Lesbian Lives : Sexuality, Space and Subculture in Moscow

Abstract: This study is an exploration of the lesbian subculture in Russia focusing in particular on the subculture as a unique heterogeneous space of social interaction and cultural production that is not self contained or isolated from mainstream society, but incorporates a variety of cultural flows and traditions that are a part of Russian mainstream culture, other Russian subcultures, or global cultural flows. Some of these cultural flows and traditions are more compatible than other ones.The increasingly globalized images and ideas of what a gay and lesbian community is, or perhaps should be like, are only partially compatible with contemporary reality in Russia. The high value placed on visibility and explicitly political, even radical activism, in gay and lesbian subcultures in the West, must in Russia be reconciled not only with the totalitarian past, and the increasingly authoritarian present, but also with the traditions and practices that developed as a response to the repressive regime and enabled people to live and even thrive within it. Using private spaces as public space, and public space as private space established a practice of multilayered spaces that are continuously maintained through social inclusion and exclusion, visibility and invisibility.However, the subculture is not only an intersection of external cultural flows and traditions, it also has it’s own unique traditions, knowledges and practices. Poetry, music, literature and art form the backbone of the flow of activities within the subculture. Visual and grammatical cues, styles, jokes and lesbian genders are integral aspects of the subculture as it is continuously renegotiated by its participants also on an individual level..The study is based on fieldwork, participant observation and interviews, mainly in Moscow, and to some extent in St Petersburg, during 2005 with recurring visits during 2006 and 2007.

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