Russian Gay Activists Unveil Plans for Their Slavic Pride on Eurovision
“Gay Equality, No Compromise”
MOSCOW (GayRussia.Ru) Yesterday (05.05.2009) in Moscow took place the annual press conference of the Moscow Pride movement. For two hours, organizers of the event answered questions of local and foreign journalist about plans for the May 16 Slavic Pride march but also about Gay Rights in Russia.
Speaking at the press conference where Nikolai Alekseev, chief organizer, Irina Fet, Sergey Androsenko, Maria Arbatova, feminist and writer and Eduard Murzin, former deputy and head of center Tolerance.
Like every year, the press conference showed a massive interest with more than 50 journalists packed in the room.
“Moscow Pride is an incredible platform which allows us to speak and get attention from the public not only about Freedom of Assembly but about gay rights in general in Russia every year” said Nikolai Alekseev in introduction.
“There has not been any more powerful initiative to put gay rights in the society in the history of the Russian LGBT movement” he added.
2009 sees the fourth attempt to host a March for the Rights of Sexual Minorities in Moscow. This year, the event which is to be held together with Belarusian activists has been re-branded as the “Slavic Pride”. It is also expected to take place next year in Minsk, Belarus, for the first time.
Nikolai Alekseev further explained that this year’s march on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest Final is planed on purpose:
“There will never be a better time to raise the question in this country” said Nikolai Alekseev.
“If Medvedev and Luzhkov position Russia as a European country and invite Eurovision, the question of [gay] rights should proceed in a European way.”
“It does not make sense that Russia would accept to watch gay singers performing on the stage, and ban gay activists from marching.”
Organizers applied for 4 public actions to take place in Moscow on May 16th giving a wide range of variants to the authorities to allow at least one of events.
A march was applied at the City Hall, and 2 pickets were applied at the Central Prefecture.
In addition, they asked the President for permission to hold a march in the garden adjacent to the walls of Kremlin.
Leonid Krutakov, a spokesperson for the City Hall said last week that “all attempts to hold such events will be firmly stopped by the authorities”.
However, speaking to AP last night, Mr Krutakov seemed to have softened his position explaining that the decision will be taken only by the Mayor of Moscow.
Activists told journalists that their action would take place irrespective of the decision of the authorities. Right to peaceful marches and Freedom of Assembly is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and the European Convention for Human Rights.
Several cases are pending at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the 2006, 2007 and 2008 banned Moscow Pride but the Court is not expected to take any decision before another 3 to 4 years.
In March, the organizers appealed to the Spanish Presidency of the Council of Europe to remind Russia of its obligations towards Freedom of Assembly for all.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is known for its opposition to permit gays marching in his city. In January 2007, he qualified gay prides as “satanic gatherings”.
Officially, President Medvedev has never expressed a position on gay rights. Last year, his services denied answering a similar application to hold a march next to the Kremlin. A case was recently filed with the ECHR.
“President Medvedev’s position on gay rights is a well kept secret behind Kremlin’s wall. At the State level, we only know the relatively neutral position of former President Putin after he answered a question from journalists in 2007” said Nikolai Alekseev.
Asked about possible trouble with the police and protesters, Nikolai Alekseev answered:
“Several Embassies are concerned about the safety of their nationals who will travel to Moscow to attend both our actions and the Eurovsion. I know that these concerned have been raised officially with the government.”
Speaking about the actions planed around the Slavic Pride, the organizers explained that they will associate gays and lesbians from all Russia.
A series of talk shows will be broadcasted from May 13 to May 17 on Gay-Radio.Ru, the first Web Gay radio in Russia and a partner of the Slavic Pride. Freedom of Assembly, Family Rights, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia are among the issues to be discussed.
“Broadcasting our events through the web will make them accessible to those who are far away from Moscow and who cannot travel or who are just not ready to take part in a public action.” explained Ira Fet.
Ms Fet also told journalists that she will apply together with her girlfriend for a marriage on May 12 in Moscow.
Nikolai Alekseev explained that if the Moscow authorities deny registering the marriage, the couple will wed in Canada and seek recognition of their union in Russia.
“Everything is ready, and we are both very excited” said Ms Fet.
The Slavic Pride Festival also welcomes this year foreign activists like Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer from Gay Liberation Network in Chicago.
Tatchell and Thayer will speak “Live from Moscow after the Slavic Pride” on Saturday 17 giving a summary to the international community before the Eurovision ceremony. The program will be accessible online via Gay-Radio.Ru
“More than ever, this year we want to celebrate gay activism and courage. Our determination to fight for our rights is unchanged since we started in 2005” said Nikolai Alekseev.
This year’s Moscow Pride slogan “Gay Equality, No Compromise” is also the name of a new campaign launched by the organizers. The fight for same sex marriage in Russia is the first initiative of this campaign.
Activists will also remit the award of the “Rainbow Hero of the Russian Gay movement” which will celebrate the most courageous activist selected by a Russian panel.