Ruslan Savolainen

Coming Out (“Vykhod”) was born in Petersburg in 2008. At the time is was a group of 15 activists with bright eyes and hearts. We carried out a number of different street actions; for instance, the “Day of Silence”, when we walked down Nevsky Prospect with our mouths taped over, handing out leaflets. We marked important dates for the LGBT community, popularised the symbolism of the movement, mobilised people. In 2009 we received official registration as a non-profit, becoming the first organisation working for LGBT rights in Russia that didn’t rely on court authorisation. Today we’re a professional activist initiative running 10 successful programs, with more than a hundred active and impassioned volunteers.

We offer free psychological and juridicial support, and do educational work — running meetings, seminars, round tables, publishing materials. We put on cultural events in Petersburg to create space for dialogue between different social groups; many years in a row we’ve been able to hold the international festival QueerFest . And every year we hold a “Rainbow Flashmob” in Petersburg — the biggest mass street action dedicated to LGBT rights anywhere in Russia.

The majority of our work consists of pushing back against local difficulties, and the first amongst these the law banning “homosexual propaganda” towards minors. Form 2011-13 we engaged in active legal work against this law, at local and then federal levels; we hel public protests, sought out allies, prepared expert statements, received a huge amount of support. But unfortunately, the efforts of the LGBT movement couldn’t stop the law being adopted in 2013. At least our activities meant that the law failed to silence the community: the whole world found out about what was going on in Russia. Another problem is the law, adopted in 2014, on “foreign agents” in the legal rights and non-profit sectors. Coming Out was designated a foreign agent, but we keep going as a pressure group in the face of this aggressive legislation.

We keep going thanks to our victoies, the stories of the people in our communities, new activists, international support, the hundreds of messages we receive after every event or consultation. Appreciating the importance of our own work is a great inspiration for us. Every day in Russia we make small but winning steps. Of course, in a wider sense we have to aim for the repeal of the homophobic propaganda law, the recognition within Russia of LGBT people as a social group and anti-discrimination legislation genuinely capable of protecting vulnerable people.