Jaws dropped all across Russia after a video emerged on January 16 of young men wearing nothing but skin-tight boxers, pilots’ caps, ties and belts – thrusting their pelvises to the tune of “Satisfaction”. The decidedly homoerotic video was made by a group of students at a civil aviation college. Russian authorities, who are known to be intolerant of the LGBT community, were outraged… but they were quickly countered by a flood of booty-shaking support videos made by people all over Russia.
The music video was never supposed to go public, but someone posted it on VKontakte, the main Russian video platform, where it quickly garnered 5 million views. Shortly thereafter, it was also uploaded to YouTube.
The two-minute long video shows 14 students from the Civil Aviation Institute in Ulyanovsk (UIGA) shaking their booties and lip syncing to the tune of "Satisfaction" by Italian DJ Benny Benassi, a house anthem from the early 2000s (which was known for its own erotic music video). One student eats a banana, another sprays a window with cleaning spray, while yet another uses a drill – all pretty suggestive actions, in this context. To what degree the video was a joke is still unknown, but it certainly sparked reactions all across Russia.
Officials weren’t happy. The minister of aerial transportation said that a commission would be established to investigate the circumstances around and the causes of “this outrageous incident”.
The federal aviation agency decried the video as an “immoral episode”, while television channels financed by the Kremlin called the video “reprehensible” and “crude”.
Grandmothers, nurses and professional athletes make their own videos
However, the authorities likely did not anticipate the wave of support for this video. After its publication, people all over Russia made dozens of similar videos.
These students studying construction at a technical college made their own version.
These emergency services workers made their own video:
So did this theatre troupe:
These nurses had a go at it, too.
Athletes on the national biathlon team made their own version:
These swimmers filmed underwater.
Even these grandmothers in St. Petersburg made a video to support the students in Ulyanovsk:
An insult to the Kremlin’s homophobic discourse
As highlighted by US magazine The New Yorker, support for these students came from all across Russian society: from students and retirees, artists and athletes, everyday people and celebrities, and both men and women.
It was a clear rebuke of the Russian government, which has been targeting the gay community. These videos run against the Kremlin’s official line: that Russians are very attached to their traditional, conservative Christian values.
In 2013, Russia’s parliament passed a federal law criminalising the distribution of materials among minors in support of "non-traditional" sexual relationships. In 2017, there was widespread condemnation in the international community over the repression of gay men living in Chechnya.