As messages from Moscow zip through a nest of ethernet cables at a Montreal bar on Thursday night, queer university students and their allies will be watching closely.
The presentation, sponsored by Queer Concordia, will feature a film screening, drag and burlesque performances followed by a live chat with Moscow Pride chief organizer Nikolai Alexeyev.
Event organizer Ricky Dennill says the event’s seeds were planted when he read an article about the failed attempt to hold Moscow Pride in 2009 and sent Alexeyev a message of support. The two exchanged messages over a few weeks, Dennill says, and though Alexeyev never asked for a donation, Dennill asked a yoga teacher friend if he would hold a charity class for Moscow Pride.
“He suggested we have three [classes],” says Dennill. “I realized then how much people want to help.”
Since then, in addition, Dennill has held a DJ night for Moscow Pride, has started a letter-writing support campaign called Pride Postcards and has been busy setting up Thursday’s show.
Dennill says he has no personal connection with Moscow, but he compares the “guilt, religious fervour and condescension” he endured coming out in an Orthodox Jewish family to what many Russian queers go through.
“I imagine how much worse it must be for a similar young man living in Russia, [where] the violence and lack of legal protection is more pronounced,” he says.
Attempts at gay Pride demonstrations in Moscow have been made since 2006 and are regularly brought down by ultranationalist and skinhead groups and the vocal opposition of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
“Each year, applications are filed to hold the event and the city rejects them all,” Dennill says.
This year, Alexeyev is planning anther Pride, scheduled for May 29, and putting a freedom of assembly case before the European Court of Human Rights. Dennill hopes this week’s event will help raise money for Alexeyev to continue his struggle with Russian authorities.
The event will be held at Le Salon Vert, 5386 St Laurent Blvd, at 8pm on Thursday, April 29. A screening of the classic Soviet propaganda film Battleship Potemkin, with a new soundtrack by the Pet Shop Boys, will be followed by a live show featuring poet-activist-violinist Norman Nawrocki, drag queen Reena, burlesque dancer Velma Candyass and bellydance troupe the Dakini Dancers. At 11pm, a Skype live chat with Alexeyev and a Vancouver Pride organizer will be projected onto a screen.