Soviet Union, July 1991 (retroactive sketching toward the "Russian Stonewall"), 1991-2021
In July 1991, a group of over sixty Western gay rights activists, majority of whom came from the US, arrived in Moscow and Leningrad for the first-ever International Gay and Lesbian Symposium and Film Festival in the history of Russia. Among the activists was the 79-year old Harry Hay, who left Communist Party USA in the 1950s to fund the Mattachine Society, one of the first Gay and Lesbian rights groups in the USA. The symposium coincided with President George Bush's summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow just a few months before the fall of the Soviet Union. Article 121 of Soviet Criminal Code that criminalized male homosexuality for up to five years in prison remained law at the time. This event was branded as "Russian Stonewall" and the "July Revolution.”
Yevgeniy Fiks' project Soviet Union, July 1991 – is a painterly contemplation about the final days of the Soviet Union, the dawn of gay activism in late-Soviet space, and the historical (dis)junctions between Communism and gay rights.
The world of Moscow and Leningrad of July 1991, including its gay and lesbian world, present a dreamy utopia of openness and endless possibilities. It includes peaceful gay rights protests in front of the Bolshoi Theater and State Duma in Moscow for the repeal of Article 121 and speeches by then-Soviet politicians to its gay and lesbian audience. Soviet Union, July 1991 is the testimony of the hope the LGBT community carried as a represented class in the imagined future of Russia. Soviet July 1991 manifests itself as an uncertain yet truly revolutionary moment of liberation, which seems to completely be lost by now, 30 years later.
Art photos by Etienne Frossard