New East Digital Archive

Dragzina: join the queer artists claiming Russia’s summer houses as their own
22 September 2020
Photography: Luba Kozorezova
Art Direction: Masha Vorslav

Drag is known worldwide as an art form with the power to transform — as well as part of global pop culture thanks to the likes of American reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. In Russia, a new generation of drag artists are using their art to push the boundaries of conservative thinking and to build a supportive queer community. Masha Vorslav, makeup artist and founder of Dragzina, is committed to unite drag artists and raise their voices. In a new editorial shot at her family’s summer house, Vorslav creates a playful and welcoming world for her queer drag family and creative collaborators.

Read more Queer Moscow: dispatches from the front lines of Russia’s LGBTQ creative revolution

Vorslav first discovered drag through her work as a makeup artist and beauty editor some five years ago. In 2019, she started Dragzina, a zine about Russian drag culture and community. The first printed issue is set to come out this autumn. “Dragzina is more than a publication, but a community for Russian drag artists and young creatives who work with gender, self-expression, and feminism. I think drag in its broader meaning — ‘We’re born naked and the rest is drag’ to quote RuPaul — is an agency to rethink our heritage”, she says.

Thinking about drag in the Russian context is important for Vorslav — to show the new generation that drag is something which can exist in their day-to-day reality, despite the social prejudice. Dachas, or the small country house where families escape during the summer months, are familiar to every Russian. Dachas are associated with family leisure, but Vorslav and her collaborators — photographer Luba Kozorezova and stylist Valeria Pekarskaya — decided to add their own queer dimension

“We were grilling sausages at my family’s summer house and started wondering if we could use the setting for a fashion story. The house is a typical Russian building from the 2000s. I personally liked that because post-Soviet aesthetics are very fetishised today, even though they’re not the only thing about Russian culture that is worthy of showing,” Vorslav says. “So we fantasied about how queer folx would spend a weekend in the countryside. Russian queers at a Russian dacha, with love from 2020.”

The characters in the shoot are Vorslav herself, renowned gender-bending queen Lorina Rey (who Vorslav refers to as her drag mother), and drag and tattoo artist Goblina,“We’re all different, so it’s not exactly correct to refer to us as a drag house, but we are a kind of queer family, although we rarely talk about it, ” Vorslav adds. “We are also grateful for all the Russian labels who lended their clothes to create this queer vision: mardo._ , Ssanaya Tryapka, ALISAKUZEMBAEVA, Evgenia Barkova, ttcrownsgloves, and of course Lorina Rey’s constant collaborator Alexey Golubev.