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Russian censors “not interested” in Tom of Finland stamps

A stunt to test whether postage stamps displaying iconic homoerotic images would fall foul of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws appears to show that they do not. One of the packages posted by Yle last week has already been picked up by its recipient in Moscow, who said that postal authorities did not bat an eyelid at the drawings of muscular, entwined men.

Marja Manninen pitää käsissään postipakettia
Yle's Moscow correspondent Marja Manninen said postal workers showed "not the slightest bit of interest" in the homoerotic stamps. Image: Marja Manninen / Yle

A stunt by Yle has suggested that new Finnish postage stamps displaying homo-erotic images do not fall foul of Russian anti-gay propaganda laws.

Last week Yle’s Tampere bureau mailed packages plastered with newly released stamps featuring the iconic gay drawings of artist Tom of Finland to addresses in Moscow and St Petersburg.

 “We wanted to test how the Russian postal service and customs would respond to the stamps,” a report by Yle said, referencing recent legislation in Russia outlawing homosexual propaganda, and making it an offence to distribute material which shows homosexuality in a positive light.

However on Tuesday the first of Yle’s packages was picked up by the broadcaster’s Moscow correspondent Marja Manninen.

“I just collected the parcel from the post office. It actually got here yesterday, which is amazingly fast,” Manninen said. “The stamps didn’t arouse the slightest bit of interest, not even when I pointed them out to the postal workers. They’re happy so long as the postage is paid in full,” Manninen said.

Not trying to provoke

Meanwhile Itella said the aim of its Tom of Finland stamps, featuring drawings of muscular, leather-clad entwined men, was not to provoke. The three designs were released last week in celebration of the work of artist and gay icon Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991).

Itella’s development manager Markku Penttinen said that many countries have published stamps featuring artworks containing nudity, but he insists that post generally reaches its destination regardless of the imagery on the post marks.

Some countries, such as in the Muslim world, for instance, have been known to censor stamps displaying nudity with a black marker, Penttinen said, adding that he doubts Russia’s laws around homosexuality would prevent post from arriving.

This article was amended at 14.00 on 17.9. The term "anti-homosexuality law" was changed to "anti-gay propaganda law", as the statute does not outlaw homosexual acts.

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