Youth house in trouble after screening of political film
Murmansk’s unique, self-governed youth house is flourishing with creativity and plans but after a screening of the German documentary “Khodorkovsky”, the future of the house is uncertain.
“Inspire others. Do better than the rest. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Always remember where you are from. Always be open and honest”. This is the house’s philosophy.
A unique center for Russia
The youth house in Murmansk goes under the name of “Mr. Pink” and has now been in business for five months. “This house is unique for Russia”, says Yevgeniy Goman, one of the co-founders of the house. “We are completely self-ruled, there are no adults telling us how things should be done”.
“Murmansk needed a new type of youth house”, Goman says. There are many places in Murmansk that offers different activities for young people, but they are all led by adults, so they wanted a place that would be run by the users themselves. “We tried for many years to establish a youth house through the authorities, but without success”. So Goman and a couple of friends started to look for a suitable place for a youth house and finally found an apartment that used to be a library. The place was a total mess and needed renovation. Without any money but with tons of go-ahead spirit a group of young people started to renovate the five room large apartment.
BarentsObserver visited the center in April 2011. Goman and his team had just started renovations, something that could seem like an impossible task at the moment.
The young people made all the money they needed themselves and were given building materials from different companies and private persons. The Norwegian bank Sparebanken Nord-Norge gave one million rubles that were used to replace all the old windows and hot water pipes.
In November 2011 the house was ready for opening. “It was a big event”, Goman says. “Everybody thought it as a very positive move for Murmansk”. At the opening ceremony the regional government informed that they would support the project with 1.5 million rubles.
Mr. Pink is run by a house council where all the leaders for the different projects taking place in the house, is a member. Right now the house council has 18 members that are involved in 26 different projects. The council meets twice a week to consider new project ideas that people come with. Once a project is approved (so far only four have been turned down), the project leader becomes member of the council. As soon as a project is finished, the project leader steps out of the council and becomes a normal guest of the house.
Problems with authorities after screening of Khororkovsky film
Since the opening in November, users of the youth house have accomplished three projects, all with great success; a literature festival, a Chinese lantern festival and a film festival with films on human rights.
The film festival has given the youth house problems with the authorities. The festival program included the German documentary “Khodorkovsky”, which of political reasons was pulled from 19 of 20 Russian theaters at which it was slated to play shortly before the Parliament elections in December 2011. The youth house was warned not to show the film, but decided to do it anyway. After that, applications for funding from the regional administration have been turned down and the youth house is denied prolonging their leasing contract, which expires in April 2013.
The youth house was also asked to send people to participate in pro-Putin demonstrations ahead of the presidential election, but refused. “We are non-political”, Goman says. “We were also asked by the opposition to take part in their demonstrations, but said no to them as well”.
So now the users of this unique, youth-ruled center for creativity are uncertain whether they can stay in the house after April 2013 or not. “When we ask to prolong the contract, they tell us “come back in January, and we’ll see then”, Goman explains and adds that he sees this as the authorities’ way to say “we’re watching you”.
“There is still a lot of renovation that needs to be done, and we lack mostly all of the furniture, but we can’t do anything as long as we don’t know how long this house will be ours”, Goman says with a sigh.
But Mr. Pink is not ready to give up. The next big project the young enthusiasts will be involved in is called “Made in Murmansk” and focuses on innovation in the Russian Arctic capital.
Norwegians and Russians creating films together
When we visit the center, the main activity is filmmaking and preparations for the upcoming 0.1 MEGAPIXEL film festival for young filmmakers. In one of the rooms for film-making we meet two Norwegian youngsters. They are busy editing a film they are creating together with Russian friends.
“It is fantastic to see what they have achieved with this place”, says Håkon. “The equipment for making films, both cameras and sound equipment, is of excellent standard”. He and Marte have come to Murmansk from the Tvibit youth house in Tromsø.
In another room we meet Egor and Igor from Murmansk. They are giving the finishing touch to their film for the film festival. “We use this house a lot, it’s a great place for making films”, they say.
The anti-Hiv project Think Mental Fashion is also an important part of the youth house with its own office and weekly information meetings for young people from all over the Murmansk region.