That Tchaikovsky was a homosexual is a myth based on publications of a
few Western authors.
If this is true, what are the publications, and how do they fail to give
a complete justification?
If it isn't, what are the proofs based on, besides the letters and diaries
of the composer?
So far, I've failed to find any support for the notion of homosexuality
reviewing the letters and diaries in original language, or any of the sources
that claim his homosexuality that provide anything other than speculation
based on those papers. If I've missed anything, I'd really like to know. At
the same time there aren't any English sources in my search that would critically
analyze the alleged 'proofs', and again, I don't know of any 'proofs' other
than those found in his personal papers.
Any help would be greatly appreciated,
Tchaikovsky's homosexuality is not a myth but a fully established fact
of his private life. This fact was known by many of his contemporaries and
is discussed explicitly and in detail in the unfinished autobiography by his
brother Modest (partially published in an English translation in my book Tchaikovsky Through Others' Eyes). That Modest chose not to mention
it in his three-volume biography of the composer is not at all surprising
given the conventions of the time.
The Soviet scholars also knew that this fact can be established beyond
doubt, and pointed this out in the Russian edition of Tchaikovsky's correspondence
with Mrs von Meck back in 1934. Only thereafter the Soviet censorship began
to interfere with Tchaikovsky's texts and suppress his accounts of homosexual
encounters in his letters to various correspondents (most notably, to his
brothers Modest and Anatoly) including the Complete Works edition, but at
the early stage of this process quite a number of such references escaped
the attention of the censors, and found their way into the publication of
the composer's Letters to his Relatives (Moscow,1940), which was quickly withdrawn
from library circulation. Any attentive reader of this material cannot but
recognize that it unmistakably betrays the author's homosexual interests and
activities. This entire problem is fully discussed in my biography: Tchaikovsky:
The Quest for the Inner Man (London, 1993).
In recent years, archival research has enabled the cuts by the Soviet censors
to be replaced by what the composer had originally written. A number of such
passages frankly describe his sexual intercourse with young men of various
descriptions (see publication by V. S. Sokolov, Pis'ma P. I. Chaikovskogo
bez kupiur, in P. I Chaikovskii : Almanakh, Moscow 1995; and by
myself: (Unknown Tchaikovsky : A Reconstruction of Previously Censored
Letters to His Brothers published in Tchaikovsky and his World,
ed, Leslie Kearney, Princeton, 1998). If this is not enough to convince any
person that Tchaikovsky was gay, what other evidence does one need, pornographic
photos or soiled bed sheets?
As Tchaikovsky was a gay or bisexual man I wonder if the BBC would consider
linking the events to LGBT History Month. Details of this month long celebration
of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history can be found at
I would like to add following information: Tchaikovsky was for sure involved
in many homosexual relationships. But a recent discovery made by Valerij Sokolov
brings the evidence that he was not exclusively homosexual. Sokolov published
a letter dated 1871 and addressed to Anatoly (his brother) in which the composer
evokes an intimate illness being the result of an intimate contact with a
woman named Gulda.
(V. Sokolov, Pis'ma P.I. Chaikovskogo bez kupiur, in P.I. Chaikovskii:
Almanakh, Moscow 1995, CPSS No. 243—p.265)
In Tchaikovsky¹s huge epistolary corpus one finds very few instances (from
the passages recently restored), which at first glance seem to allude to a
heterosexual liaison. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that this impression
is largely deceptive. Perhaps the most striking is the letter of 2 December
1871 to his brother Anatoly. The latter had contracted syphilis and the composer
tried to console him, by referring to his own allegedly similar experience
that Anatoly must have been aware of with a certain Gulda in Saint Petersburg.
This reference creates, however, doubts as regards its veracity: the episode
in question could have hardly occurred after his graduation in 1859 (when
Anatoly was nine years old), since thereupon, as Modest testifies, the future
composer indulged in exclusively homosexual affairs, first with the members
of his own circle and then those from the lower strata of the society. Two
plausible explanations come to mind. The female name might have in fact signified
a male hustler. Feminizing masculine gender and names is a well known phenomenon
in homosexual subcultures, and as we will see, Tchaikovsky was by no means
averse to this practice. Alternatively, the episode could well have been invented
by the composer, who at times exhibited a penchant to mystify those around
him by implying a possible interest in women.
