Skip to main content Accessibility help

Queer Space, Pride, and Shame in Moscow

  • Francesca Stella


In this article, Francesca Stella examines the notion of Moscow as a global city through the prism of cultural diversity and cosmopolitanism by exploring articulations of queer space in the Russian capital. Two types of queer space are explored: the “scene,” understood as a loose cluster of commercial venues and community organizations catering to an LGBT clientele, and Moscow Pride, a temporary but also highly visible and politicized appropriation of urban space by the LGBT community. The analysis of Moscow Pride as a putative cosmopolitan object is framed within a broader sociopolitical context characterized by the rise of authoritarian, sexually conservative, and anti-western nationalist discourses. Stella provides insights into the contextual ability of political strategies based on visibility, recognition, and the support of transnational solidarity networks to pursue cosmopolitan values of openness and respect toward sexual diversity, highlighting a crucial tension between global/local and universal/particular in current debates on cosmopolitanism.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Queer Space, Pride, and Shame in Moscow
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Queer Space, Pride, and Shame in Moscow
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Queer Space, Pride, and Shame in Moscow
      Available formats



Hide All

Work on this article was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant ES/I038497/1). I also gratefully acknowledge funding for the original fieldwork from the Carnegie Trust from the University of Scotland, the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, and the Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow. I would also like to thank Mark D. Steinberg, Sarah Hudspith, and the anonymous reviewers for Slavic Review for their very helpful and constructive comments on the original manuscript.

1. Brade, Isolde and Rudolph, Robert, “Moscow, the Global City? The Position of the Russian Capital within the European System of Metropolitan Areas,” Area 36, no. 1 (March 2004): 6980.

2. For an exception see Gdaniec, Cordula, ed., Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities: The Urban Landscape in the Post-Soviet Era (Oxford, 2010).

3. Kendall, Gavin, Woodward, Ian, and Skrbis, Zlatko, The Sociology of Cosmopolitanism: Globalization, Identity, Culture and Government (Basingstoke, Eng., 2009), 1.

4. Abrahamson, Mark, Global Cities (Oxford, 2004); Hannerz, Ulf, “The Cultural Role of World Cities,” in Brenner, Neil and Keil, Roger, eds., The Global Cities Reader (New York, 2006), 313–18.

5. Queer is used here as a shorthand, umbrella term encompassing the whole range of nonheterosexual and nongender binary sexual and gender identities. The gender-neutral term queer is used to refer to space collectively occupied by nonheterosexual men and women, although gender-specific terms such as gay or lesbian will be used where appropriate. On the definition of queer space, see Natalie Oswin, “Critical Geographies and the Uses of Sexuality: Deconstructing Queer Space,” Progress in Human Geography 32, no. 1 (February 2008): 89-103.

6. Gdaniec, Cordula, “Cultural Diversity between Staging and the Everyday—Experiences from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Other Russian Cities: An Introduction,” in Gdaniec, , ed., Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities, 3.

7. Shaun Walker, “Sacked Journalist puts Spotlight on Russia's Gay Pride March Ban,” The Independent, 26 July 2011, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

8. Kendall, , Woodward, , and Skrbis, , Sociology of Cosmopolitanism, 124,125.

9. Mendieta, Eduardo, “From Imperial to Dialogic Cosmopolitanism?Ethics and Global Politics 2, no. 3 (2009): 242 .

10. Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origin of Cultural Change (Oxford, 1990); see also Giddens, Anthony, Runaway World: How Globalisation Is Reshaping Our Lives (London, 2000); Archibugi, Daniele and Held, Daniel, eds., Cosmopolitan Democracy: An Agenda for a New World Order (Cambridge, Mass., 1995).

11. Gdaniec, , “Cultural Diversity between Staging and the Everyday,” 120.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. ZiZek, Slavoj, “Multiculturalism, or, the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism,” New Left Review, no. 225 (September-October 1997): 2852 .

15. Plummer, Ken, “Critical Sexualities Studies,” in Ritzer, George, ed., The Wiley- Blackwell Companion to Sociology (Maiden, Mass., 2012), 248–49.

16. Binnie, Jon, The Globalization of Sexuality (London, 2004), 45.

17. See, for example, Burawoy, Michael and Verdery, Katherine, eds., Uncertain Transitions: Ethnographies of Change in the Post-Socialist World (Lanham, Md., 1999); Temkina, Anna and Zdravomyslova, Elena, “Gender Studies in Post-Soviet Society: Western Frames and Cultural Differences,” Studies in East European Thought 55, no. 1 (March 2003): 5161 ; Kulpa, Robert and Mizielinska, Joanna, eds., De-Centring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives (Farnham, Eng., 2011). For a discussion of cosmopolitanism as a “Babelian tower of discourse,” see Mendieta, “From Imperial to Dialogic Cosmopolitanism?241–58.

18. Moran, Leslie and Skeggs, Beverley, with Tryer, Paul and Corteen, Karen, Sexuality and the Politics of Violence and Safety (London, 2004).

19. Binnie, Jon and Skeggs, Beverley, “Cosmopolitan Knowledge and the Production and Consumption of Sexualised Space: Manchester's Gay Village,” Sociological Review 52, no. 1 (February 2004): 40 .

20. Dennis Altman, “On Global Queering,” Australian Humanities Review, no. 2 (July 1996), Internet edition at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

21. Moran, and Skeggs, , Sexuality and the Politics of Violence and Safety.

22. Valentine, Gill, “Sexual Politics,” in Agnew, John, Mitchell, Katharyne, and Toal, Gerard, eds., A Companion to Political Geography (Oxford, 2003), 408–20.

23. See, for example, Kates, Steven M., “Producing and Consuming Gendered Representations: An Interpretation of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras,” Consumption, Markets and Culture 6, no. 1 (January 2003): 522 ; Browne, Kath, “A Party with Politics? (Re)making LGBTQ Pride Spaces in Dublin and Brighton,” Social and Cultural Geography 8, no. 1 (February 2007): 6387 ; Binnie, Jon and Klesse, Christian, ‘“Because It Was a Bit Like Going to an Adventure Park': The Politics of Hospitality in Transnational Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Activist Networks,” Tourist Studies 11, no. 2 (August 2011): 157–74.

24. Michele Rivkin-Fish, “From ‘Demographic Crisis’ to ‘Dying Nation': The Politics of Language and Reproduction in Russia,” in Helena Goscilo and Andrea Lanoux, eds., Gender and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Russian Culture (DeKalb, 2006); Brian James Baer, Other Russias: Homosexuality and the Crisis of Post-Soviet Identity (Basingstoke, Eng., 2009); Healey, Dan, “Active, Passive, and Russian: The National Idea in Gay Men's Pornography,” Russian Review 69, no. 2 (April 2010): 210–30.

25. Baer, , Other Russias, 6.

26. Stella, Francesca, “The Right to Be Different? Sexual Citizenship and Its Politics in Post-Soviet Russia,” in Kay, Rebecca, ed., Gender, Equality and Difference during and after State Socialism (Basingstoke, Eng., 2007).

27. ILGA-Europe, Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe (2011), at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Steve Gutterman, “Russian Bill Would Impose Fines for Gay ‘Propaganda,'” Reuters, 29 March 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013); “Novosibirsk Region Latest to Pass Anti-Gay Law,” Moscow Times, 27 April 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013); “Russian MPs Back ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban Amid Scuffles,” BBC News, 25 January 2013, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

28. Rampton, Vanessa and Maguire, Muireann, “Introduction: Russia on Edge: Centre and Periphery in Contemporary Russian Culture,” Studies in Eastern European Thought 63, no. 2 (June 2011): 89.

29. Binnie, and Skeggs, , “Cosmopolitan Knowledge and the Production and Consumption of Sexualised Space,” 41 .

30. The study was based on multisited fieldwork and aimed to compare the experiences of nonheterosexual women from Moscow, a city with a relatively well established gay and lesbian scene, and from Ul'ianovsk, a provincial city of 700,000 in the middle Volga region with no commercial scene or community organizations. Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in 2004 and 2005; methods of data collection included semistructured, in-depth interviews with 61 nonheterosexual women, aged 18 to 56 (34 living in the Moscow region and 27 in the city of Ul'ianovsk); 7 expert interviews with Moscowbased community activists and entrepreneurs; and participant observation of community events and social gatherings for lesbian and bisexual women. In the interest of preserving anonymity, all names have been changed.

31. Indeed, both in Moscow and in Ul'ianovsk, women played down the importance of being “out” as lesbian or bisexual and the ideals of authenticity and visibility associated with it, remarking instead on the importance of preserving boundaries between areas of their lives where their sexuality could be safely expressed and others where they considered disclosure inappropriate, uncomfortable, or dangerous. Similar findings on attitudes toward coming out among queer-identified young people in Russia emerge from other empirical work; see, for example, Nadezhda Nartova, “Lesbians in Modern Russia: Subjectivity or Soviet Practices of ‘Hypocrisy'?” in Mihaela Frunza and Theodora-Eliza Vacarescu, eds., Gender and the (Post) “East“/“West” Divide (Cluj-Napoca, 2004); Omel'chenko, Elena, “Izuchaia gomofobiiu: Mekhanizmy iskliucheniia ‘drugoi’ seksual'nosti v provintsial'noi molodezhnoi srede,” in Zdravomyslova, Elena and Temkina, Anna, eds., Vpoiskakh seksual'nosti: Sbornik statei (St. Petersburg, 2002).

32. Other research shows that the perception of Moscow as exceptional and distinct from the rest of Russia is widespread, particularly in provincial Russia. See, for example, a survey entitled “Moscow and Muscovites: Facts and Fiction,” Pravda, 8 September 2009, at (last accessed 31 May 2013), and Hilary Pilkington et al., Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Russian Youth Cultures (University Park, 2002), a study on young people and globalization that shows that many young people from provincial Russian cities identified Moscow as a “western” city.

33. Sharapova, Margarita, Moskva, stantsiia Lesbos: Povesti (Ekaterinburg, 2004). Set in Moscow, this novella centers on the intersecting lives of a group of lesbians and gay men.

34. Collis, Alan, “Sexual Dissidence, Enterprise and Assimilation: Bedfellows in Urban Regeneration,” Urban Studies 41, no. 9 (August 2004): 1789–806; Provencher, Denis M., Queer French: Globalization, Language, and Sexual Citizenship in France (Burlington, Vt., 2007); Kates, , “Producing and Consuming Gendered Representations,” 522 .

35. Healey, Dan, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago, 2001); Essig, Laurie, Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and the Other (Durham, 1999).

36. Lena B., interview, Moscow, 5 September 2005.

37. Outside the lesbian communuity, the colloquial term Pushka refers more generally to a broader area near Pushkin Square, comprising parts of Tverskoi and Strastnoi Boulevards. This is a popular meeting place for all sorts of youth tusovki and for Muscovites in general (see, for example, Pilkington, Hilary, Russia's Youth and Its Culture [London, 1994]).

38. See Minorskaia, Elena, “Shakh i Mat Patriarkhatu: Otkroveniia Novykh Amazonok,” Medved’ 3, no. 12 (2004), at (accessed 9March2005; no longer available); Krongauz, Elena, “Cheloveksbul'vara,” Bol'shoigorod, no. 16 (142) (28 September-11 October 2005): 2631 .

39. Sarajeva, Katja, Lesbian Lives: Sexuality, Space and Subculture in Moscow (Stockholm, 2011).

40. Brown, Michael P., Closet Space: Geographies of Metaphor from the Body to the Globe (London, 2000).

41. Binnie, Globalization of Sexuality.

42. “First Ever Gay Pride to Be Held in Moscow in May 2006,” at (accessed 31 January 2010; no longer available).

43. Ibid.

44. Human Rights Watch, “Pride and Violence: A Chronicle of the Events of May 27, 2006 in Moscow,” Human Rights Watch briefing paper, 1 June 2006.

45. Ibid.

46. Aleksei Druzhinin, “Moscow Mayor Pledges No Gay Pride Parades on His Watch,” RIA Novosti, 24 November 2011, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

47. Moskovskaia Khel'sinkskaia Gruppa, Polozhenie lesbiinok, geev, biseksualov, transgenderov v Rossiiskoi Federatsii (Moscow, 2009), at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Amnesty International, “Russia: Moscow Must End ‘Shameful’ Clampdown on Pride,” 28 May 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

48. Lena B., interview, Moscow, 5 September 2005.

49. Human Rights Watch, “Pride and Violence.”

50. Benjamin Forest and Juliet Johnson, “Unravelling the Threads of History: Soviet- Era Monuments and Post-Soviet National Identity in Moscow,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92, no. 3 (September 2002): 524-27; Gill, Graeme, “Changing Symbols: The Renovation of Moscow Place Names,” Russian Review 64, no. 3 (July 2005): 480503 .

51. Patrick Jackson, “Gay Pride Challenges Moscow,” BBC News, 17 February 2006, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

52. “Luzhkov: As Long as I Am Mayor There Will Be No Gay Parades in Moscow,” Interfax, 26 May 2006, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

53. Human Rights Watch, “Pride and Violence,” 3.

54. Schreck, Carl, “Luzhkov Says Gay Pride Is ‘Satanic,'” Moscow Times, 30 January 2007.

55. Mikhail Pozdiaev, “'Vyidut—budem lupit'!’ Muftii Tadzhuddin gotovitsia dat’ otpor uchastnikam gei-parada v Moskve,” Novye izvestiia, 15 February 2006; Jackson, “Gay Pride Challenges Moscow.“

56. Jackson, “Gay Pride Challenges Moscow.“

57. Iurii Timofeev, “Gei-parad v Moskve: Fotoreportazh,” 1 June 2008, at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Aleksandr Nechaev and Aleksei Obchinnikov, “Na gei-parade v Moskve militsionery zaderzhali 10 inostrantsev,” Komsomolskaia pravda, 16 May 2009, at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Suprycheva, Evgeniia, “V Moskve proshel samyi masshtabnyi gei-parad za poslednye 5 let,” Komsomol skaia pravda, 29 May 2010, at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Anastasiia Berseneva, “Geev ne pustili k Vechnomu ogniu: V Moskve razognan gei-parad, 40 zaderzhannykh,”, 28 May 2011, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

58. The only exception was the 2010 march, held on Leningradskoe Shosse, on the outskirts of Moscow; on this occasion the riot police did not intervene to disperse gay activists; see Suprycheva, “V Moskve proshel samyi masshtabnyi gei-parad za poslednye 5 let.“

59. Igor Torbakov, “Russia: Looking at Putin's Nationalist Dilemma,”, 8 February 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

60. Amnesty International, Russian Federation: Freedom Limited—The Right to Freedom of Expression in The Russian Federation (26 February 2008), at (last accessed 31 May 2013); Robertson, Graeme B., “Managing Society: Protest, Civil Society, and Regime in Putin's RussiaSlavic Review 68, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 528–47.

61. Under Mayor Luzhkov (1992-2010), the Moscow administration refused official registration to at least two LGBT organizations, including the lesbian association Svoi, mentioned above, and the LGBT umbrella organization Treugol'nik in the 1990s. See Essig, Queer in Russia.

62. Robertson, “Managing Society“; Evans, Alfred B. Jr., “Russian Society and the State,” in White, Stephen, Sakwa, Richard, and Hale, Harry E., eds., Developments in Russian Politics 7 (Durham, 2010).

63. Evans, “Russian Society and the State,” 102.

64. Ibid.

65. Amnesty International, Russian Federation: Freedom Limited.

66. Robertson, “Managing Society,” 531.

67. Varga, Mihai, “How Political Opportunities Strengthen the Far-Right: Understanding the Rise in Far-Right Militancy in Russia,” Europe-Asia Studies 60, no. 4 (June 2008): 576.

68. “Prezident Rossii Vladimir Putin s uvazheniem otnositsia k seksual'nym men'shinstvam,”, 1 February 2007, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

69. Rotkirch, Anna, Temkina, Anna, and Zdravomyslova, Elena, “Who Helps the Degraded Housewife? Comments on Vladimir Putin's Demographic Speech,” European Journal of Women's Studies 14, no. 4 (November 2007): 349–57.

70. Rivkin-Fish, , “From ‘Demographic Crisis’ to ‘Dying Nation'; Healey, Dan, “'Untraditional Sex’ and the ‘Simple Russian': Nostalgia for Soviet Innocence in the Polemics of Dilia Enikeeva,” in Lahusen, Thomas and Solomon, Peter H. Jr., eds., What Is Soviet Now? Identities, Legacies, Memories (Berlin, 2008), 173–91.

