yulia tsvetkova art activism lgbtqia feminist russia
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August 10, 2023
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Yulia Tsvetkova Art, Activism, and Defying Russia

Queer rights and feminism aren't really the main focus point of the Russian government these days. And yet, they're at the center of Yulia Tsvetkova's art practice. She even got charged multiple times for her socially and politically engaged works.

Tsvetkova, a multi-talented artist, and activist, has made a significant impact through her creative journey and her commitment to advocating for social change. Born in Russia in 1993, Tsvetkova's life and work have been marked by a fervent desire to challenge societal norms and promote gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and freedom of expression in her birth country.

Having studied dance, choreography, screenwriting and theater, both in Moscow and London, she founded and became the director of the Merak activist youth theater, which produced 9 plays under her direction. The most controversial one,  Pink and Blue, was to be shown during the Color of Saffron Festival in 2018. However, du to the themes of gender stereotypes and the presence of underaged actors and actresses, the performance was illegally cancelled by authorities. It ended up being shown only to a selected amount of people, like close relatives, a few journalists, and the police. All the minors in the production got interrogated on the motivation of the young director and the homosexual propaganda she was accused of entertaining.

Tsvetkiva also gained national attention in 2019 for managing a feminist website The Vagina Monologues (tribute to the eponym Theater Piece by Eve Ensler) , on which were displayed abstract representation of female genitals from various artists (non of them her work, by the way). She got accused of producing and diffusing pornographic material, for which she was formally charged in December of 2019 to a 50’000 rubles fine, after spending almost 3 month in house arrest. After a lengthy battle with the so-called justice system, she finally was acquitted by the court in 2022.

However, she also got charged a second time in 2020 for a drawing piece depicting four adults with children, with the sentence “Family is where there is Love” written on it. The charge held upon an article on the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, also known as the “LGBT Propaganda” law. This only lead her to cause more trouble to the conservative Russia she was born in, and she got arrested and condemned again multiple times between 2020 and 2022 for various pieces of work, most of them centered around themes of gender identity, body positivity, and the exploration of unconventional relationships.

Image courtesy of Yulia Tsvetkova