Queer Screen: the hidden LGBTQ icons in Russian and Soviet cinema

Queer Screen: the hidden LGBTQ icons in Russian and Soviet cinema
A still from the 2004 film, "I Love You", directed by Olga Stolpovskaya and Dmitri Troitski

24 June 2020

The history of cinema is bursting with queer longing: love stories and erotic tension which had no place in the mainstream but was still cherished by the LGBTQ community for decades to come. Now, online project Queer Screen is unveiling the ambiguous, hidden, and rich history of queer representation in Russian and Soviet film.

Based in Moscow, 28-year-old Stasya Korotkova started the Queer Screen project in the spring of 2020. Korotkova studied cinema and worked in the film industry as a distributor — but the history of queer representation in film feels particularly personal.

“I want to gradually unpack what the visual culture of my country can say about me, and about non-heterosexual sensuality”

“I catalogue Russian and Soviet films that either deal with the topic of non-normative sexuality and gender expression, or have a certain subtle touch of queer sensuality,” Korotkova explains. “My initial interest was to make a full timeline of the Russian and Soviet LGBTQ representation on film. I simply wanted to have this kind of catalogue and since no one had created it for me, I started making one myself.”

Queer Screen’s instagram account is filled with gems such as Dubravka, a 1967 love story between a tomboy teenager and older woman in a seaside town, or 1935 classic A Severe Young Man, with its overtly homoerotic scenes between young communists.

“I love the blog format because it’s a process of collecting artefacts. I want to gradually unpack what the visual culture of my country can say about me, and about non-heterosexual sensuality”, Korotkova adds.

The topic of same-sex relationships was taboo during the Soviet era, and remains largely remains taboo today. Korotkova collects much of her information from outside of official archives, often through the word of mouth. “A lot of the films featured are from my own knowledge, some are from friends’ recommendations,” she says. “Sometimes I also look at old LGBTQ forums where people share films with each other. I am fascinated by how LGBTQ people swapped information, especially before the internet became widely available.”

As Korotkova’s knowledge mainly concerns Russian film history, she is also keen to work with critics and experts from other former Soviet countries. “I have created a section titled Connections where readers can learn about history of queer cinema countries in Kyrgysztan or Ukraine, and I want to add more in the future,” she says.

Follow Queer Screen on Instagram and Telegram.

Read more

Queer Screen: the hidden LGBTQ icons in Russian and Soviet cinema

‘I couldn’t have made this film if I lived in Georgia.’ The queer love story inspired by traditional dance

Queer Screen: the hidden LGBTQ icons in Russian and Soviet cinema

“We aren’t just suffering”: a new magazine celebrates the joys of being queer in Russia

Queer Screen: the hidden LGBTQ icons in Russian and Soviet cinema

Cornel Brudaşcu: how Romania’s foremost painter forged a queer identity against the odds