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Police seize ‘International Tolerance Day’ drawings from Russian grade school, after news outlet calls them ‘gay propaganda’

Meduza

In mid-November, a grade school in Yekaterinburg held a week-long drawing contest called “Tolerant World” in honor of International Tolerance Day. In all, about 17 students between the fifth and 11th grade took part in the event.

The drawings featured images of same-sex couples and the LGBT symbol. On November 28, the Ural news publication Ura.ru published a photograph from the drawings exhibit. The outlet says it received the image from a reader. The photo shows several drawings, including one that features three couples: a man and a woman, a man and a man, and a woman and a woman. The drawing bears the caption: “We don’t choose our appearance, orientation, or race. We are all unique in our own ways.” Ura.ru’s story was titled “Ural School Holds Contest With Posters Showing Gays and Lesbians.” The website also noted that some of the drawings included rainbows.

Officials from the Education Department found nothing objectionable about the drawings. “They reflect universal human values: friendship, respect, mutual understanding, and acceptance of other people’s values and views,” local education officials told the news agency RIA Novosti. “In some of the drawings, there are rainbows — the symbol of purity, childhood, and friendship, embodying the unity of different nationalities. There were no drawings at the exhibit that promoted non-traditional values.”

The authorities sent psychologists to the school where the contest was held. Though city officials found no “gay propaganda” in the drawings, they conducted “outreach work” with the teachers responsible for the contest, and sent “Dialogue” youth center psychologists to the school. If necessary, the psychologists were supposed to clarify the drawings to students and parents. Staff at both the school and the “Dialogue” youth center told Meduza that only the Education Department is able to comment on the situation, but Yekatinerburg’s Education Department did not respond to Meduza’s phone calls.

The police seized the drawings. Local law enforcement officials say the students’ drawings have been confiscated and will be examined for signs of gender discrimination and “homosexual propaganda.” The expert review is expected to take a month. “Our officers went to the school to look around, after reports in the media about citizens being upset about the drawings. Additionally, the mother of one of the students studying at this school filed an official report,” police officers told reporters. The Interior Ministry’s Sverdlovsk regional office also issued a statement citing “multiple negative reactions [to the contest] from parents.”

Story by Olga Korelina

Polina Eremenko contributed to this report. Translation by Kevin Rothrock.