Even more telling is a series of letters to Modest describing Tchaikovsky¹s
involvement, that lasted for a couple years (18791880), with a young male
hustler in Paris whom he calls "Louise" (several relevant passages still remain
unpublished ). The use of this name prompted some earlier scholars, who were
given access to parts of this correspondence, to believe that they describe
an authentic heterosexual encounter. Read, however, as a whole, these texts
make abundantly clear that the object of Tchaikovsky's desire was indeed a
young man. One revealing letter to Anatoly of 26 February/10 March 1879 from Paris actually has been published in the book Tchaikovsky through Others'
Eyes, pp. 166–167. Some of the letters make even an inadvertently comic
impression, when the composer alternates masculine and feminine pronouns on
the same page. An additional reason for this cross-gender conceit must have
been concern with Imperial censorship as at the time many letters sent to
Russia from abroad were randomly examined by the police.
There is no reason to believe that at early stage Tchaikovsky thought his
preference for men as anything fateful or unavoidable: rather, he considered
it temporary and subject to change when the need comes. In this he was mistaken:
his life¹s record makes it clear that Tchaikovsky¹s homosexuality was exclusive,
which is unequivocally confirmed by his brother Modest in his autobiography:
"Women were never the object of [his] infatuations; physically, they aroused
in him only indifference." He felt both attracted to and repelled by the homosexual
subculture he became well acquainted with, and did not consider himself its
member: the sense of values his upbringing instilled in him contravened the
flamboyant gay life style, adopted, for instance, by his friend Apukhtin."
As it is well known, this marriage in 1877 proved a disaster that he shuddered
to remember: the composer soon parted from his wife never to see her again.
This caused him to escape abroad in order to prevent public scrutiny, and
to fully recognize that his sexual orientation cannot be changed. As he wrote
in a letter one year later: "Only now, especially after the tale of my marriage,
have I finally begun to understand that there is nothing more fruitless than
not wanting to be that which I am by nature". This phrase signifies Tchaikovsky¹s
reconciliation with his homosexuality and there is no evidence that the problem
continued to bother him any more.
After having read Mr. Poznansky's interesting comment dt. 11.02.07 I read
again the letter dt. 2.12.1871 about Gulda and came to the following conclusion:
1) The content of this letter clearly contradicts the above mentioned statement
made by Modest in his autobiography. This contradiction of fact will maybe
never be resolved.
2) In his letter dated 2.12.1871 and addressed to Anatoly, Tchaikovsky
refers to an event which occured in the past. Tchaikovsky obviously informed
his brother of his intimate relationship with this women already in the past.
This would lead to the conclusion that the composer had this relationship
when Anatoly was no more a child.
3) Tchaikovsky seems to have a vivid memory both of his contact with this
woman and of the intimate illness being the result of this contact.
4) Tchaikovsky even seems to be proud of this intimate illness.
5) Galina von Meck in her book "Tchaikovsky to His Family" published in
Cooper Square Press a letter dated 12./24. January 1877 in which Tchaikovsky
refers again to Gulda: "I will not go to see Glamsha (Gulda) unless she asks
me to. I have met her several times and have been most attentive. She is a
very pretty woman but...to be honest I would prefer to do without any visits
6) Gulda was an acquaintance of Anatoly. Both the letter dated 12./24.
January 1877 and the fact that Gulda was an acquaintance of Anatoly identified
her as a woman.Moreover V.Sokolov stated that Gulda mentioned in the letter
dt.1871 and Glamsha mentioned in the letter dated 1877 are the same person.
I assume that this adventure with this woman ended because Tchaikovsky felt
more and more exclusively homosexual.
The case of Tchaikovsky's devastating marriage is from my point of view
quite different than Gulda's case:
1) His homosexuality was for sure the main reason why everything with his
marriage went wrong, but not the only one.
2) A letter written by Tchaikovsky dt. 4./16. mai 1877 bring the evidence
that Tchaikovsky found Antonina Ivanovna "repelling" long before he seriously
think to marry her. This would mean that the disgust that Tchaikovsky felt
for Antonina didn't occur after his marriage, but already before his wedding.
