Queer Under Communism

It’s Pride month!

LGBTQ+ history of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union rightly focuses on repression. But queer life cannot and should be reduced to persecution. Thankfully, new scholarship is trying to broaden the historical representation of queer people by listening to queer voices and expression, examining the intersection between medicine, psychiatry, and gay and transgender lives, and the evaluating place of homosexuality in the Cold War contest.

To get a taste of some of these issues, here are three short segments recent research on gender, sexuality and queer under state socialism.


Misha Appeltova is starting a new position as Assistant Professor of History at Wake Forest University. Her research focuses on gender, sexuality, and disability in 20th century Central and Eastern Europe. Her manuscript is tentatively titled Embodied Socialism: Gendered Bodies and the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, 1965-1989. She’s also working on a project with her colleague Roy Kimmey that examines the recent rise in anti-gender and anti-LGBTQ mobilization across the globe.

Irina Roldugina is a UCIS Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Irina is a historian of early modern and Soviet Russia with a particular interest in social history and history of sexuality. In her book manuscript, Vernacular Queer and Shifting Power in Russia: from the Late Imperial Era up to the 1940s, she explores homosexual emancipation in Russia before and after the Revolution of 1917. Looking at the process from the perspective of non-elite homosexuals, Irina reveals how their same-sex desire was developed, conceptualized, and expressed after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Kate Davison is a Lecturer in the History of Sexuality at the University of Edinburgh in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. She’s completing a book titled Aversion Therapy: Sex, Psychiatry and the Cold War forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

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