Gay Pride Military Mission

Time of publication: 31.05.2007
Julia Volkova: "I was shocked when I saw these people – with chains, with crosses, with big sticks and knives. They attacked and hurt other people, the citizens of Russia – just like themselves. We all are one country, Russia's people, and we must respect and understand each other and be tolerant. But Russians attacked Russians – and it was terrible! I thought it was the beginning of a war!"

Only at "МК" newspaper – an exclusive Tatu interview and all the details of their Tverskaya street."secret mission".

"Tatu, to a certain degree, had no choice", Leonid Shlyahover, the present Tatu concert director explains, "Considering band's image and credo, it would be weakness and hypocrisy to ignore this situation, with the gay-pride in Moscow. We always had the same things we stand for – we are for love. In all its diversity and directions.
That's why we decided to have a break in album's recording in Los Angeles, bought the tickets and came.

On Sunday about 50 desperate gay activists once again tried to speak for their legitimate rights. They came in spite of authorities' ban and under a rain of punches and "boos" of hundreds irritated priests, old women, skinheads, monarchists, fascists, kazaks, people in respirators and other "caring" citizens, who probably consider Gay Pride day a calendar's "red date" and wait for it for the whole year with much greater impatience than gays themselves.

In this raging crowd rapid-fire-like appearance and disappearance of Tatu became a micro-sensation at this "beat-them-all" celebration. And the broken face of Richard Ferbassa, the soloist of the well-known British band Right Said Fred was a macro-sensation. Richard came to Moscow for another thing - a private party. But the day before brothers Richard and Fred, well-known gays, learned about Moscow Gay Pride and got interested: "It should be very interesting. We want to join". People tried to talk them out, but the brothers did not understand – why. In the morning, having put on special life-asserting outfits, they moved towards Tverskaya street. There, they were immediately identified as gays and beaten. Richards' bloody face right away became main news from Moscow over the world (except for Russia, of course). Richard, having overcast a steam at the nearest hospital, took an evening plane to London where The Sun newspaper was already waiting for him with a sensational report and first-page interview to offer.

Tatu – or, more precisely, their management, was, of course, less careless and much more cautious. Lena Katina and Julia Volkova arrived in Moscow with an intention "to discharge their civic duty", and it would be more than a tragedy if anything happened to them. Obeying the law, gay-pride organizers decided – instead of a demonstration - to just gather at the city hall and give city's authorities the letter protecting sex-minorities' rights that signed by 43 members of European Parliament.
This intention did not break even our laws - laws not inclined to philantrophy. Still, it didn't save the situation.

Leonid Shlyahover, Tatu concert director: We saved the future mayor of Rome

- My major goal was to keep the girls 100% safe. Therefore we worked it almost as a military operation. Mission was complete successfully. Except for an egg thrown at our car and the water poured on Julia's head, nothing serious happened. Many security guards worked with us. We sent our people to the place in advance - to both camps. It was a real coordinated action to protect the girls. I assumed it's always more interesting for a crowd to beat familiar faces rather than unfamiliar ones. And in this case, not hoping for official protection, we decided to lead this operation with our own forces since we have an experience in carrying out mass events.

The operation went on quite quick: suddenly a car appeared on the square, Tatu went out, the car moved about 50 meters forward and stopped. The girls were immediately surrounded by media on one side and the excited crowd – on another. When the bodyguards gave sighs of uncontrollable threat, we quickly left this theatre of military operations. This whole situation got dangerous not only for us, but for those deputies, who came – so we took them all to our car: Alexei Mitrofanov, then Italian deputy, possible future mayor of Rome, then another European parliament member who said, "Either I'm courageous, or stupid". We had 12 people in our 5-seat car.


From that day western media formed a line to Tatu for an interview. Among Russian press Tatu made one exception - for MK newspaper. Lena and Julia talked to us separately. Volkova was in town, and Katina left the city for her country house where she tried to recover from all these events.

Julia Volkova: We are not a political party, but we stand for justice.

- We were not sure – shall we come or not to support Moscow Gay Pride? Shall we bring this forward? But when this wave of "dense" intolerance started, I just didn't want to stay silent. It's 21 century now! It's such a shame. I decided to come and speak up. It's not a propaganda or a call. It's an act of support to people who decided for themselves who they are – and had a right for such a decision. We travel around the world and see that these people are living free there, and here they are so unaccepted. Here people went to Gay Pride not as it is a festival, a holiday – like it's all over the world – but as the yare going to face death, ready that they might be severely beaten. They went to the Gay Pride as to a battlefield, as to war. But everything could have been so different! It could have been such a great holiday! A carnival with costumes and songs! Join if you want, stay is you don't. It's so simple. Why those, who don't want to join, attack those who come? Where will all this lead our country? It's scary.

