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.
Konstantin Golava is a 22-year-old environmental activist in Tolyatti.
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
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.
Golava lives in a tiny room that he shares with his brother and parents.
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.
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.
At Sasha’s home.
Konstantin Golava with his friend, a fellow LGBT activist.
“I’m afraid in Tolyatti — every fifth person knows my face,” Golava said.
Konstantin Golava sits in a gay nightclub in Samara with Oksana Berezovskaya, the head of an LGBT support group called Avers.
Golava attends a play about tolerance in Samara accompanied by Mikhail Tumasov, who founded the Avers support group.
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.
Alina watches a video about seeking asylum in the U.S. at her home in Samara.