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The 11th Russian pride festival QUEERFEST opened yesterday with a celebration. For the 4th year in a row, the festival opens with no major issues: no police harassment, homophobic or transphobic attacks, or fake bomb threats.

The topic of this year’s festival is “You Can Do Everything Differently,” dedicated to the abandonment of stereotypes and the exploration of how our vision can be expanded wider than what our society and education conditioned us to see. Festival guests are invited to discuss complex issues: the normality of loneliness, invisibility of children in LGBT families, abuse and violence in LGBT couples, non-binary transition, whether there’s “right” or “wrong” activism, stereotypes in gay culture.

The festival is held since 2009, and the challenges it faced were many: police harassment, venue closures, homophobic attacks. In 2018, the police had to evacuate three Queerfest events because of fake bomb threats. However, in the last four years the authorities or the police made no attempts to foil Queerfest, and every year the festival is gaining more allies.

150 guests were greeted by the organizers, representatives of consulates general of Sweden, the Netherlands, France, and Norway, artists and activists, and the St. Petersburg ombudsman’s office. In these times of democracy and freedoms being under threat all over the world, solidarity became the main theme of the festival’s opening.

“This has been a difficult year,” said Ana Anisimova, Queerfest coordinator. “If I were asked to describe this year in few words, I would say: people, solidarity, trust, values. By itself, the festival is only a collection of events. But together with you – our partners, allies, guests, members of LGBTI* communities – we become truly strong.”

“If we want to save the territory of freedom, we need to unite with each other,” said member of the St. Petersburg ombudsman’s office, mentioning LGBTI*, journalist, and artist communities, “so that our slogan becomes “I/WE are civil society. So that we are not indifferent to lawlessness towards another person. And then we will be able to live differently, in a society, where there is no violence, discrimination, or sexism.”

QUEERFEST will take place September 19-27 in St. Petersburg. The festival program is available on the official website: This year's festival guests include Placebo bass player Stefan Olsdal and electronic band Digital 21, journalist and feminist Zalina Marshenkulova, British photographer Damien Frost, and gender photographer from Sweden Tomas Gunnarsson.

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