Yet, as a reporter I am not
supposed to let out this fury in my news report. And as an activist I could
also do nothing as it would have spoiled my mission to Krasnodar.
You can guess what I felt on
Saturday evening when I was confronted by the placard proclaiming
“Organisers of the parade of pederasts in May
2006 want to get a revenge for the defeat of fascists in May 1945” when I
tell you that my grandfather was killed by the fascists in 1942.
He was also Nikolai and I was named
after him. I always thought about him and I cant even go to his grave cause
no one ever knew where it is. He helped liberate this country and not to
have people like those taking part in the Krasnodar protest saying what
It is, frankly, outrageous. And
this wingnut is comparing me, a gay man, with a fascist.
Little did I know on Thursday that
I would be in Krasnodar on Saturday. Around noon on Thursday I was checking
the Russian news agencies when, on Yuga.ru I came across an item that there
was to be a demonstration in Krasnodar against next year’s Moscow Pride
This jogged my memory. Last month,
the respected Novye Izvestia had reported on September 27 that “local
organizations of Kuban (Krasnodarski region) “plan to conduct in October on
the central street of Krasnodar a demonstration against the gay festival in
I took note of this report and the
matter was discussed with others who are organising Moscow Pride. We wanted
to lodge an official complaint, but lawyers advised against this course.
But on Thursday, following the item
on the Yuga.ru website, we put out a statement that said the right to
meetings and demonstrations is guaranteed by the Constitution to everyone,
but, in case of illegal actions, we will apply to the General Prosecutor.
This is the first case when the
intention to persecute Krasnodar homophobes was officially announced.
In the statement of Pride
organising group, it was said: “The mere fact of planning of such a march,
the aim of which is incitement of hatred against particular groups of people
as well as prevention to use their constitutional rights by other citizens
raises the question of the legality of such an event”.
Then, five hours after the reports
that “there will be a march and meeting against gay parade that will take
place in Moscow”, came the news, again from Yuga.ru, that the
“administration of Krasnodarski region [has] denied the organizers of the
march against gay parade in Moscow the authorization to conduct the event.”
The official reason given was that:
“Human rights committee “Presumption” (which applied for the event) was
removed from the state register of public organizations by the decision of
Kuban district court of Krasnodar dated 12 April 2004”.
Now, there was a “sensation” smell
to the whole story! Whatever were the real reasons to deny the
authorization for the homophobic demonstration? It was unlikely connected
to the ‘tender feelings’ of local authorities towards gays and lesbians!
Such quick publication of
information about the denial of the event gave us strange feelings. Maybe
all this mess was just done to attract attention? Maybe the protest
organizers did not really plan to go on the streets and were quite satisfied
with the local authorities decision?
What was also strange is that the
news about the demonstration against the gay pride in Moscow and its banning
was not republished anywhere else in the Russia. Remembering a particular
interest of Interfax news agency towards the planned gay parade in the
Siberian city of Tumen, the information vacuum in connection with Krasnodar
seemed at least strange. It was also not covered by any more or less
visited Russian LGBT sites.
On Friday morning came more
information from Yuga.ru. that the militia will not allow the illegal
“actions of patriots”.
It reported that a source in the
main militia department had said: “those demonstrating will be offered to
leave peacefully. Though further actions by law enforcing authorities are
not predictable, that is why they will act according to the circumstances”
This was another sensation! Albert
Gayamyan, head of the human rights committee “Presumption” said in the
interview to Novye Izvestia in September that the “militia is
definitely on our side. Once the first printing matter which published our
bill proposal against propaganda of homosexuality was “Militia Newspaper of
Such confidence of Gayamyan was not
surprising, to be honest. It was much more surprising to hear the warning
from law enforces authorities of Krasnodar that they will not allow a non
sanctioned event to take place. The organizers of the event said that they
will do it even without the permit from the authorities.
It was now becoming clear that
something was afoot in Krasnodar. An urgent needed to be made.
If the Gay Pride Festival in Moscow
is to be an historic event for Russia, the homophobic demonstration in
Krasnodar could become the first mass action of protest against this event
in Russia, and will also go into history.
A thought went in my mind: “You
announced the organisation of the gay pride, do be consistent, fly to
Krasnodar to find out first hand who these protesters are and how many of
them are there”.
I called “Aeroflot” immediately to
know about the possible flights to Krasnodar. The schedule was just ideal:
the morning flight from Moscow and the evening flight from Krasnodar.
But one final thought. I should
email a regular visitor to our website, GayRussia.ru. We are calling him
“Alexey” to protect his identity as he lives in Krasnodar. I asked him
whether he can meet me and guide me around the city I had never been to.
The reply came quickly. “Of
course”, he said.
Just after 7pm that evening, I left
the Aeroflot office with the return ticket. It was raining. Autumn has
finally arrived in Moscow. Refreshingly cool after a long ‘golden summer’.
So I was in high spirits as I walked down the street covered in a yellow
carpet of leaves to the Okhotnyi Ryad metro station and returned home.
I might have been going on a 3,000
kilometre round trip. But there were no bags to pack.
On Saturday, I awoke early and made
Sheremetyevo-1 Airport in good time for flight SU763 which left on time.
During the flight I managed to talk
about the Krasnodarski region with my travelling ‘neighbour’, who told me
very many interesting things about life of the region. There was also the
crying of a little boy with the foreign name Richard who was flying with his
mum, probably from abroad, to the relatives on the South of Russia.
This child had time during the
flight to run barefooted in the plane, jump on his seat and talk to the
people surrounding him as well as to through some of my papers.
In other words, a normal flight.
