In the face of anti-homosexual propaganda laws, Russian LGBT activists have moved forward towards hosting St. Petersburg Pride in June. Even though three previous attempts have resulted in arrests and violence, Russian activists believe it an imperative to host this year’s pride to illuminate the struggle of LGBT people in the country and to promote tolerance and equality.
The current law in St Petersburg and many other densely populated Russian provinces, including Moscow, known as”Propaganda of sadomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and trangenderism to minors” can be used to punish anyone guilty of “homosexual propaganda” with fines of up to $16,000.
Speaking to 429Magazine, Yury Gavrikov, one of the leading organizers for this year’s pride, talked on the struggle facing Russian LGBT activists.
429Magazine: What is your reasoning for hosting a gay pride parade despite the ban?”¨”¨
Yury Gavrikov: First, we understand the Gay Pride March as a more political event than western parades. That is why we don’t call it a Parade. And from the other side many media in Russia call it a “gay parade” and many people trust our TV channels so that “gay parades” look like young nude gays dancing on trucks and other gays are walking around as drag-queens. Most of them never saw Prides so all they know is what they see on TV. There is also other Russian traditions that celebrate the Parade of Victory (9 May Victory in the 2nd World War). So homophobic people ask “what are you marching for? Are you celebrating the Victory against heterosexual people?”
Second, if you look at all the past attempts of Prides (in Moscow since 2006 and in St. Petersburg since 2010) the results were mass arrests. Now authorities have the “legal” authority to arrest again during the event. I am sure they will do it again. The problem is that we believe in our rights to march as many other people do, and we will come out even if it our turnout is just a few people.
429Mag: Do you have any local support for hosting this pride among LGBT people?”¨”¨
Gavrikov: Most LGBT don’t support Prides in Russia as they are scared, or closed, or support only cultural events. One day when it will be legal and protected by police many of them will be ready to join; I believe and am optimistic about that.
429Mag: Can you tell me a little about how you started to become involved with LGBT rights?”¨”¨
Gavrikov: Well, I started to join the first Moscow Pride in 2006 after my personal coming out. I believe in the culture, education, science, and the opinion of global society about coming out. I was the only one in the conference before Pride’06 march who was against unsanctioned public action because I recognized that it could become some kind of provocation . (Moscow Pride ’06 was not sanctioned by the Russian Government) Then many other activists in Russia called to ignore the event and not to take part. We all argued that we needed an educational and cultural way to change society. And after the crazy day that was the first Pride attempt, fascists, religious fanatics, neo-Nazis, the police and many other groups beat us and then arrested us. Then I understood the power and politics of Pride.
429Mag: So you are demonstrating with this Pride as a political movement?
Gavrikov: Yes. 20 years ago the government dismissed the paragraph 121 (decriminalizing homosexuality) and this is a good chance for us to show that we don’t want to go back, that we need to move as a society toward European values based on human rights. Because the present democracy in Russia is too close to hypocrisy. I believe in changes. Everyone can change the world in his/her place. It is much easier than we think… all together.