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September 30, 2016

Voices for Equality: Russia

Two years removed from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Russian LGBT community is still fighting for inclusion. Two years from now, however, one activist hopes to win an important victory in that fight, at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Elvina Yuvakaeva, who is part of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, has long pushed back against homophobia in her home country. Her method of choice is not through a political strategy, but through bringing people together in a common medium, sport.  

Directly after the Sochi Games, Elvina and her fellow members of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation held the Open Games, a multi-sport event featuring members of the LGBT community and their allies. The event not only provided an arena for athletes to compete, it also allowed attendees to share experiences at roundtables, film screenings, and social gatherings. Although it was not the first attempt to hold the Open Games, it was a perfect moment to keep the eyes of the international community on Russia.

As the world watched the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia’s crackdown on the LGBT community intensified. Under Russia's anti-propaganda law, activists and allies faced prosecution for simply exercising their core freedoms of speech and expression. Worse yet, the law encouraged a climate of violence and persecution against LGBT Russians. When the Open Games were successfully held, despite government attempts to shut it down, it was a significant moment for Elvina. It inspired her to continue her fight.

Now she has her sights set on 2018, when the World Cup comes to Russia. When the international community turns its eyes to Russia once again, Elvina will be ready to use the power of sport to both shine a spotlight on the conditions of LGBT Russians and to conquer division and break barriers.