely separated from religion. There are many religions with opposite views on matters like birth control, women's ordination, divorce and so on, but there is only one government. True, the government is elected by a majority, but its duty isn't just to govern for those who elected them, but also for those who did not vote for them. Every human being is a minority of just one person – even you. Your rights as a male should be the same as for a female, or a person of a different race. Nobody should be persecuted because of the way they were born, if they are a good citizen, or even if they are not.
Mr Gergiev, "The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept." I won't come to any more of your concerts, buy any of your recordings, nor support any other Russian export until this egregious injustice is expunged from the law books of Russia. I am a minority of just one person, who is part of an LGBT minority of just 5-10% of the world population. But even 5% of 7 billion is still 350 million. We can never be exterminated, because you, the heterosexual majority are our parents. And many among your number are our allies, family and closest friends.
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