"It is really difficult to live in some cities. Not only for LGBT-people. Many of my friends moved, for example, from Chelyabinsk to St. Petersburg". Chelyabinsk (Russia). August, 2020.
What were the 90s like for you?
Freedom. Despite all the difficulties in the 90's, there was freedom and democracy developed.
When Putin started changing the electoral system in the early 2000s, it became clear that democracy in our country was over. This was the first obvious sign.
How do you assess whether life in Voronezh and St. Petersburg has changed since Vladimir Putin came into power?
Life for LGBT people changed dramatically in Voronezh with the adoption of the law on homopropaganda, and conservative groups with a religious bias began to develop there.
I was walking around Voronezh with my boyfriend in 1999, holding hands. This is now being filmed in various videos: "Gays are walking through Moscow, holding hands!» And we then went without any "YouTube". I wanted to take the guy by the hand, and we went holding hands – and no one shouted anything after us. Later, when I came from St. Petersburg to Voronezh, I met the guy and wanted to kiss him on the cheek, but he was afraid: "No, no, no! Someone can notice us!» He was even afraid to kiss my cheeks... The level of fear is high.
There is no freedom in St. Petersburg now either. It is impossible to hold a pride, and the rights and freedoms of LGBT people are restricted. Government cultivates fear…
I have a friend who still walks around St. Petersburg with his partner, holding hands. And I want to walk with my beloved one the same way. For the simple reason that it is necessary to do so right now, to fight for rights, and not wait for some special moment. You need to change your life for yourself right now, and then it will change. Don't wait for something to happen. There will never be a special moment if you don't make the effort to do it by yourself.
Do I understand correctly that you highlight such crucial points from the point of view of LGBT people as the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Vladimir Putin's coming to power, and the adoption of the Mizulina's law in 2013?
Homosexual relationships ceased to be criminalized in May 1993, after the collapse of the USSR. In the 90's, there was a huge amount of literature available to both LGBT people and people who were interested in this issue. At my home in Voronezh on the shelf was a book by Igor Kon "people of the moon color". I calmly bought it in a store without any restrictions like 18+. It was available. You could read, study, watch, understand who you are. The Internet appeared at my University in 1997-1998 years. This is my first visit to "Gay.ru". When you have knowledge, when you know what LGBT is, you treat it adequately. And the arrival of Putin led to the fact that this knowledge disappeared, and people were thrown back. When there is no source of knowledge, people cannot be enlightened. Since 2000, there has been a gradual increase in homophobia, which implemented in homophobic discriminatory laws of 2013-2014 years. And then there was state homophobia, which has not stopped until now, and it is one of the management tools for the government.