Queer Russian pop band SADO OPERA have risked their lives to do what they love

It’s no secret that Russia is often a very dangerous place for LGBT+ people but several brave activists are pushing back against the censorship and police brutality – including this queer duo, SADO OPERA.

PinkNews recently spoke to a trans woman living in St Petersburg and went inside Russia’s first queer dance festival.

Now visiting London from their newly found homes in Berlin, pop band SADO OPERA sat down with PinkNews to talk about the realities of queer life in their home country.

Colonel and Katya began their music careers in Russia, where they regularly faced police harassment for wearing make-up and had their concert posters defaced in the street.

Colonel explained: “Any kind of behaviour which is just different to the average, can be banned, provoke aggression, or even provoke police interest.”

Since relocating to Berlin, the pair have had to adapt to a lack of homophobic censorship and, for them, a newly found freedom to be openly queer.

“A lot of our Russian friends who visit us from Berlin, in the first few days, they actually feel uncomfortable that they actually can hold each others’ hands and hug,” Katya said.

“People say: ‘Wow, you can just walk with your boyfriend holding hands!’ Colonel added.

The sun sets behind the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

They recognise their privilege as musicians, however, and know not everyone has the option to move away from a dangerous situation.

“It’s not a nice experience to be censored in this way but, for sure, our experience as musicians is not as dramatic as experiences of some people in distant regions of Russia, where people can simply be beaten up, tortured and even killed,” Katya explained.

“In some regions in Russia, it’s getting to extreme levels, and that’s why we really respect a lot of brave activists in Russia who are still living there and doing great work, providing legal support to people who need it.

SADO OPERA are calling on the community to support the Russian LGBT+ Network (PinkNews)

“We really encourage people to donate to the Russian LGBT Network because they are really doing a great and important job, and we know they do need money all the time to pay the brave lawyers who aren’t afraid – in this ugly situation – to fight for human rights.”

The Russian LGBT Network is an organisation fighting for human rights within Russia and runs a helpline for LGBT+ people – you can donate here.

Pop band SADO OPERA joined MNEK at Sonos’ panel discussion Expression Uncensored, as part of their Listen Better initiative fighting censorship by providing space and tools for musicians to be heard.