Sergey Alexeenko in front of the poster promoting the movie.(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
Maximum, the support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Murmansk feels offended after the largest hotel in town cancelled their conference hall booking. We wanted to protect them, says the management.
“We made the booking announcements weeks in advance,” says Sergey Alexeenko. He is one of the active individuals continuing to provide legal advice, psychological services or support for any pro-LGBT persons in Murmansk.
Maximum wanted to show a film about how normal life is for homosexuals. “It is a normal film, no porn or anything not legal,” Sergey underlines.
Then, one day before the film was supposed to be show, Maximum was told that they couldn’t rent the premises at Azimut hotel. “They gave no official reason,” tells Sergey Alexeenko. He is, however, certain that the hotel management was told to call off the arrangement by someone from outside.
“It is just so very sad that we couldn’t show a simple film,” says Sergey. Azimut is a hotel chain with many hotels in Russia and abroad.
“Denying the LGBT community to rent a conference hall is not a good promotion for them internationally.”
“Azimut respects all customers”
Venera Bagapova is group coordinator for Azimut hotel Murmansk. In an e-mail to BarentsObserver she makes it clear that Azimut respects all customers unless they contradict with Russian legislation.
“AZIMUT “Hotel ” Murmansk “ respects all our customers and is glad to offer our halls for meetings and conferences to all the organizations unless they contradict Russian legislation. …we have long partnership relations with “Maximum” and they had already events on our premises,” Venera Bagapova says.
Wants to protect the organizers
She says the movie that Maximum wanted to show did not violate any legislation, but explains the denial with the wish to protect the organizers and audience for the film.
“AZIMUT “Hotel ” Murmansk “ prefers not to carry out events with political, religious orientation on our own space. For sure the movie show on the May, 31st doesn’t belong to these categories of events. However, the hotel had to deny running the event because we had received the information of possible provocation towards the organizers and participants of the show. As the hotel is responsible for its guests, so we took this position to keep them protected,” Bagapova writes in her e-mail to BarentsObserver.
“However, in this particular case we have to take measures to avoid uncontrolled actions in case of possibility of provocative and other illegal actions in relation to the guests and clients of the hotel,” she says.
In Murmansk, being gay or lesbian is no easy life.
Founded in 2009, the NGO Maximum has provided a meeting space for the LGBT community. Their House of Equality was a safe room away from homophobic slurs and the inevitable prejudice that comes with being openly gay in Russia.
Over the last year, Maximum has seen funding cuts, information bans and vandals defecating on and damaging the doorway to the House, its survival is constantly under threat. In February this year, Maximum was labelled “Foreign Agent” by Russia’s Ministry of Justice.
“We couldn’t continue to operate with such stamp,” explains Sergey Alexeenko. The NGO Maximum is therefor closed down. So is the House of Equality. It became too dangerous to be there, with visitors being threatened by anti-gay attackers.
Today, Maximum is just a non-formal group of individuals in Murmansk.