Dacha Books, 2017.Paperback
Ten interviews of Siberian gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, based on videotape transcripts of 1990s interviews were first published in the original Russian. The book is named after the Siberian queer film festival that took place in Tomsk in in 1996. Sonja Franeta, the interviewer, writer and translator, traveled extensively throughout Russia, from Khabarovsk to Moscow along the Trans-Siberian Railway, stopping in several Siberian cities to meet LGBT people and talk to them about their lives. Some interviewees spoke about their experiences as sexual minorities for the first time. People from Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Tomsk discussed how they were able to survive the secrecy and stigma of being queer. Men were put in prison camps and women institutionalized in psychiatric institutions during the Stalin years and after. Interviewees also talked about family backgrounds and changes in politics. This is the first book of its kind in Russia, documenting gay and lesbian and transgender stories in the voices of the people themselves.
This is a book of extraordinary interviews that takes us back to the optimistic early 1990s when LGBT citizens who grew up in the Soviet Union began to taste freedom in post-Communist Russia. Such interviews - so frank, so bold, so fresh - would scarcely be possible to obtain in today's Russia, and especially in Siberian cities and towns where isolation and homophobia have deepened. Franeta's book is a document about a lost opportunity for liberation, and also, I hope, a signpost to freedoms still worth fighting for.
Dan Healey, Professor of Modern Russian History, Oxford University.
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