Russian politician calls for ban on 'gay propaganda' stamps depicting Finnish erotic artist Tom of Finland

Vitaly Milonov claimed the stamps were 'basically elements of homosexual propaganda'

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The Independent Online

A Russian politician has called for Finnish commemorative stamps depicting a gay erotic artist to be banned, declaring them ‘gay propaganda’.

Vitaly Milonov, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, demanded Russia’s postal service refuse all letters bearing the likeness of gay erotic artist Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, after a number were delivered last month.

The hugely popular stamps, released by the Finnish national postal service to commemorate Mr Laaksonen were successfully sent by Finland’s news agency Yle Uutiset to its Russian correspondents shortly after they went on sale in September, according to the Gay Star News.

“They are basically elements of homosexual propaganda, which is banned in our country,” Mr Milonov told the TASS news agency.

The legislator co-authored Saint Petersburg’s ban on so-called ‘gay propaganda’, which was one of the first such regional laws in Russia, and ultimately contributed to the national ban imposed by the Russian government.

“I ask the leadership of Russian Post to pay close attention to this request. In addition, I urge the Finns themselves, our close neighbours, to refrain from using these stamps when sending letters to Russia,” Mr Milonov said.

The stamps have proved internationally popular and were pre-ordered by people in 178 countries. There were reportedly lines around the block when they first went on sale in Finland.

Tom of Finland was notable for his stylized homoerotic fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. Cultural historian Joseph W. Slade labelled him the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images".

His images have proved controversial for both the nude images - and the clothes he depicts his characters in. Forbes reported Mr Laaksonen first developed his style during the Continuation War, 1944-45, when German troops were stationed in Finnland. The artist was seemingly inspired by the distinctive uniform which is often featured in his artwork, which was full of self-irony.

Notably, same-sex marriage is currently illegal in Finland, despite a bill being debated in February after 166,000 people called for a change in the law.

Events put the spotlight back on Russia's treatment of the LGBT community following Bob Geldof's criticism of the country - and its leader, “that brute in the Kremlin” - at the International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

The new openly gay president of the International Aids Society Dr Chris Beyrer also named Russia for its restriction on “basic human rights”.

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