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Interview: Pavel Petel

The Russian performance artist discusses what's happening in his homeland...


Pavel, what’s it like in Russia right now?
To tell the truth, Russian gays are able to adjust quite well. The majority of them have nice jobs. A lot of pop-stars, movie- and TV-stars, as well as politicians – all hide their homosexuality. Everyone is on their own with their own interests. People are afraid of losing what they have. People are just afraid. I am also worried about my life and I don’t have enough strength to openly express my opinion. Because there is no one to protect… no one will help.

Do you feel safe in Moscow?
No, sometimes people threaten me and sometimes they even attack. That’s why I started changing my appearance in Russia. I am worried about my life and health. Nevertheless, everybody recognizes me out on the streets and wants to take pictures with me. Of course, society now is more aggressive towards people like me. Sometimes I am really scared, but, as I have said before, I don’t have an opportunity to move to the States at the moment. This process requires a lot of documents, and more importantly – money.

A lot of your art is you cross-dressing and being naked in public. Do you worry how this will be perceived in respect to the new laws?
Yes, I will censor and change my style. But I will do this not only because of the new laws. I want to become more famous, and I want my materials to meet the Youtube standards and the standards of other social networks.

What do you think the LGBT community can do from outside Russia to help the cause?
Here in Russia everybody is looking forward to the news about legalization of gay marriage in various parts of the world or the new quotes from the Pope. We really hope that you will have more rights and freedoms and that one day Russia will follow your great example, I truly believe this will happen! Definitely, boycotts are powerful tools for change, but I don’t believe in their efficiency.

Do you think the Winter Olympics and World Cup should continue to be held there?
You know that money decides everything in this world. And no one will ever cancel Winter Olympics in Russia. I want to say that I do not support ineffective boycotts. It would be so much better if America helped people like me, instead of using its energy in a negative way. Boycotts cause aggression, and Russian authorities would have more reasons to close the borders and internet.

Do you have a message for Putin?
I want to wish him good health and thank him for being accepted in Russia, because it is the country where I found my private happiness. And I’d also like to send a message to Barak Obama asking him to invite me over to the US, where I have never been and where I dream of living!

To read Pavel's message to Russia's LGBT community and hear his views on boycotting Russian vodka, read the full interview at The Back Building. Also check out Pavel's blog.

Words: Michael Turnbull


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