Red closet

The hidden history of gay oppression in the USSR

By Rustam Alexander

Red closet
Hardcover +
  • Price: £17.99
  • ISBN: 9781526167453
  • Publish Date: May 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    Paperback +
  • Price: £17.99
  • ISBN: 9781526181459
  • Publish Date: Feb 2025
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    eBook -
  • Price: £17.99
  • ISBN: 9781526167446
  • Publish Date: May 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6744-6
    • Published Date: May 2023


    In 1934, Joseph Stalin enacted sodomy laws, unleashing a wave of brutal detentions of homosexual men in large Soviet cities. Rustam Alexander recounts the compelling stories of people whose lives were directly affected by those laws, including a naïve Scottish journalist based in Moscow who dared to write to Stalin in an attempt to save his lover from prosecution, and a homosexual theatre student who came to Moscow in pursuit of a career amid Stalin's harsh repressions and mass arrests. We also meet a fearless doctor in Siberia who provided medical treatment for gay men at his own peril, and a much-loved Soviet singer who hid his homosexuality from the secret police.

    Each vignette helps paint the hitherto unknown picture of how Soviet oppression of gay people originated and was perpetuated from Stalin's rule until the demise of the USSR. This book comes at a time when homophobia is again rearing its ugly head under Putin's rule.



    'As President Putin ramps up his anti-queer attacks, this book is particularly timely and important. Alexander has done a superb job of telling the history of homosexuality in Russia since the Revolution, and his book deserves to be widely read.'
    Dennis Altman, author of Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation and Global Sex

    'At a time when President Putin's regime is viciously repressing Russia's LGBTQ community and criminalizing anyone who speaks up about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans lives, the appearance of this book is an important act of resistance. Red Closet brings to life stories of gay oppression in the Soviet Union and traces some of the roots of contemporary Russia's homophobia.'
    Dan Healey, author of Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi

    'Rustam Alexander has undertaken rigorous archival research with great passion to produce a superb book. His narrative is refreshingly free of academic jargon and theory but Red Closet can be appreciated by a wide readership.'
    Stephen Bourne, author of Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars

    'In the world of academic writing in Slavic Studies, Alexander's book is a fresh take on storytelling for all.(This) new book is a queer socialist historical thriller and a page-turner. It serves the drama (of which Soviet queer history has more than plenty) and does it in a way that makes the readers keep wanting more. And I cannot help but want to see more from this author.'
    The Russian Review

    'A crucially important and highly readable account of the oppression of gay men and lesbians in the Soviet Union.'
    Siobhán Hearne, CEU Review of Books


    Part I: Under Stalin
    1 Stalin decides to make male homosexuality a crime
    2 A Scottish man stands up for the rights of Soviet homosexuals
    3 A young man from Siberia comes to Moscow in pursuit of his dreams
    4 A Soviet celebrity leads a double life and lives in quiet suffering
    5 A visit to a bathhouse ends in a nightmare
    6 Soviet homosexuals travel to Siberia for "medical" treatment

    Part II: Under Khrushchev
    7 Stalin's heirs deal with homosexuality in the GULAG
    8 In which a murder occurs
    9 Soviet jurists push for the decriminalization of sodomy
    10 Soviet psychiatrists try to cure lesbianism
    11 A KGB lieutenant goes rogue
    12 Soviet doctors invent a new medical science and try to cure male homosexuality

    Part III: Under Brezhnev
    13 Soviet jurists try to decriminalize consensual homosexuality
    14 A married couple try to save their marriage
    15 Yan Goland tries to cure a youth of his homosexuality
    16 A jurist proposes to criminalize lesbianism
    17 A former soldier is crippled with internalized homophobia
    18 In which we learn about emerging gay activism in the USSR

    Part IV: Under Gorbachev
    19 A strange patient from Africa baffles Soviet doctors
    20 Soviet officials try to protect the USSR from AIDS
    21 The Soviet KGB becomes inspired by the American gay press
    22 Soviet doctors find Soviet "Patient Zero"
    23 Soviet homophobia hits its peak
    24 Soviet homosexuals finally speak about themselves in public

    Epilogue: In which Boris Yeltsin decriminalizes consensual homosexuality - but homophobia remains



    Rustam Alexander is a historian and independent scholar who obtained his PhD from the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Regulating homosexuality in Soviet Russia, 1956-91: A different history.

    To purchase as an ebook, please visit your preferred ebook supplier

    Amazon Waterstones Blackwells Bookshop Kobo

    Newsletter Sign Up

    Manchester University Press

    Your cart is empty.

    Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

    (Based on standard shipping costs)

    Final cost calculated on checkout
    Promotional codes can be added on Checkout