“This is historic, so close to the Russian border and still it feels safe,” says Valentina Likoshva, LGBT activist from Murmansk.
She was one of about 50 people from Russia, Belarus and Kazhakstan who joined the first ever pride parade in Kirkenes, Norway’s border town to Russia in the north. Valentina is psychologist and was the leader of “The house of Equality” project at Maximum, the group for support of LGBT community in Murmansk. Maximum was an NGO that closed down after being listed as “foreign agent” a few years ago.
In Russia, pride demonstrations have often turned vilolent and are said to be among the world’s most dangerous.
In 2013, Russia introduced legislation to outlaw propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships towards minors. The law had a chilling effect on gay and lesbian rights activists and led to increased violence towards them across Russia.
Saturday’s pride parade in Kirkenes was everything else than violent.
With the town mayor in front, and smiling police standing side-by, the participants walked from the children’s school through the residental area to the central square. Here were people from Murmansk, from Arkhangelsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg. And some few other former Soviet republics.
“This dream started a few years back and today it became true, a joint Norwegian-Russian pride parade. Unfortunately, it didn’t took place on both sides of the border like we first hoped for, but we are really satisfied,” says Ingvild Endestad.
She is one of the local organizers of the Barents pride.
“It is not last time we are here,” she says, but can’t tell when Russian LGBT supporters can travel across the border for the next pride parade. “Maybe next year, we have to see,” smiles Ingvild Endestad and proclaims “we have written history.”
“Love is love” shouted the participants. In English and Russian. Ukrainian and Russian flags could be seen waving side-by-side in between posters and banners reading “Love without borders” - “Majority doesn’t exist” - “Stop homophobia” and “Love has no borders”. Read more via The Barents Observer