Something strange is happening on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Nikolai Alekseev, a prominent -- and deeply controversial -- Russian gay activist.
Over the past several days, Alekseev's posts have become increasingly anti-Western, egomaniacal, malicious, and bizarre -- so much so that friends and fellow LGBT activists on both sides of the Atlantic are wondering whether he's suffered some kind of mental breakdown, his account has been hacked, or he's been kidnapped.
Targets of Alekseev's wrath have included LGBT Russians who've applied for asylum in other countries, Western mainstream and LGBT media, fellow LGBT activists in Russia and abroad, and anyone else who voiced disagreement or disappointment with his venomous remarks.
On Saturday, for example, Alekseev posted this:
My revelation, I hate the West not less than Putin. Both sides are total hypocrites. And as of now I am denying all interviews to biased western medias which only want to picture one side of the conflict.
When LGBT activist Melanie Nathan called him out, Alekseev responded with a derogatory slur:
He then attacked LGBT Russians seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada, alleging that both countries "are flooded now with fake asylum applications of Russian gays." He further claimed that "most have nothing to do with prosecution in Russia." This post and others seemed to imply a contempt for gays and lesbians who fled persecution in Russia, as though they somehow got off easy.
Alekseev's posts were certainly not short on ego strokes, either. "Finally! 8 years after Moscow Pride and GayRussia were launched the Western LGBT movement depend only on me!" he wrote. "Loving it! And I will make them fulfill the Russian desires! They will love it or loose everything at Sochi Olympics! We will not tolerate colonialism or colonialism."
Despite the fact that Alekseev has long been known to have something of a volatile temper, friends noted a change in tone which they say is sudden, uncharacteristic, and suspicious. The vicious personal attacks continued, with Alekseev accusing at least two American LGBT activists of allegedly being pedophiles:
But perhaps most disturbing are a pair of photographs that were posted to Alekseev's Facebook and Twitter profiles. While they could very well have been taken and uploaded with Alekseev's consent, the setting (in a dimly-lit, bunker-like room) and Alekseev's appearance (nearly naked) -- along with the photographs' resemblance to other recent pictures of LGBT people in Russia being tortured and humiliated -- has led some to wonder whether the activist might have been kidnapped.
Alekseev's Facebook page has since been deactivated, and a "Where is Nikolai Alekseev?" Facebook group has sprung up. His Twitter account is still active as of this writing, but his last tweet is rather cryptic:
Last Wednesday, Alekseev was reportedly summoned to appear before a committee investigating insulting statements he allegedly made on Twitter about parliamentarian Yelena Mizulina, the author of Russia's "gay propaganda" ban. Insulting a government official is a crime in Russia, and the Moscow Times reports that if convicted, Alekseev could face a fine of one million rubles ($30,000) or 200 hours of community service. But if he's found to have slandered Mizulina "in connection with [her] duties," the punishment could be up to one year of "correctional labor."
Is Alekseev's erratic behavior on social media the result of a diva tantrum, a nervous breakdown, a hacking, or a kidnapping? No one knows for sure. We'll keep you posted here at the Bilerico Project as this story develops.
Screenshots via Melanie Nathan at O-blog-dee-o-blog-da.