Over 1,000 visitors, no violence at Russian QueerFest

Two musical groups played on Sept. 23 at the closing ceremony of QueerFest -- "Ängie" from Sweden and  "Parks, Squares & Alleys" from Russia. (Alba Photography photo courtesy of QueerFest)
Two musical groups played on Sept. 23 at the closing ceremony of QueerFest — “Ängie” from Sweden and “Parks, Squares & Alleys” from Russia. (Alba Photography photo courtesy of QueerFest)

“No protesters, no bomb threats, no provocations, and no venue cancellations.” That was one description of this year’s successful ninth annual QueerFest in St. Petersburg from Polina Andrianova, leader of the Russian LGBT group Coming Out.

About 1,200 people visited the festival, and more watched online.

“We are happy with how the festival went, and would like to share with you some results, impressions, feedback, and videos,” Andrianova said.

She also reported:

Every year, the festival becomes a long-awaited space of freedom of expression for many LGBTI people from St. Petersburg and regions of Russia. And every year we anticipate a call right before the festival starts, informing us that we are out, as yet another festival venue caved under the pressure from authorities.

QueerFest storytelling workshop on Sept. 17. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest)
QueerFest storytelling workshop on Sept. 17. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest)

Not so for the last two years. This year, there were no protesters, no bomb threats, no provocations, and no venue cancellations. Far from attempting to interfere, the police discussed with us how best to ensure visitors’ safety.  And so, we switched from combatting the system and ensuring survival, to focusing on the quality of the program, which this year centered around unfolding human destinies under the topic “Following the Life Line.” 1200 people visited the 10 days of the festival’s events, hundreds more watched the events online and followed the festival’s news.

7 LGBTI initiatives from various regions of Russia — “Labrys” LGBT organization (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), Gender Journey (Moscow/St. Petersburg), Telaboratoria/Body Laboratory), Association of Russian-speaking Intersex People,(Tolyatti, Russia), QUEERPOINT. Makeover StudioProject Theater”Maailmanloppu”, QIT Initiative (Samara) —  organized events and presented their work as part of the “Open Space” program.

As every year, 10-15% non-LGBTI people, allies and potential allies, came to learn and support. QUEERFEST takes place at central locations of the city, open and welcoming to the general public. Our video materials received 32,000 views online.

We’d like to share with you some of the atmosphere! Please enjoy the videos, photos, and publications of the festival:

Videos in Russian:

14/09 “QUEERFEST opened in St. Petersburg”: by Radio Svoboda

16/09 “My Gender Journey”

17/09 “Extraordinary Stories in Action or Mastering Storytelling” by Boris Dragilev of  Storytelling School of St. Petersburg

Videos in English (Russian subtitles):

22/09 Presentation of the book “Tove Jansson: Work and Love” by author Tuula Karjalainen

Photos from the festival:



Publication “My Intersex Story” (in Russian)

QueerFest 2017 graphic
QueerFest 2017 graphic

We hope every year to create a space for freedom, empowerment, and learning, and the warm words of feedback we receive is a source of inspiration:

“This weekend I finally visited #QueerFest, which I wanted to visit for several years. The festival left after itself the most pleasant and warm impressions. The inspiring atmosphere of ease, freedom, and pride did not leave me for a second: there were amazing people around who are not afraid to be themselves, who are not afraid to visit such places, study important topics, and fight for their rights, and who could (at least here!) hold their partner’s hand, without having to look over their shoulder. Moreover, the event was extremely interesting, educational, and well organized. I am very grateful to “Coming Out” LGBT organization, its volunteers and organizers because #QueerFest is awesome, it gives hope for a wonderful future, it gives strength to move forward, and just makes you happy! #lgbt #pride”

“It is difficult for me to write this, even if in general, without details, but I will do it for myself and for other people, who might find this story at least a little bit familiar, and will find in it a spark to continue the struggle with internal demons. #Queerfestspb saved me twice already. …

…It would seem there’s nothing extraordinary – lectures, discussions, documentaries about people, their lives, joys, and difficulties, about the individuality and diversity of individualities, as well as the closing party of the festival – a common thing for many. But for me each of these moments is connected with internal struggle. This year, holding on only to the interest in #queerfest, in only 4 days I was able to go from not being able to go outside, to dancing at 3 am in an unfamiliar place surrounded with strangers. …

…it is important when in this beautiful but cruel world there are islands of security (and there really are, look for them, reader, inside you and outside). Even more so when they are so big, as this event is, where even without knowing anyone, you feel almost at ease. Simply … thanks, @queerfestspb, that you are one of those who creates them.”

We thank our partners, Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden), the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg, European and U.S. diplomatic missions of St. Petersburg, Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg, art cluster Art Muza, Radio Svoboda, Art Museum HAM in Helsinki, staff of the human rights ombudsman of St. Petersburg, Festival Ryobra Evy (Eva’s Ribs), as well as LGBTI organizations and groups of St. Petersburg and regions of Russia for participation and support. And, of course, we couldn’t have done it without our team of 40 wonderful volunteers!

If you would like more information about “Coming Out” or QUEERFEST, would like to take part in the festival, or support our work, please contact Polina Andrianova at [email protected].

Related articles:

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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