■ The meeting room of the Swissotel
Moscow where today's Moscow Gay Pride conference is being held.
MOSCOW, May 26, 2007 (GayRussia.ru)
– With Gay Pride about to start, Moscow is surprisingly quiet. Not a
single official statement has been released by Mayor of Moscow, unlike at
the same time last year.
Even the weather is different –
last year rain was the order of the day. Right now a sunny and hat weekend
awaits the 200 or so participants attending today’s LGBT conference and who
knows how many who will take part in tomorrow’s Pride March.
And journalists are starting to
“smell” a story later in the day.
Alexey Davydov, who is in charge of
media coordination, said that this year Pride has two direct lines for
“The phone has been ringing all the
time for the last two days,” he said. “We have 120 journalists accredited
from 60 different media organisations. The interest is already much bigger
than last year at the same time.”
With City Hall so quiet,
speculation is rife among reporters that the march might after all be
sanctioned – could it be that the Kremlin has issued orders? After all,
with so many writers and broadcasters in town, and Russia’s bid to host the
2014 Winter Olympics – selection is made in two months, it would not be
“good press” to have bad publicity over Gay Pride, especially as the IOC
pays increasing attention to “diversity” these days.
Nikolai Alekseev, one of the Pride
organisers and the group’s spokesperson agreed that there was much
speculation among the Press.
“This year, Pride is discussed at
the high levels and has been taken very seriously by the authorities,
though no public statement was really made” he said this morning.
“It’s hard to say if this is
connected with the bid of Sochi to host the 2014 Olympics or if there is a
desire in Kremlin to annoy the mayor.”
But, he agreed that chaos in Moscow
at tomorrow’s march would probably damage Russia’s reputation as well as its
capabilities of protecting an international event lie the Winter Olympics.
And he pointed out that
broadcasters had estimated that around one billion people worldwide had seen
television news reports of the violence at last year’s Pride.
Tverskaya, the most famous street
of Moscow where City Hall and office of Mayor Luzhkov is located, was
covered yesterday evening with stickers supporting Pride. Last year,
the picket in support of sexual minorities took place in front of the city
hall and was violently disrupted by anti riot police and ultra orthodox
The Second Moscow Gay Pride gets
underway this morning with the conference which is followed at 4pm (Moscow
time – UTC +4) with a press conference.
Hosted by Project GayRussia.Ru, the
leading Russian gays and lesbian advocacy group, conference organisers have
invited OutRage!, the British LGBT human rights group, as a guest of honour
– last year it was International Day Against Homophobia.
Like last year, the conference
will take place at the Moscow Swissotel.
Asked about the choice of this
expensive hotel to host a human rights conference, Mr. Alekseev explained
that there is no other alternative to stage a major event in a secure and
“All the conference venues in
Moscow have refused us a room – and it’s the same for other hotels.
“I must admit that Swissotel is
probably the only hotel in Moscow which does not discriminate against any of
its customers. They are courageous to make their facilities available to
He pointed out that next autumn’s
InterPride conference is to be held at the Swissotel in Zurich.
Like last year, tight security has
been put in place at the hotel.
“We did not have a big choice.
That was part of the deal with the hotel. The authorities clearly declined
to ensure protection of the building,” said Mr. Alekseev
“We have more foreign politicians
than last year, and we also expect a much bigger crowd hence creating a need
for an efficient protection,” he pointed out.
Asked why he did not try to host
the event in a gay club or a human rights centre, Mr. Alekseev pointed out
“Last year we relied on the 3
Monkeys gay club in Moscow where we were supposed to stage the Moscow Pride
show by French singer Desireless.
“But the owner cancelled the event
two hours before the start, leaving us with all the expenses.
“And we have learned last night
that we were not welcome anymore in the club – this is where we where
supposed to meet tonight with all the foreign guests, including the Russian
pop singing group tATu, who have flown in from Los Angeles especially for
“There is a clear hysteria about
the pride among gay business owners,” Mr. Alekseev admitted.
“They are ready to step on
fundamental rights of their own citizen just to feed their wallet. You are
at risk, if you trust on them to help you,” he claimed.
The ‘local anti gay pride figure’
is Alexey Khodorkovskiy, the owner of the QGuys gay dating website.
“Of course, he does not need a
pride in Moscow. He owns several companies, and lives in Russia and the US.
“A Gay Pride in Russia would only
harm his local business,” Mr. Alekseev charged.
Last year, Mr. Khodorkovskiy was
among the organisers who tried to stage a Moscow gay week in April and May.
