Queerfest, the largest public LGBT event in Russia, gets underway in St Petersburg today, despite fears from festival organisers that increased hostilities towards the LGBT community in Russia could cause trouble.
Now in its sixth year, the event comprises talks, screenings, concerts and exhibitions over a period of ten days. Educational at its core, this year’s festival will focus on how tolerance can be taught to children, while also exploring gay subcultures in St Petersburg in the early 20th century. Manifesta 10, the roving European biennale of contemporary art which set down roots in St Petersburg this year, will also participate in the programme, examining the relationship between art, society and politics.
Organiser Polina Andrianova has said that the festival has already received threats and protests online, with further harassment expected. However, she remains hopeful of the festival’s success. “It feels that we’ve already succeeded, as the spirit of celebration and pride is in the air and will be with us these ten days,” she said. “Everything is so gloomy throughout the year — it feels good to set aside a time when the LGBT community, and our supporters and allies, can join together to openly and publicly celebrate our work, our identities, and our lives.”
St Petersburg has been at the centre of Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights over the last two years, with local lawmaker Vitaly Milonov spearheading the “anti-gay propaganda” laws that were first passed in the city and then later nationally.
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