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Festival of Queer Culture in Russia opens despite intense government pressure

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Despite all the obstacles, the International Festival of Queer Culture opened successfully on Thursday, Sept. 16.

The organizers were forced to find a new location for the opening and the photo exhibition, one day before the event. The venue St. Petersburg Union of Artists broke the contract.

The director of the Union of Artists was told by an official from the Committee of Culture of St. Petersburg that the event is “propaganda of homosexuality” and therefore should be shut down, as he told the organizers on the phone.

About 150 people came to the ceremony. Polina Savchenko and Anna Anisimova, festival coordinators, told the audiences about the festival’s aim to promote tolerance and attract attention to the problem of homophobia and transphobia in Russia.

Other speakers were Igor Kochetkov, director of LGBT organization Coming Out, Majeed Olerud-Khoso, Swedish Consul for culture, and others.

Igor Kochetkov thanked the public of Russia for showing their solidarity: in 24 hours, 1,000 individuals and 30 organizations signed the online letter of support for the festival. (www.sborgolosov.ru/voiteview.php?voite=140).

Festival organizers say no matter what the pressure, the festival will go on as planned.

The festival is organized by St. Petersburg LGBT organization Coming Out (http://piter.lgbtnet.ru).

The complete program is available at www.queerfest.ru