2006: First Moscow Pride Festival, from May 25 to May 28
Our First Moscow Pride was organized as a 3 days festival which saw the participation of more than 100 participants from 25 different countries including Members of the European Parliament, a Member of Bundestag, a Vice Mayor of Paris and leading European LGBT activists. French singer Desireless, author of the song "Voyage-Voyage" was a special guest. The festival was cut into 3 days and apart from the street action, took place in Swissotel Moscow under full security measures supported by the organizers.
For this first large scale LGBT events in Russia, organizers wanted to show that gay does not necessarily means underground and that a gay festival which is both cultural & political could take place in the lights, in Moscow most prestigious 5 stars hotel at that time and still remain free for guests.
The main events were documented in the movie "Moscow Pride '06" by Vladimir Ivanov and produced by GayRussia. The movie was later selected to be part of the official program of the Berlin Film Festival in February 2007 where it premiered and was screened 3 times in public.
The first day of the festival, Thursday May 25, took place the International Conference of the International Gay and Lesbian Cultural Network (IGLCN). The same day in the evening, organizers had arranged a lecture on British author Oscar Wilde by Merlin Holland, his grandson and most knowledgeable researcher on the work of his grand father. This event which took place in the main hall of the Library of Foreign Literature was attacked by a group of nationalists who smashed tear gas into the hall. Nevertheless, the lecture continued in an adjacent room.
The second day of the festival was dedicated to the first conference of the International Day Against Homophobia which was opened with the greetings of Terry Davis, general Secretary of the Council of Europe. Speeches where given by Merlin Holland, Professor Robert Wintemute (King Cross College, London), Louis-Georges Tin (President IDAHO Committee), Clementine Autain (Paris Vice Mayor), Kurt Krickler (Austria), Briand Bedford (Berlin) & Peter Tatchel (Leading HR campaigner, UK).
The third day was divided between the closing of the conference and the pride. The first part of the morning was dedicated to debates around the Moscow Pride Appeal which was finally adopted by the Conference and undersigned by all the participants. At 11am took place the press conference dedicated to the Pride. This was the first time that so many journalists took part to a LGBT conference in Russia with more than 100 accreditations delivered. The Pride took place in the afternoon.
The Moscow Pride Rally
The Pride was not allowed and the ban was upheld by the Tverskoy District Court just a day before the planned date. As a result, organizers agreed on Saturday morning to keep holding the event without permission in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The format of the event was modified and splitted into 2 parts. First, the laying of flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Wall of Kremlin in Alexandrovski Garden at 2.30pm and second, a peaceful gathering in front of the city hall around the Statue of Youri Golgorouki at 3pm.
When the participants arrived at the gate of Alexandrovksi garden, the gates were closed and guarded by militia and OMON and they were met by a large anti gay crowd of nationalists and religious waiving crosses and chanting anti gay slogans. The square was surrounded by anti riot forced (OMON) and militia. While he was approaching the gate, 2 policemen seized Nikolai Alekseev from behind and arrested him without notice and took him to a police van.
At the same time, the scenery around was like a large riot with police arresting nationalists and skinheads in front of the Russian parliament, across the road. The traffic was cut which happens almost never on Tverskaya. It was later revealed by media that the young anti gay groups came to Moscow by bus from the southern regions of Russia and that their transportation was organized by nationalist groups, they also had been paid between 1000 to 1500 Rubles for the day. Media, organizers and police estimated that anti gay crowd amounted to 1,500 people, majoritarily young but also some grand mothers who came with church related groups holding icons and crosses.
At 3pm, when participants attempted to gather for the second event around the statue of Yuri Dolgoruki, Nikolai Kurinovich, a State Duma deputy who gathered his own people at the same place was giving a speech to media against Pride participants. Due to his duma immunity he was not questioned or stopped by the police even though his action of collecting people without prior notification should have been seen by militia as illegal as the one of the Pride participants. At the same time, and just 2 meters away from Kurinovic, Eugenia Debrianskaya, leader of the Lesbian movement, who was talking to journalists and supporters was immediately arrested and violently pushed into a bus van. She was hurt during her arrest and pushed on the pavement where her glasses were broken and she was hurt.
All activists arrested on that day were released the same evening. Among those arrested was Nikolai Alekseev, Eugenia Debrianskaya, Volker Beck and his partner, but also Philippe Lasnier (Paris Mayor Advisor) was also detained.
The images of the aggression of Volker Beck, a German MP who came to support the organizers and was severely punched in the face remained un-investigated by the police and the prosecution despite requests sent by Beck and the organizers. His harasser gave an interview to the Russian Newsweek and his name and address is known by the police.
Organizers did what they said they would do. They did not stop close to the end despite the pressure put by the police and anti gay groups. Most LGBT media named the event Russia's First Stonewall. The event was widely publicized outside Russia by foreign media. CNN had a 4mn interview live in its evening news with Nikolai Alekseev from Moscow after his release. It has been estimated by Doug Ireland, a US veteran journalist that First Moscow Pride was hit by 1 billion around the world. This action aimed to show to the Russian authorities that gays exist and that they aim to be heard and that no one will prevent them to express themselves. Nikolai Kurinovich despite the publicity and his several months campaign against Moscow Pride did not manage to be re-elected in the next Duma elections a few months later.
TODAY IN HISTORY
In 1993, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality. Starting from 2006, Russian gay rights activists started to celebrate this date by attempting to organize an annual gay rights march known as Moscow Gay Pride. The first edition was banned and marred with violence. It was reffered as the first Russian Stonewall.
This day was founded in 2004 by French Academic Louis-Georges Tin to mark the anniversary of the declassification of homosexuality from the list of disease by the World Health Organization. Russian LGBT have been celebrating this day every year since 2005 under the leadership of Project GayRussia which was itself founded on May 17, 2005. GayRussia is Russia's coordinator of IDAHO.
Following Moscow in May 2009, Minsk was the second capital to host the Slavic Gay Pride. The March was banned and marred with violence but it did not prevent two dozens of Pride organizers from Moscow, Minsk and St. Petersburg to march over 300 meters waiving a 10meters long rainbow flag. 11 participants including some of the organizers were brutally arrested by police forces.
2009 marked the launch of GayRussia's campaign for the opening of same-sex union of gays and lesbians in Russia. While the Constitutional Court already expressd the opinion that marriage is between a man and a woman, activists believe that the lack of partnership or marriage for gay couples is a strong point to impose legislative changes via a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
The five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber of the Court rejected the appeal of the Russian Federation in the Moscow Pride Ban case. The decision given on October 21 is final. By repeatedly banning Gay Pride Marches as well as other LGBT themed public action, Russia breached the European Convention on Human Rights.