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Stockholm Pride: A safe haven for LGBT Russians

Stockholm Pride: A safe haven for LGBT Russians

It takes about an hour to fly from Stockholm in Sweden to St Petersburg in Russia.

In one city, Pride is the biggest festival of the year with half a million lining the streets to celebrate diversity, equality and love.

And in another, it is illegal to hold a Gay Pride event in fear it would be ‘propaganda’ to children.

This year’s Stockholm Pride is special because it is the first to explicitly invite LGBT Russians to Sweden, giving them a safe haven from the anti-gay ‘propaganda’ laws signed by President Vladimir Putin in June.

At the launch party where several speeches were made on Thursday (1 August), the big screens showed subtitles in Swedish, English and Russian.

It all started with the Go West campaign, aiming to spread awareness of the rising homophobia in Russia.

Jessica W Sandberg, project manager for Go West, spoke to Gay Star News about the campaign.

‘When we launched the campaign, it was before the nationwide law,’ she said.

‘We thought, “How can we tell Russia we stand by them?” We see them and we want to help them.

‘And how can we tell Putin he’s an ass without telling him he’s an ass?

‘So we sent out an invitation of love for Russians to come here and celebrate Stockholm Pride instead.

‘The goal isn’t to have all of the Russians to come to Stockholm, we wanted to raise awareness about the issue.

‘It is about letting Russians know we stand by them.’

While Sweden is perhaps one of the most gay-friendly countries on the planet, passing same-sex marriage in 2009, the majority of politicians have remained silent on Russia.

Former Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister Carl Bildt broke the mould by calling the Russian laws ‘disgusting’ and ‘inhuman’.

‘If you compare Stockholm to Russia, you are able to show your love here, you’re able to get married here and have children. We have progressed forwards in Sweden while LGBT issues in Russia has moved backwards,’ Sandberg added.

Alex, a 22-year-old gay Russian visiting Stockholm for the first time, described Pride as ‘amazing’.

‘It’s crazy here, it’s so loud and colourful,’ he told Gay Star News. ‘I wanted to come here so I could be who I am.

‘I hope Russia will have a day like this one day.’

Sandberg’s mission is not over after Stockholm Pride finishes tomorrow (4 August). Go West next year will travel east where they will direct their campaign to focus on helping LGBT people in Russia.

When asked for ways someone could help LGBT people in Russia, she said: ‘One tweet, and you can make a difference.

‘Of course, one tweet won’t make a difference but if we make thousands of tweets so they trend in Russia, it will be Twitter telling Putin, ‘We’ve got our eyes on you. We support your people, we don’t support you.”

‘You don’t have to be the Foreign Minister, you don’t have to be a big celebrity.

‘You can do a boycott of Russian vodka, you can tweet, you can take your stand at a demonstration, and tell Russia, “We’re here to tell you that you guys fucked up”.’

Check out some of the GSN pictures has taken at Stockholm Pride below: