As Russia prepares to host Eurovision 2009, Russian gay activists are preparing their own event. On May 16 2009 the Moscow Pride Parade is scheduled, the same day as the finals of the song contest.

In Belgrade this year top-selling recording artist Dima Bilan won the competition with the song Believe, and therefore his nation won the right to host Eurovision next year.

Yakutsk-raised Dmitri Egorov, 36, applauds the tactic to hold the Pride Parade on the same day. It’s a good idea to get more attention as most of the European media will be there, he said.
Eurovision is widely recognised as having a significant gay following.

Hosting the event should have a positive effect, similar to Serbia. There is a huge anti-gay sentiment in Serbia, and having the event in Belgrade must lead a positive push, said Dmitri.
Russian activist, Nikolai Alekseev has been openly courting support from Europe in an attempt to lobby the Russian government for equality.

We hope that many gays and lesbians who usually attend Eurovision finals from different countries will join our Pride, said Alekseev. Only with the help of the Western community, with the help of the activists from abroad can we make some progress in Russia.

The first parade was held in 2006. Moscow’s Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, possibly influenced by the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, has consistently denied permission for the annual event. In 2006 Patriarch Alexius II of the Orthodox Church wrote to the mayor congratulating him on prohibiting the parade.

The parade organisers have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as they believe, Moscow authorities unlawfully denied us our constitutional right to freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 31 of the Constitution. All cases, including the 2006 and 2007 Parades and three other pickets, are still pending. The 2008 Pride Parade case is currently being heard in the internal Russian judicial system.

The parades have been marked by violent clashes with anti-gay protesters. The 2007 Parade received international attention because foreign supporters not only participated but were also attacked. Italian MP Marco Cappato, British singer Richard Fairbrass and British gay activist Peter Tatchell were amongst those physically assaulted while marching.

Dmitri believes that the Government is not doing enough to counteract right-wing extremists with a neo-Nazi agenda.

The Government closes their eyes to extremist views. They are trying to crack down, but they don’t go far enough, he said.

Boris Yeltsin officially legalised homosexual acts in 1993 and homosexuality was struck from a list of mental disorders in 1999.

Dmitri believes Yeltsin at the time wanted to align Russia with other European countries. In reality the law has done little for gay Russians.

The law doesn’t apply in real life. People are still being harassed and bashed, said Dmitri. The situation is changing slowly, with more information now. There is a big push for Russia to join the EU. This may force change.

Dmitri studied medicine in Moscow and came to Sydney in 2001.

I like the diversity in Sydney and it’s so easy to live here. People are down-to-earth and friendly.

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