I assume that there must have been something in Antonina's personality that
Tchaikovsky found unpleasant.
3) Tchaikovsky liked his freedom above all. The word "freedom" appears
often in his correspondence. A marriage prevented him from enjoying his freedom.
4) He felt only little respect for her. A relationship cannot last without
a mutual respect.
1. I would like to point out that the content of Tchaikovsky¹s letter to
his brother Anatoly from 2 December 1871 does NOT at all contradict to the
statement made by Modest in his autobiography.
2. The event in question could have happened (if this is not a piece of
his personal mythology!) only when the composer was living in Saint Petersburg,
as he himself mentions in this letter. Tchaikovsky graduated from the School
of Jurisprudence in 1859 and left town for the Moscow Conservatory in January
1866. His younger brother Anatoly was just 15 years old at time of his departure.
3. I see nothing vivid in Tchaikovsky¹s phrase about getting syphilis.
4. In the male world to have scare on man face or syphilis always was rewarding
in eyes of the peers. In this case Tchaikovsky was obviously trying to improve
his brother's low spirits and relieve his depression by pretending that he
also was a paragon of masculinity.
5. In the past years I had many occasions to work in the composer¹s archive
in Klin and I had a chance to read Tchaikovsky¹s original letters to his brothers.
In the cited letter to Anatoly dated 11/24 January 1877, published in Complete
Works and in Galina von Meck¹s book Letters to His Family, I found
NO reference to Gulda. Tchaikovsky mentioned only women nicknamed Glamsha,
not Gulda! There is no secret among Tchaikovsky¹s scholars who was Glamsha.
This lady was just born when the future composer graduated from the School
of Jurisprudence. Her real name was Aleksandra Iakovlevna Glama-Meshcherskaia,
the well known Russian actress, who at that time was studying in Moscow Conservatory
and happen to be married. Anatoly being heterosexual, at this stage of his
life was actively engaged in the search of women, he liked her and often asked
his brother about her whereabouts.
6. Aleksandra Glama was an acquaintance of Tchaikovsky, since he was her
teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. Anatoly met her probably in one of his
visits to Moscow. V. S. Sokolov did NOT state in his publication that Glamsha
and Gulda are the same person! He only quoted two instances (one with a certain
Gulda, and second with Glamsha), which he thinks might be references to alleged
Tchaikovsky¹s contacts with women. Personally, I see nothing suspicous in
this fully restored quotation: "I will not go to see Glamsha unless she asks
me to. She is a very pretty woman but, alas, it does mean anything for me
and to be honest I would prefer to do without any visits to her". Apparently,
Tchaikovsky declined Anatoly¹s proposition to visit her and start up a real
friendship from which Anatoly might have benefited. In fact this appears to
have been yet another confession that the composer is not interested in women.
Perhaps this was the reason why Anatoly struck it out later. In January 1877,
Tchaikovsky was truly in love, but with his male student, the violinist Iosif
Kotek (read the composer¹s passionate confession published in Russian in Sokolov¹s
publication (p. 129–131) and in English in Tchaikovsky through Other¹s
Eyes, (p. 103–105)).
Finally, there are NO references to Antonina in Tchaikovsky¹s letters from
4 May 1877 to Modest or to Anatoly. He found his wife ³repelling² only after
he get married NOT before (see letters to Anatoly from 11 July 1877 or to
Mrs von Meck dated 28 July 1877 from Kiev).
I read the discussion between Jurij Iwanoff and Alexander Poznansky, and
would like to add something about the cross-gender evoked by Mr. Poznansky.
I read the published letters unveiling Tchaikovsky's private life and noticed
1. The composer sometime had sometime recourse to the cross-gender, but
some letters which deal with his quest for partners bring the evidence that
the composer did not systematically use the cross-gender. In some letters
Tchaikovsky described his partners in the masculine gender througout the whole
letter. The letters in which Tchaikovsky made no cross-gender are indicated
Letter dt. 19./31. january 1877 about Kotek.
Letter dt. 28. september/10. october 1876 about a coachman.
Letter dt. 16./28. september 1878 about a servant.
Two other letters deal with two women wo are described in the feminine
gender throughout the whole letter:
Letter dt. 2.12.1871 about Gulda
Letter dt. 23. june/5. july 1876 about a feminine student.