But in Aeroflot terms their in-flight service was not the usual one expects
on internal flights – it was akin to the service on an international
flight. Even so, the 2hours 15 minutes in the air seemed an ‘age’ to me.
On landing, I sent a text message
to ‘Alexey’. He would meet me outside the terminal building, which I
reached quickly – only a day trip so no waiting at baggage reclaim where
your baggage always seems to be the last to appear!
We shunned the ‘special deals’
offered by the army of taxi drivers and opted for the trolleybus. We talked
extensively on the journey about gay life in Russia, Krasnodarski region,
the Black Sea resorts which are very close, same-sex partnerships in foreign
countries – everything that came to our minds.
The trip seemed very quick and we
left the trolleybus in the centre of Krasnodar. The first “place of
interest” which attracted my attention was the nice and restored building of
the prosecution department of Krasnodarski region. I could not just pass by
and not take a photo. After that, there was Pushkinskaya Square with the
monument to the great Russian poet. It does not look like the square with
the same name in the centre of Moscow.
During the day I saw several
marriage ‘corteges’ in the city – well, it was Saturday after all when many
people prefer to wed.
Turning to the local central street
Krasnaya, the first thing I saw was the book shop of Albert Gayamyan “Derzhava”.
There, one can find a full range of nationalistic and patriotic literature.
There are also homophobic. To be honest, this shop which reminded me of a
cooperative stall in early days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did
not impress me at all.
I was expecting to see something
more grandiose. But at the entrance there was advert with the nationalistic
flag that guided into the shop. As ‘Alexey’ told me, it is very unusual to
see this flag here.
We continued walking. And suddenly
we both had a surprise! All Krasnaya street was having a real festival.
People were dancing and singing. The authorities of the region decided to
conduct a festival “Labour reserves of Kuban”. All along the main street
there were stalls with the achievements of different schools and local
craftsmen. There were many masterpieces of local art and of gastronomy.
Many people were singing famous songs with karaoke.
It was a real celebration which
surprised even ‘Alexey’. He could not even remember when he saw something
similar in the city before. Taking into account the scale of the event and
the number of the participants, I had a thought: the authorities might have
decided to wreck the homophobic demonstration with something grandiose.
We passed by the building of the
Administration of Krasnodarski region with very well arranged lawns with
flowers. Very soon we reached the main point of my destination – the
monument to the Black Sea Kazak Army.
Nothing hinted on possible
demonstration against the Moscow Gay Pride. But Krasnodar did not stop to
surprise with its contradictions in terms of homosexuality. When we were
sitting in the park a group of young guys passed by showing their fingers at
us with the words: “pederasts”.
And then, walking along the central
street we stumbled upon the posters stuck on the walls on which same-sex
couple were depicted, with the words: “No to propaganda of homophobia! Our
private life is our private business”.
I had not seen anything of the kind
even in Moscow. It is unclear just who was responsible for these posters,
that in Krasnodar gays and lesbians are also fighting against homophobic
After having lunch in a typical
Russian restaurant in the centre of Krasnodar (typical in cuisine, but far
cheaper than I would have to pay for in Moscow), ‘Alexey’ and I continued
our discussions on various topics, including the matter of whether the
planned anti-gay demo would actually take place and if it did, what would be
the reaction of the authorities.
We did not have to wait long...
[For report on the demonstration,
HERE for separate report previously published]
As the demonstrators heeded the
warning of the militia and dispersed, ‘Alexey’ and I went to the stylish yet
cozy Café “Kvartira where we reviewed the day and the demo, checking that
the photographs and video had all recorded properly.
This done, we walked awhile as it
started to get dark. Then a taxi ride to the airport – a journey of about
30 minutes and 150 roubles (£3), which was cheap by Moscow standards.
Saying goodbye to ‘Alexey’, I
thanked him very much for all he did for me in Krasnodar. Without his
participation I, a Muscovite, would hardly have been able to learn so much
about this southern Russian city in just one day – and even to feel myself
at home there.
On the flight back, I read the
inflight magazine Ves Mir and stumbled upon the thoughts of Irina
Hakamada, a Russian politician and one of the leaders of ‘democratic forces’
in Russia who earlier lent her support to the Gay Pride Parade in Moscow.
In this article she said that she liked very much Paris quarter Marais
where there are whole areas and many places for gays.
This was like a balsam for my soul
after such a difficult but very exciting trip. In just a week Paris is
waiting for us where a press conference dedicated to the first conference of
IDAHO and Moscow Gay Pestival is taking place.
This press conference will take
place virtually in the Marais district.
It was 11 pm when the lights of
Moscow appeared far below and I slipped Ves Mir into the pocket of
the back of the seat in front of me. We were about to land at
Sheremetyevo-1 Airport. Saturday had just become Sunday as I arrived home
after an exhausting, but fruitful day.
To be honest, I did not believe
that just two days before I did not even consider the trip to Krasnodar
seriously. But so many things happened in one day that it seemed to be I
had not been at home for eternity.
The anger that as a gay man I am
akin to a fascist in the eyes of some people in Krasnodar is still there.
Now, I have to decide just what to do about this …
Exclusive photo gallery of one day in Krasnodar by Nikolai Alekseev is
available on the GayRussia.ru website. Click on this link for direct
access to the gallery.
■ See also
Protest Turns Out Low Key Under Watchful Eye of Militia, by
Yesterday’s anti-gay protest in Krasnodar was banned by the authorities on the
technicality that one of the groups organising the demonstration had been
ordered by the courts to be closed down. So there was one obvious question I had when I arrived at
the monument to the Black Sea Kazak Army in the city and found the local law
enforcement officers there.