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'Tchaikovsky Was Not Gay', Insists Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky (But Putin Says He Was)

19/09/2013 13:22 BST | Updated 19/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Russia's culture minister has insisted composer Pytor Tchaikovsky was not gay.

Vladimir Medinksy addressed the pressing issue amid the news an upcoming film is set to gloss over the sexual orientation of one of the nation's most famous 19th century composers.

Medinsky's comments are particularly timely in the wake of the backlash against Russia's new "gay propaganda ban".

tchaikovsky portrait

Pytor Tchaikovsky wrote the music for such iconic ballets as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker

"There is no evidence that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual", Vladimir Medinsky told Interfax news agency, as he spoke about the biopic by acclaimed screenwriter Yuri Arabov.

For his part, Arabov is equally adamant.

"It is absolutely not a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual. Only philistines think this," he said, according to a Huffington Post translation of an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia in August.

Historians have, however long disagreed with this viewpoint.

"In the case of Tchaikovsky his homosexuality is so well documented by his own writings and the writings of others that it is simply ludicrous to suggest otherwise," author Konstantin Rotikov, who has written a history of gay Saint Petersburg, told The Guardian.

He added: "It's a historical fact. History doesn't change just because we are trying to push a certain agenda today."

A biography by Roland John Wiley in 2009 claims Tchaikovsky discussed being discriminated against because of his homosexuality.

"Cursed buggermania forms an impassable gulf between me and most people," Tchaikovsky wrote in the letters obtained by Wiley, according to The Independent.

"It imparts to my character an estrangement, fear of people, shyness, immoderate bashfulness, mistrust, in a word, a thousand traits from which I am getting ever more unsociable. Imagine that often, and for hours at a time, I think about a monastery or something of the kind."

Strangely, one person who seems less bothered about Tchaikovsky's sexuality is Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Yes that's the same guy who signed the ban into law back in June.)

"So what? There is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill and nothing terrible is happening in the country," he said earlier this month during an interview with Russian Channel 1 television.

Putin's comments have been interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate that the country does not discriminate against homosexuals.

The controversial law essentially bans displays of homosexuality. It is also "illegal to spread information about non-traditional sexual behaviour" to minors (under 18s).

The legislation gives the Russian government the right to detain gay or "pro-gay" foreigners up to 14 days before facing expulsion from the country and caused a wave of protests at the implication homosexual athletes and supporters could face arrest at the country's upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.

Among a wave of protests was a viral blog from Stephen Fry, urging for Russia to be stripped of the event.