Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but in 3 Russian regions, including Saint Petersburg, local laws have been introduced that prohibit the organization of public LGBT social events. This did not stop Konstantin Yablotskiy from establishing the Russian LGBT Sport Federation in 2010, nor from organizing sports events ever since.
The Paint The Winter sports tournament was held in February 2013 in the Saint Petersburg region. The tournament, which was organized by Russian LGBT Sport Federation included typical winter sports such as skiing, ice hockey and figure skating as well as an indoor program with badminton, table tennis, volleyball and swimming. A cultural programme was included in the activities.
Paint The Winter enabled LGBTs to meet up with each other. These tournaments have shown that the LGBT community benefits from the gatherings: increasing self-acceptance and even providing an incentive and confidence for some to come out. The Russian LGBT Sport Federation also hopes the event will contribute to more tolerance towards sexual minorities.
“In Russia it becomes more and more difficult to be open for LGBT people,” explains Konstantin Yablotskiy, chairman of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation. “On the evening of October 11th 2012, International Coming Out Day, Moscow’s LGBT club 7 Free Days was attacked by skinheads. Although no one was killed, lots of people were injured. The Russian LGBT Sports Federation had a board meeting there just 2 days previously. Because of this incident, the club was closed down. With that, the only place for Moscow LGBT NGO’s and social groups has disappeared. That’s Russia today.”