It is because of the guns they used.
The word hooligan has a slightly different meaning in Russian. Despite the controversy of soccer hooligans attacking opposing soccer fans in England and France, which the UK government believes may have been perpetrated by the Kremlin, hooligansim is illegal in the Russian Federation. For example, when performance artist Petr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to red square, he was arrested under a law prohibiting hooliganism.
Yet after Russia scored 1-1 against England in the Euro 2016 Soccer Championship, it was hooligans who decided to shoot patrons at a gay club. The attack occurred on the evening of June 11th and into the morning of the 12th, which was the night of the massacre at Pulse night club in Orlando. A group of about 20 football fans were carousing down the street in Yekaterinburg when they noticed some unusual people standing outside a bar. The bar’s name was, “Mono show bar: A show-bar for happy and out-of-the-ordinary people.”
The soccer fans were shouting, “Russia is the champion!” A funny thing to say for a final score of 1-1.
One visitor to the bar that night explained, “Having seen us, (and we, as you can understand, looked a little out-of-the-ordinary) they began screaming obscene words about gays.” A guard rushed the patrons inside and shut the door. An unfortunate victim didn’t make to the interior in time, was badly beaten, and suffered a fractured leg and a concussion.
The owner of the bar called the police. The bar administration is quoted as saying, “The police were called… but they didn’t even begin to patrol the surrounding area. They were even told where they [the attackers] were standing and hiding.” Komsomolskaya Pravda reports that the hooligans ran off, the police did arrive, but as soon as they left, nine of the hooligans returned. This time they had pistols.
They ran into the club and began shooting the clientele.
The nightclub’s hired guards, according to the bar owners, “Just stood by and watched.”
Two victims sustained injures.
None were killed.
Because the hooligans were using air guns with rubber bullets.
Because in the Russian federation, individuals may only carry weapons for hunting and sports activities. Individuals may carry guns for self defense, but according to the Library of Congress, these may not be long-barreled rifles (leaving only small pneumatic weapons, as those used in this attack). Hunting rifles may be long-barreled firearms, they may not fire in bursts, and they may not have a cartridge capacity of more than ten rounds.
The parallels between the Orlando massacre and this attack in Yekaterinburg, the largest and the most important city in the Ural mountains region, was not lost on Russian media. A ystav.com headline read, “Orlando Ural style: In Yekaterinburg soccer fans shoot-up patrons of a gay bar.”
The Russian government’s reaction to the Orlando massacre, for its part, has been mixed. Pinknews.com reports that Putin responded to the massacre with the following message to the White House: “In a telegram with condolences, the head of the Russian state stressed that Russia shares pain and sorrow of those who lost their near and dear ones as a result of this barbaric crime and hopes for a speedy recovery of those wounded.”
Though the full text of telegram was not published, there was another side to the Russia’s reaction as well. A young gay couple was arrested at the US embassy in Moscow while leaving a “Love Wins” sign as a tribute to victim of the Orlando massacre.
This was not the first attack on a gay club in Russia, and real guns have been used at a club before, though with comparatively minimal loss of life. In 2014, Central Station, Moscow’s famed gay club and a safe haven for years for gays, closed its doors due to a gas attack, the door being sprayed with bullets, and the roof being dismantled. (It later reopened in a secret location.)
Russia’s so-called anti-gay law, which came into the spotlight just before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and left it after the Ukraine Crisis, had prohibited propagation of homosexual ideas to minors. Since then, attacks on gays have increased, parades have been canceled, and organizations and NGOs closed.
One of the results of this law was a particular amount of media attention paid to the Sochi gay night club “Mayak” or “Lighthouse”, during the Olympics. Western journalists, whose attention veered to Sochi (and for many, Russia) for the first time, were stunned to see that such a club existed in what they considered to be such a homophobic country. Elton John recently requested a meeting with Putin to discuss gay rights, but was denied because, a Kremlin spokesman said, their schedules conflicted.
The user comments on online articles about the Mono Show Bar shooting in Russian media demonstrate some of this homophobia. One reader wrote, “We need to trample the gays at every football match until they all go to Gayrope.” Gayrope is Europe, in this case. Another wrote, “We need this, we even have bars for these wretches? And the tolerasts all whine about homophobia!” “Tolerasts” is a portmanteau of the words “tolerant” and “pederast” (a general Russian slur that means “homosexual” rather than “pedophile:).
Yet there was another side to these comments, if it did represent the minority. A (hopefully ironic) troll wrote, “Wow, gays are even guilty of making it so our soccer team can’t play!” Others were more supportive. “We are people do not forget that, and who sleeps with who between their own sheets shouldn’t have anything to do with you, worry about your own bed!” And another, “Homophobes– you are miserable people.” And perhaps the most logical of all, “What, the people who did this actually have no hearts?”
One particular comment may be more to the point. “Compared to Orlando, Yekaterinburg practically loves their gays.” Though this comment may have been made ironically, the fact is still valid. No matter the politics of the powers-that-be in Russia, no matter the relationship of one segment of the population to any other segment of the population, when firearms were not available, the shooters couldn’t take lives.
As tragic as the Mono Show Bar shooting may be in a broader context of LGBT struggles, nobody died even when the police refused to respond to the call. With a well-run police force with federal support in Orlando, 49 did.
In the wake of Orlando, gun-control advocates are looking for parallels in other countries with stricter gun control laws. Russia is not exactly known for its tolerance of gays, and many Russians would probably consider America to be full of “tolerasts.” Yet within the very same day, two analogous events have occurred about what twenty angry men and what one angry man could do with the weapons available to them. Russia’s gun control laws made sure that the Yekaterinburg shooting wasn’t a Yekaterinburg massacre.