A Russian Valentine

Damian Siqueiros's "To Russia with Love" crowd-funding project portrays iconic queer figures from Russia's history, tracing a line from 19th century to the present.

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 13 2014 7:00 AM ET

Just in time for Valentine's Day this beautifully produced Kickstarter project landed on our laptops. Damian Siqueiros art-directed and photographed this imaginative series of famous Russian couples and some completely imagined ones as well.

Stephan Rabimov, publisher of DEPESHA, writes on Kickstarter:

"Throughout history some of the greatest Russian artists and influential figures have been homosexual. We set up on a journey to show some of them, their love and their vision for a better world. This project is as much about the past as it is about the future. Many queer artists are being silenced in modern Russia and with your help we can change that!

"The purpose of the campaign is to help cover the costs of the prints, transportation, gallery fees and other exhibition-related expenses. During each exhibition stop (Montreal, New York, Los Angeles) will feature a live-video-link with queer artists residing living in Russia, thus creating a dialogue with the creative forces of this country and their experiences."

(Captions with each photo from "To Russia with Love.")


Piotr Tchaikovsy and Akeksey Sofronov
Tchaikovsky is without a doubt one of the most important composers of all times. His music, including the scores for The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, is embedded in our minds and our culture. The composer was from the beginning a cornerstone of the projects, since even after more than a century of his death his sexuality is controversial. Even by his own account it is clear he was gay, it is well documented in his letter to his brother Modest, who was also gay. Nonetheless, Russian authorities seem to ignore this and deny his sexual orientation.

Russian society during Tchaikovsky's life was not as lenient as its counterparts in the rest of Europe. Homosexuality was a sin and crime punishable by exile and banning from the Czarist court, which in the case of the composer meant the end of his career.

Tchaikovsky's attempts to lead a "morally sound" life made his homosexuality even more evident. He had many male lovers, and his botched marriage lasted no more than a few months. At the end, he seemed to have made peace with his sexuality. His servant, lover, and longtime companion Akeksey Sofronov stayed with him until his death. Even though he died of cholera, it has been suspected that he was bullied into committing suicide by drinking contaminated water. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral; he was both a loved genius and a pariah.

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