O-Zine Dazed 100
O-Zine Dazed 100
“We would fund a year of O-zine’s work, to continue representing Russia’s LGBTQ+ youth

O-zine

Ages - Dmitry Kozachenko 22, Sasha Kazantseva 34
 Moscow, Russia
@ozine.ru
O-zine
“We would fund a year of O-zine’s work, to continue representing Russia’s LGBTQ+ youth

What do you know about the LGBTQ+ community of Russia? First and foremost, you’ve probably heard of the challenges it faces: homophobia, violent attacks, and state oppression. But the truth is, Russia also has a burgeoning queer underground – and at the centre of it is O-zine, an independent publication about Russian LGBTQ+ culture. O-zine shows that being young, Russian and queer doesn’t necessarily mean pain and suffering but a great deal of joy, pleasure, and beauty.

O-zine was founded in 2018 by journalist Dmitry Kozachenko and writer and queer sex educator Sasha Kazatseva (who also runs the lesbian sex blog Washed Hands); later joined by journalists Maria Lacinska, Anton Danilov, Anna Filippova and Slava Rusova. The “O” in the title stands for “open”, and it’s a fearless celebration of queerness in an incredibly hostile environment  – under a “gay propaganda law” from 2013, there is no space for LGBTQ+ stories in Russian mainstream media, education or public spaces. “We aim to give a voice to Russia’s queer community, revive its erased history, and help build the future it deserves," Sasha and Dmitry say.

In just two years, O-zine has become a true cultural force: a celebratory space for the community, an educational platform, and a recognised voice in Russian media that consults for other outlets on how to cover LGBTQ+ stories. The project is completely self-funded and runs on the dedication of its team – but has already changed how a young generation of Russian LGBTQ+ people see themselves and their future.

How did you start doing the work you do, and what inspires it?

Dmitry Kozachenko: When we started two years ago, most of the articles about LGBTQ+ people in Russian mass media were about hate crimes. It’s a big part of the reality for Russian queer people, and it’s incredibly important to cover it – but when all the info concerning your identity is about violence, it affects you negatively. 

Sasha Kazatseva: We wanted to create a lifestyle media outlet that would cover projects by queer people in Russia, our art and culture, our daily life, sex, and relationships. When we started, a lot of people around us were sure that it was impossible to do this work in homophobic Russia, where the “gay propaganda law” exists and queer people are used to living in fear. But we believe that when queer people are visible and supported, all of us can feel safer and stronger.

“We believe that when queer people are visible and supported, all of us can feel safer and stronger” - Sasha Kazatseva

What or who gives you hope and why?

Dmitry Kozachenko: I’m inspired by the work of Russian human rights defenders who protect LGBTQ+ people and win their cases in courts. I admire Russian activists who raise awareness of human rights violations and discrimination. In addition, there’s now an incredible community of talented people around O-zine. In the past, we had to search for new photographers, musicians, drag artists, and writers, and now our readers themselves send us so many things to publish. This is fantastic!

How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and/or your community?

Sasha Kazatseva: When the pandemic started, the Russian government stopped the work of all small and medium businesses with no compensation. The majority don’t have any savings, and the social welfare system in Russia is virtually non-existent. LGBTQ+ people in Russia are a very socially disadvantaged group, with many working in low-paid jobs and lacking not only savings, but also support from relatives. In the period of self-isolation, those people who are forced to live with unaccepting relatives or abusers are now in a very vulnerable position. In addition, we’re really worried about the health of transgender people, as they have lost access to their doctors and hormone medications. We try to share information about services that help LGBTQ+ people in this difficult time as much as we can. 

What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?

Dmitry Kozachenko: We would fund a year of O-zine’s work, to continue representing Russia’s LGBTQ+ youth. We want to produce more short films, music videos, editorials and events, and a book that would be a collective portrait of Russia’s LGBTQ+ community: us through our own words and images.

Anastasiia Fedorova

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