13 Images Showing What Life Is Like For Gay And Lesbian Russians Far From Moscow

Photographer Misha Friedman photographed gay and lesbian people in Russia’s hinterlands, where life is rough and becoming rougher as the country’s anti-gay campaign takes hold. posted on

Photographer Misha Friedman spent 10 days in Tolyatti and Samara, two cities 600 miles south of Moscow, in September 2013, photographing the lives of gay men and women far from the hustle of Russia’s biggest cities.


He reached out to BuzzFeed after reading this story, which details the brutal abuse and violence faced by gays and lesbians in those cities. By chance, among those he photographed were two of the story’s subjects: Konstantin Golava and Mikhail Tumasov.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Konstantin Golava is a 22-year-old environmental activist in Tolyatti.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Since coming out, he has been beaten by unidentified thugs, fired from his job, and vilified by national and local media as having desecrated the memory of Soviet victims of WWII by deliberately placing condoms near the city’s eternal flame

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Golava stands at the entrance to Tolyatti’s main park, where he was attacked in broad daylight last year after holding a news conference to explain the eternal flame incident.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Golava lives in a tiny room that he shares with his brother and parents.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Golava goofing around with his friend Sasha and their friends at Sasha’s home in Tolyatti, the only safe place where they feel they can be themselves.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Beneath a photograph of Freddy Mercury, Sasha and a friend look at vacation pictures in Sasha’s home in Tolyatti, which he shares with his boyfriend.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

At Sasha’s home.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Konstantin Golava with his friend, a fellow LGBT activist.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

“I’m afraid in Tolyatti — every fifth person knows my face,” Golava said.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Konstantin Golava sits in a gay nightclub in Samara with Oksana Berezovskaya, the head of an LGBT support group called Avers.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Golava attends a play about tolerance in Samara accompanied by Mikhail Tumasov, who founded the Avers support group.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Alina and Lesya also live in Samara and have been together for a year. They are worried about losing custody of Lesya’s 10-year-old daughter because of growing anti-gay sentiment and legislation in Russia.

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©Misha Friedman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Alina watches a video about seeking asylum in the U.S. at her home in Samara.

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