Despite a last minute cancellation of their events due to heavy security
threats, two clubs were attacked by 50 nationalists and a third one was
Since then, the organisers of that
event have adopted an “anti public action” attitude, arguing that the
society is not ready.
“This is more a lack of preparation
and professionalism” Alekseev said. “We never forced anyone to go in the
streets and will never do” he argued.
“Our event needs a particular
logistics and security that human rights centres are not able to offer. We
attempted to host our press conference at the Moscow Helsinki Group but five
protesters came in.
“Thanks to the presence of the
bodyguards of one member of the Duma who was among the speakers, nothing
untoward happened and we avoided giving the satisfaction to fascists in
disrupting our event.
“This is a reminder that particular
care needs to be taken for LGBT events in Moscow. I prefer that delegates
are unable to buy a coffee at Swissotel than they end up possibly suffering
from a gas – or worse – in another place,” he said, referring to the pepper
gas attack last year during a lecture on Oscar Wilde by his grandson, Merlin
Even the Swissotel has its
limitations. The conference room has a capacity for 170 delegates.
“We had to close conference
registration three days ago when we reached 200 participants,” said Nikolai
Baev, conference organiser.
“Activists from Moscow, St.
Petersburg, Voronezh, Lipetsk, Omsk, Kaliningrad, Ivanovo and Tver have
arrived in Moscow for the event. Also we have people here from Belarus and
“This year, there are less
delegates came from Western Europe,” he said. “They have helped us last
year, showing that everything is possible when you want it. This has
worked. There is a clear dynamic among local people – and not only
activists,” he pointed out.
Perhaps the most
‘headline-grabbing’ aspect of the conference will be the promised attendance
of Archbishop Alexiy of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Archbishop, who
was the Church’s representative in Italy, is to talk on “The Church in the
21st Century and LGBT Community”. The Archbishop has quit the Church.
He has indicated that he is
planning to attend tomorrow’s Pride March and will bless the participants.
Among the politician will be Edward
Murzin, a member of the Baskortostan Parliamenrt, will discuss his
anti-homophobia legislative initiatives, and Vladimir Luxuria, the
transgender Member of Italian parliament who will discuss rights of
citizenships for transgender people.
There will also be Russian
Olga Zhuk, a famous lesbian
activist in the 90’s who is now now exiled in Berlin, will discuss about
activism in the beginning of the 1990’s, Nikolai Baev, local activist will
raise the issue of homophobia in Russian politics, Alexey Davydov, from LGBT
Rights, will discuss the problems – and solutions– of LGBT activism and
human rights movements, and Irina Fet, a lesbian activist will raise the
problems of LGBT in the province.
It is still unclear whether leading
figures of the ‘traditional’ Russian human rights movement will show up at
Gay Rights are quite new in the
agenda of human rights activists, Mr. Alekseev pointed out .
Peter Tatchell said yesterday in an
interview with GayRussia.Ru: “When human rights activists pick and choose
which freedoms to defend they are compromising the whole human rights
agenda. The fundamental, non-negotiable principle is that human rights are
universal and indivisible”.
Ludmila Alekseeva from Moscow
Helsinki Group and Lev Ponomarev, Movement for Human Rights, first agreed to
speak at the press conference earlier this month and then cancelled their
“We do not know if we will see them
tomorrow – but we will keep a chair from them until the end of the day” said
The press conference will feature
both Russians and those from other countries. From the European Parliament
there will be Sophie In’ t Veld and Marco Cappato; Member of the German
Bundestag Volker Beck, who was assaulted during the Pride last year; Member
of Italian Parliament and first elected transexual deputy in Europe,
Vladimir Luxuria; and Gebi Mair, city councillor of Innsbruck (Austria).
Human rights and gay activists will
be represented by Peter Tatchell from OutRage!, and Kurt Krickler from
HOSI-Wien in Austria.
On the Russian side, the most
sensational attendees will be tATu, the only Russian popstar group to have
openly supported the Gay Pride march. Member of Russian Duma, Alexey
Mitrofanov will also be there.
He is the first Russian politician
at a national level to officially support the gay march. He is also the
deputy head of the Duma Committee on Constitutional legislation and has
already pointed out that banning tomorrow’s event is contrary to the Russian
constitution. Mr. Murzin will also be speaking at the press conference.
The plans for tomorrow’s march will
also be revealed at the press conference – organisers last night put the
final touches to their plans.
“We have made four alternatives
over the last months and the current situation, as well as some recent
events, made it easily to select one alternative” said Mr. Alekseev. “Plans
are ready and we’ll unveil them at the Press Conference”.
Posted: 26 May 2007 at
05:00 (UK time)