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Approved Gay Event in Russia's Far East Set to Test Tolerance

Published: May 11, 2014 (Issue # 1809)



  • Alexander Ermoshkin carrying rainbow-hued balloons.
    Photo: Alexander Ermoshkin / Facebook

Gay rights activist Alexander Yermoshkin said Thursday that local authorities had approved his request to hold a public event against LGBT discrimination on May 17, a move that may see Russia's controversial anti-gay propaganda law tested.

Other gay rights activists, particularly Moscow's Nikolai Alexeyev, have frequently complained of applications for similar, smaller scale events for the LGBT community being refused.

Yermoshkin, a gay rights activist and Khabarovsk resident, was fired from his 18-year career as a geography teacher in the aftermath of Russia's anti-gay propaganda law being enacted last summer.

The anti-gay propaganda law bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors" and has sparked international outrage since its signing in June 2013.

Yermoshkin posted on his Facebook page that authorities had agreed to let him hold an event where he and up to 100 people would release a rainbow of balloons into the sky. The event will mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

In his application to hold the event on May 17, Yermoshkin wrote that the action was meant to show "resistance to fascism, a fight against discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against representatives of the LGBT community."

Yermoshkin told The St. Petersburg Times by phone from Khabarovsk that he had also submitted an application last year, which was accepted, though it was before the anti-gay law took effect on the federal level. This year, he copied last year's application for the same event to the letter and approached authorities "very formally" with his request, he said.

"Provoking a reaction [from authorities] was never my goal so I sent in a very traditional application," he said.

He told local news media earlier that he intended to sue authorities if they refused the application.

Whereas previous events held on May 17 included posters expressing gay pride, Yermoshkin adapted this demonstration which has been held seven times by scrapping the posters and scaling it down to the simple release of balloons with people's wishes attached.

Though authorities granted permission for the event, Yermoshkin may encounter problems similar to those he faced last year, when members of the Nazi-inspired Stoltz Khabarovsk group showed up to the event and threatened participants.

He said he didn't exclude the possibility of such harassment being repeated this year, since an anti-gay Vkontakte group was already discussing the event.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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