- But you, of course, understood, that Russia is not like "the whole world". Why try? Here many people stopped to care. Hopeless Russia…

- Of course, I understood all this perfectly. We all remember how it was last year – people were beaten, were taken to hospitals. It was clearly impossible to just come there and give this letter from more than forty European Parliament members to Moscow authorities. And once again, it would have been such an easy thing in any other country! Of course, I understood that it is a dangerous crowd, starting from some half-crazy people and up to police forces. It's just really scary. When our car was surrounded by skinheads with obsessed faces, by people with crosses and also with these obsessed faces… They were spitting, shouting – not like human beings, but almost like animals. Well, ok, if you are religious, who objects? Nobody forbids you to go to church and to pray and to believe in God. Are you "kazaks"? Ok, no problem. We respect all directions in life. And today this kind of people came. Yes, they are gay. Who gives you the right to forbid? To beat them up? To not let them live in peace? They let you live. Let them live. I just don't understand this kind of separation. Why are we ok with different music style lovers, football fans of different teams - and not ok with gays? Where's this line when we stop being ok? In the law? There's no such law. I was shocked, to tell the truth… But I'm sure that God is here with us. There was love, there is love, there will be love. It's in the heart. It can't be forbidden by anybody. And beating people with crosses and spiting on people in the name of God – this is such a blasphemy and a sin.

- I understand, you also were attacked…

- Yes, with water. When I left the car, I was surrounded by journalists on one side, and by a crowd of about hundred people – from the back. I feel they start punching me. And you know, it was done maliciously, surreptitiously, thief-like. The next thing I see is some guy with a knife moving towards me. Thanks God, our bodyguard Zhenya noticed him. And then this woman with water who started to sprinkle it. And everybody shouting around – Damn you! Die! At first I got so scared it is not water but some acid. What's going on?! This woman was wearing a scarf on her head, she was a religious person. Why did she act like this? She apparently goes to church, she prays, lights candles. She should not have acted like this. She acted against God's law, against his commandments – love though neighbor, don't judge and you won't be judged… What a religious woman…

- What was the bigger threat for you – from the crowd or from police?

- From people. The police was there, but was kind of watching… It was almost a war out of an elementary thing – a right to love. Yes, it felt like a war started. My god! We should have diversity of people, we should respect this diversity. We should have love instead of total hate. Otherwise there's no future for our society.

- You and Lena are world-famous people, this line of western journalists is waiting for the interviews. What do you feel telling them about all this – shame, bitterness, uneasiness for your country?...

- I was just asked about this during La Repubblica interview. I don't know what to say. I just want our country to have a positive image. Many of our friends in New York, in Los Angeles still seriously think that we have bears in the city center, eternal winter and widely spread alcoholism, that we have only poverty, breakdown and grey unhappy living. Every person who considers himself a true patriot, should do everything to make people of this country live good, to let the world know that our country should be respected, to provoke interest and positive feelings about our country. I think Tatu created this positive image of our country in the world with our work. We are proud of it because we love our country and have strong feelings about it. And those, who fight in the center of Moscow, do only harm for Russia. Because of these so-called "fighters" and "patriots" Moscow is seen as a far-away village. But we want it to look fashionable, modern, beautiful, comfortable and welcoming. We want tourists to come and see our culture, our youth and left Russia amazed. And having seen the pictures from Moscow Gay Pride, who would want to come here? There, on Tverskaya street, there were officials from Europe, journalists. They were shocked. People throw eggs at them, poured water on them, shouted at them. And these European Parliament members didn't even understand Russian language! They've never seen anything like this in their life. And they will tell about it when they come back. They were almost killed!

- Since you got your foot in this story, what's next? Would you do anything, seek truth or justice, would you protest?

- Well, we've done this already – we came to Moscow and came to support Gay Pride. Everybody knows our attitude. Next goes political issues. There are politicians, president, city's mayor. They make decisions. It's their turn now, not ours. We are not a political party, we're a music band that gives people their music, love and support. We came not to force anybody, but to support those who really needed our support. It was not that successful. Now our country should analyze all this and draw conclusions.

Lena Katina: It will be decided later - who's righteous and who's a sinner

Lena, you are a religious person. How do you feel after gay-parade?

I have absolutely negative feelings first of all about people who were saying they believe in God. God teaches to love your neighbor they way he or she is, he teaches to be humble and tolerant, teaches not to judge. And these people shout at me and Yulka – Die! Damn you! Truly religious people are not like this.

But church condemns "Sodom sin", city mayor calls gay people "Satanists" – and neither authorities, nor church representatives mention tolerance. What do you expect from the blind flock?

This a very serious question for me. People cannot judge others for their choices. What we were – good or bad – will be decided later, when we leave this world. I am not a lesbian, I have a boy-friend. But I'm totally with those people who defend their right to love openly, like I love. This message has always been Tatu's essence. Although on our way here I understood that we should expect something totally different. I often think why our people are so mean, why is the air so full of spite. If you step on somebody's foot in America, they will apologize. But here they will not only step on your feet in return, but do it painfully and say something rude. Apparently, people are dissatisfied in life, in personal life. That's why they're mean.

Well, maybe it's right that city authorities forbid Gay Pride? They kind of say that they care about gays' security, so to speak…

You know, after Sunday's events I'm not sure anymore if it's totally senseless. But on the other hand, if they are so worried about gay people, why didn't they do anything about the aggressive crowd on Sunday? I saw it with my own eyes. Nobody protected them, and some weirdoes could bring anything with them – weapons, knives, bottles. In other events everybody is checked for this. When we were moving towards our car and when I heard "Beat her! Beat that one!" I was not scared. I got scared only when I was in the car. Not for myself, but for those poor people, who still was on the square – and nobody hurried to help them. All that I saw this Sunday is absolutely beyond what we call a civilized society.

Everything's hopeless?

Hope is the last thing that's gone. Anyway, even after all this danger we've been through, we will not take back our support from those who fight for their right to love and for their human dignity…

Good luck and take care!

Artur Gasparyan
Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Russia
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