71. Rivkin-Fish, “From ‘Demographic Crisis’ to ‘Dying Nation.'“

72. Kendall, , Woodward, , and Skrbis, , Sociology of Cosmopolitanism; Mendieta, “From Imperial to Dialogic Cosmopolitanism?241–58.

73. Fassin, Eric, “National Identities and Transnational Intimacies: Sexual Democracy and the Politics of Immigration in Europe,” Public Culture 22, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 507–29.

74. “Russian LGBT Human Rights Project,” at; see also (last accessed 31 May 2013).

75. Tremblay, Manon, Paternotte, David, and Johnson, Carol, The Lesbian and Gay Movement and the State (Farnham, Eng., 2011).

76. Stella, “The Right to Be Different?“; Sarajeva, Lesbian Lives.

77. “Ishchem vykhod … Sostoitsia gei-parad v Moskve?” (2 August 2005), at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

78. Stella, , “The Right to Be Different?“; Sarajeva, Lesbian Lives.

79. Sarajeva, Lesbian Lives.

80. Human Rights Watch, “Pride and Violence.“

81. “Ishchem vykhod… Sostoitsia gei-parad v Moskve?“

82. Human Rights Watch, “Pride and Violence“; Human Rights Watch and the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ‘“We Have the Upper Hand': Freedom of Assembly in Russia and the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People,” 13 June 2007, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

83. In 2006 and 2007 high-profile participants from abroad included Scott Long from the U.S.-based organization Human Rights Watch, U.K.-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, and the openly gay German member of parliament Volker Beck.

84. Hemment, lulie, “The Riddle of the Third Sector: Civil Society, Western Aid, and NGOs in Russia,” Anthropological Quarterly 77, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 215–41.

85. Peter Tatchell, “Thank You Mayor Luzhkov,” The Guardian, 19 May 2009, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

86. Ibid.

87. “Zakon o ‘muzhelozhstve i lesbiianstve’ idet v Moskvu,” Interfax, 19 April 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

88. For international groups, the focus shifted from Moscow Pride to other initiatives. In 2009 ILGA-Europe launched a program designed to build capacities for Russian LGBT organizations centered around community networks in St. Petersburg (main hub), Petrozavodsk, Tiumen', and Moscow; GayRussia was not listed among the project's partner institutions. See “Empowerment and Capacity Building of Russian LGBT Organisations,” at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

89. Paul Johnson, “Homosexuality, Freedom of Assembly and the Margin of Appreciation Doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights: Russia, Alekseyev v.,” Human Rights Law Review 11, no. 3 (September 2011): 578–93.

90. Davydova, Darja, “Baltic Pride 2010: Articulating Sexual Difference and Heteronormative Nationalism in Contemporary Lithuania,” Sextures 2, no. 2 (2012): 3246 ; Stychin, Carl, Governing, Sexuality: The Changing Politics of Citizenship and Law Reform (Oxford, 2003).

91. Johnson, “Homosexuality, Freedom of Assembly and the Margin of Appreciation Doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights“; “Gay Parades Banned in Moscow for 100 Years,” BBC News Europe, 17 August 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

92. Laruelle, Marlene, ed., Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia (Abingdon, Eng., 2009).

93. Marsh Millionov: Onlain-Reportazh, Radio Svoboda, 16 September 2012, at (last accessed 31 May 2013).

94. Fassin, , “National Identities and Transnational Intimacies“; Puar, Jasbir, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham, 2007).

95. Mendieta, , “From Imperial to Dialogic Cosmopolitanism?241–42.

96. Seckinelgin, Hakan, “Global Civil Society as Shepherd: Global Sexualities and the Limits of Solidarity from a Distance,” Critical Social Policy 32, no. 4 (November 2012): 536–55; Binnie, Jon and Klesse, Christian, “Researching Transnational Activism around LGBTQ Politics in Central and Eastern Europe: Activist Solidarities and Spatial Imaginings,” in Kulpa, and Mizielinska, , eds., De-Centring Western Sexualities, 107–29.

Queer Space, Pride, and Shame in Moscow

  • Francesca Stella


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed