New East Digital Archive

8 Russian queer couples reveal what makes their relationship work

4 January 2019

In December we published an interview with the founders of O-zine, a radical new online platform celebrating contemporary queer culture in Russia. For their launch, they asked eight queer couples what love means to them. The resulting photo story is touching and intimate.

Marina and Nastya

“We are very much crazy in love. I will happily spend my last thousand roubles on her, not caring whether I have enough left for cigarettes. It’s been like this from day one and for the whole three years we’ve been nothing but romantic to each other. I doubt this will end anytime soon: I do everything for Marina, and she does everything for me. Love is Marina. I don’t know any other love.”

Stas and Ilya

“Our relationship is built on patience, acceptance and support. We have the same circle of friends, similar lifestyles and a lot of shared interests. Granted, after being together for eight years we’re no longer fucking from dawn till dusk. Love is intimacy, of a spiritual capacity; friendship; trust; support and sacrifice.”

Katya and Zhenya

“When Zhenya started his female to male transition, I was confronted with my inner transphobia. More than anything I feared the unknown — I read a lot of transgender literature to get used to the idea. As for the romantic side of things, everything continues as before, nothing has changed. We have an open relationship, in the sense that we prioritise each other above all and thanks to this, we tell each other everything. We have a lot of balance and trust.”

Vanya and Lesha

“We have been together for three years. We met when I cycled past Lesha’s work. He messaged me but I didn’t reply right away. For a whole year he followed me online, we messaged each other and tried to make plans to meet, which never ended up happening. On 3 November 2015 the whole of Moscow felt empty and apocalyptic, and that happened to be when we met up. Our relationship is built on trust: we don’t cheat on one another. Love is tranquility.”

Katrin and Katya

“We worked in the same industry and got to know each other through the hard of times. For a while we even addressed each other by the formal “you”. Our wedding took place in Brussels, where we had a surreal entrance to the traditional Russian song Kalinka (the soundtrack was chosen by an elderly women of the local registry). Whilst we exchanged vows, first our translator started crying and then our parents. We believe love is, above all, acceptance. Acceptance of yourself, and then acceptance of the people close to you — it’s not so much passion or mind games as it is work, which also includes work on yourself.”

Adrian and Alena

Alena: “Our relationship is built on a love for cinema and endless discussions on everything that is going on in our lives. True love is boundless and exists in different ways. I don’t like it when someone takes on the role of a person’s great love, as if they are the one and only love that person will ever experience. For this reason, too often, it feels scary to say ‘I love you’, even when you really want to. If you boil it down to its essence, then for me love means having confidence and trust in a person and knowing that your relationship could end (but you wouldn’t like for this to happen).”

Adrian: “Love is a canvas you paint together. You can continue working on it, display it, burn it or start a new one.”

Dasha and Vlada

“We met on the Wonder app (a dating app for queer women). If you were to ask me to describe myself at the time, I was lost and sad, and without a person with whom to go to a festival. We soon started messaging each other. Not many people at the university know I have a son, but I told Vlada fairly soon and she immediately asked to meet him. We have built everything on trust and I hope it continues this way. Love is the willingness to make compromises.”

Kirill and Sasha

“Our relationship is based on trust, attachment and the fact that we are interested in being around each other. Our relationship is open — it’s a way to meet new people and have fun. We try and find regular partners, not just for sex but activities like going on walks. We view betrayal as keeping something from someone; the worst part is not the sexual act but omission. Love is trusting someone 100 percent. It’s wanting to be constantly around this person and even growing old with them.”