The New Yorker Radio Hour podkast

A Gay Russian, Exiled in Ireland

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Evgeny Shtorn and Alexander Kondakov were living together in St. Petersburg when Vladimir Putin began his crackdown on the L.G.B.T.Q. movement in Russia, passing laws that prevented gay “propaganda.” Kondakov is a scholar of the movement, and Shtorn has studied the sociology of hate crimes against gay men. The couple also worked for an N.G.O. that received foreign funding, which made them appear particularly suspicious to Russian authorities. After Shtorn’s citizenship was rescinded, he became vulnerable to pressure from the F.S.B., the Russian security agency, which tried to make him an informant. Finally Shtorn decided to flee, seeking refuge as a stateless person in Ireland, where Masha Gessen spoke with him. Gessen says that Putin’s recent targeting of L.G.B.T. people is perfectly in line with his methods. “[We] make the perfect scapegoat, because we stand in for everything,” she says. “We stand in for the West. We stand in all the things that have changed in the last quarter century that make you uncomfortable. And, of course, no Russian thinks they’ve ever met a gay person in person—so that makes it really easy to create that image of ‘the villainous queer people.’ ”

This segment originally aired June 10, 2019. Since that time, Shtorn received refugee status, and was reunited with Kondakov in Ireland. They married in 2023.   

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