Instead, Moscow is pushing these countries to join a Russian-led customs union that already includes Belarus and Kazakhstan — something Brussels says would be incompatible with an Association Agreement. And at least in the case of Armenia , Russia appears to have been successful. On September 3, Armenian President President Serzh Sarkisian announced that his country would join Moscow’s customs union project, in essence, scrapping years of work toward an EU Association Agreement. Analysts say the unexpected move came after Russia threatened to cut off its military aid to Armenia, which would leave Yerevan vulnerable to its main regional rival Azerbaijan. “The Armenians took the hint: If they signed the trade deal with Europe, Russia might sell more arms to their rival and expel the Armenians who live in Russia,” Anne Applebaum, author of the book “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-56,” wrote in Slate.com . Counterproductive Pressure But having apparently cowed Armenia, Russia is having less success with Ukraine — which Lough calls “the key prize” — despite placing boycotts on Ukrainian goods and threatening Kyiv with rising gas prices, trade wars, and bankruptcy. And on September 21, Sergei Glaziyev, a senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, upped the ante, darkly warning that Russian speakers in Ukraine’s east and south would seek secession if Ukraine goes ahead and signs the Association Agreement. But Glaziyev, who made his remarks at a conference in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, was met with boos, jeers, and catcalls. “For the first time in our history more than 50 percent of people support European integration, and fewer than 30 percent of the people support closer ties with Russia,” Ukraine’s former Trade Minister Petro Poroshenko said in response to the Kremlin adviser according to press reports. “Thank you very much for that Mr. Glazyev.” Indeed, Ukraine’s move closer to the EU — and its defiance of Moscow — comes under President Viktor Yanukovych, who won election in February 2010 on a platform of closer relations with Russia. And the country’s powerful Russian-speaking oligarchs in eastern Ukraine, once staunchly pro-Moscow, have been making it increasingly clear that they prefer closer relations with the EU. Analysts say Russia’s deep historical ties to Ukraine often cause Moscow to overplay its hand in dealing with Kyiv. “Russia finds it terribly difficult to deal with Ukraine because it is such an emotional issue,” says Lough.
As a photography historian and film curator, I am aware of the potency of visual representation — the affirming power of self-representation in particular. My PhD dissertation on queer surrealist photographer and activist Claude Cahun argued for the power of photographic self-representation in both affirming and crafting identity in the face of rising fascism. The images I was seeing of LGBT Russians were either of frontline activists fighting for their right to public assembly or misrepresentations, painted in words, by the virulently homophobic invective of politicians, neo-Nazis and Russian Orthodox Church leaders. American and British LGBT civil rights movements have been represented, documented and dramatized in film ( Milk ), photographs (Catherine Opie), Conceptual art ( Gilbert & George ), political art and design ( Gran Fury ) and public assembly and protest (as documented in the exhibition AIDS in New York: The First Five Years ). As LGBT Russians are fighting for the basic right to declare their very existence, as well as for the rights to assemble as a community and to raise children, this battle is playing out on the turf of visual imagery. Russian photographer Anastasia Korosteleva protects the identity of her subjects in the seriesGirls (2013) by literally burning their faces in the photographs . The burned-out faces of women embracing literally and metaphorically show the scars of homophobia. Film festivals are being organized to bring the experience of LGBT people and filmmakers to new audiences in Russia. The LGBT Film Festival ” Bok O Bok ” (“Side By Side”) was the first international LGBT film festival in Russia. After experiencing censorship in its first year (2008), it has operated for the past five years at various sites in Russia. The festival was most recently found guilty and fined for violating the new “foreign agents” law . The Swedish photographer duo Annica Karlsson Rixon and Anna Viola Hallberg’s “State of Mind” (2006-8) consists of personal stories and group video portraits of Russian lesbian and bisexual women and their friends and family discussing issues of LGBT identity and East/West dynamics. The subjects, casually posed in places of significance to them in the city, such as along the banks of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, project a mix of emotions — joy, exuberance, hope, pride, comfort. The video portion presents filmed conversations with the subjects, viewed simultaneously to create an approximation of the community as a congregation of voices.