By Irene Morse
Ever since Russia started cracking down on the LGBT community, people have been lashing out and in fantastic ways. Here are the most creative protests to shake Mother Russia so far.
1. IKEA invaders
When IKEA removed a story featuring a lesbian couple from their Russian catalog, several Russian gay couples resorted to “guerrilla” tactics. Joseph Huff-Hannon, co-editor of a book on the Russian gay propaganda law; Alexander Kargaltsev, a photographer who was recently granted asylum in the US based on his LGBT status; and Nina Long, co-founder of Rusa LGBT, organized a protest that consisted of an authorized catalog-style photo-shoot of Russian gay couples hanging out in the Brooklyn IKEA furniture showrooms. As Ksenia Mesheryakova, a lesbian Russian immigrant, put it, “Russia is my motherland. But right now my motherland is acting like an abusive bitch.”
2. Financial furor
When the New York Stock Exchange attempted to host its annual Russia Day on Nov. 18, more than 20 activists were there to ensure it didn’t go as planned. Queer Nation, an LGBT-rights group, helped organize the protest, during which participants held up rainbow banners and shouted slogans such as, “Russia’s laws of gay harassment, poor return for your investment!” The result? A Russian investment conference was moved to a less prominent location, and the NYSE cancelled plans to allow a Russian delegate to ring the closing bell.
3. Dissident dicks
Gay Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky is known for his edgy and painful protest techniques. He has previously wrapped himself in barbed wire and sewn his own mouth shut to protest oppressive Russian laws. However, he took things up a notch when he decided to nail his own scrotum to the cobblestone in Moscow’s Red Square to protest Russia’s devolution into a police state. Hundreds of tourists witnessed the performance, which was later posted to YouTube for the world to see. After being treated at a Moscow clinic, Pavlensky was taken into police custody.
4. Cosmopolitan kiss-ins
The kiss-in is a classic gay protest strategy that will probably never lose its appeal. When Russia began cracking down on its LGBT population, the global gay community responded with “To Russia With Love,” a day of solidarity and smooching in major cities such as Vancouver, New York City, Paris, Washington DC, Athens, Barcelona and Helsinki. Protesters organized and documented the event using Facebook, and many indicated their hopes that Russia repeal its gay propaganda law before the Olympic Games in Sochi.
5. Vanishing vodka
This past summer, gay rights activist and famed advice columnist Dan Savage began encouraging bars to boycott Russian vodka in protest of its anti-gay laws. Savage pushed his Dump Russian Vodka campaign heavily on social media platforms, and soon many bars around the world had removed Russian vodka from their shelves and even posted photos of bar tenders pouring Stoli vodka into the streets. While the effectiveness of this boycott is debatable, it is clear that public awareness of Russia’s legislation has increased thanks to this alcoholic activism.