The identity of this feminine student remain a mystery. It is difficult
to imagine that a feminin or even a male student from the Vienna upper-class
would have been involved in prostitution. I guess that this feminine person
was a prostitute.
LETTER DT. 4./16. mai 1877 ABOUT ANTONINA:
This letter written by Tchaikovsky really exist but only as a copy made
by his brother Modest. This letter is published in Sokolov's book about Tchaikovsky's
wife: Antonina Cajkovskaja. Istorija zabytoj zizni, Moscou, 1994 (p.23).
This letter has the number 558, CPSS VI. As can be read from his many letters,
Tchaikovsky was a very contradictory person. The fact that in spite of his
homosexuality he maybe had a relationship with Gulda show how contradictory
he was. I think we will have to accept that the composer was a person full
of paradoxes. Otherwise, we are in danger of making of portrait of him which
reveals only one side of his personality and not the other.
Thanks for your additional thoughts about Tchaikovsky's letters to his
brothers. Feminizing the masculine gender and names is a well-known phenomenon
in homosexual subcultures, and Tchaikovsky was by no means averse to this
practice. In my biography of the composer I have an entire chapter "Petrolina's
letters" where I discuss this matter in full. While he was in Russia Tchaikovsky
very often described his sexual adventures in detail and without any feminization
of male names. But while he was abroad he had an additional and important
reason for this cross-gender conceit, probably due to the fact that at this
time many letters sent to Russia from abroad were randomly examined by the
police. Of course, he was not consistent with these rules all the time, as
his letter from 25 February/10 March 1879 from Paris tells us.
All three letters you had mentioned here without cross-gender names are
written in Moscow, so he had no reason there to fear the Russian police. One
of the two other letters dealing as you suggest with a "feminine student"
also had been written from abroad (in Vienna) and describes his encounter
with a male hustler. All Tchaikovsky's scholars, including V. S. Sokolov and
myself, who had an access to the composer's original letters and documents
are in agreement on this. In all Tchaikovsky's voluminous correspondence only
the "Gulda letter" might have alluded to his relationship with a woman. The
letter of 4 May 1877 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky does not mention Antonina, but
only several girls whom he considered as candidates for potential marriage,
and one of those, whom he found offensive (or "repelling") was deciseively
rejected. As far as we know Tchaikovsky at this point chose to continue his
relationship with Antonina. This is why I don't think the other woman was
I’m sorry but Tchaikovsky was obviously gay.
The question is why would you try and make people believe otherwise?
Are you denying that gay people are incapable of being famous and
producing spectacular art forms? I strongly suggest you withdraw your
comment, as it is offensive to the memory of Tchaikovsky. He would have
wanted people to know the truth.
For my part I find it amazing that at this stage of our knowledge of
Tchaikovsky's life that there are those who would cast doubt as to his
sexual orientation....I started to read about Tchaikovksy in 1947...at
that time the only comprehensive book on the composer in English was by
Herbert Weinstock printed in 1943...even in that homophobic age Weinstock
had no qualms about stating unequivacally about the composer's
homosexuality...apparently he hoped to reform his ways as he was once
engaged to Desiree Artot...but that came to nought....he aspired to live a
normal life but that was denied him....since then I have read over twenty
volumes on or about Tchaikovsky and none of them state of his interest in
the female other than to mask his life style....there are some especially
in Russia as far as I know that cannot accept that their favorite composer
was homosexual and go into denial....that is their privilege...but the
unquestioned volume of evidence shows conclusively that the composer was
unremitting in his gay life style...he even at one point tried in
desperation to make love to his wife and that ended in failure even tho as
we know he warned her of he only wanting her as a housekeeper....he always
preferred young men even as students...and so he tried to engage in sex
with his wife but it was beyond his capabilities....and other than that
there is no other evidence that is credible to show otherwise....I only
read English so I do not know how the facts of his life are interpreted in
other non English speaking lands...and arent the letters and diaries of
the composer enough evidence...would you like hearsay as being better? I
would ask Milo where and in what language has he read that Tchaikovsky was
not gay and that condradict all we know of the composer in the
"West"?....are we inferior in our scholarship then?...