Despite the difficulties, the international festival of queer culture was held on April 6 – April 8, but wide public access to the event was restricted.
The festival was to take place in the cultural space Stolovka XYZ, but the event was cancelled following safety inspections by firefighters, police, the Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology and officers of the ideological department of Minsk’s Maskouski district. The premises were sealed off for the period of the scheduled event as they fail to meet fire safety and sanitation requirements. Six months ago, fire safety inspections found no violations.
As the premises were sealed off the organisers arranged the relocation of the festival to SQUAT space, but inspectors visited the new location as well and warned about possible problems if Dotyk took place there. So, the space continued working on other events not related to the festival.
As a result, the festival was held in secret locations around the city. Visitors were asked to preregister for the events. The key event was an open conference on queer history and non-normative identity in the post-Soviet area with participating guests from Belarus, the UK, Latvia, Russia, France and Estonia.
According to participants of the festival, pressure began after the newspaper Vecherny Mogilev published calls by Orthodox activists to cancel the event due to Orthodox Easter. A day before the opening, one of the organisers received four anonymous telephone calls with insults.
The organisers held a press conference after the festival and spoke about the work done. Dotyk’s communication manager Hanna Bredava told citydog.by the festival hadn’t faced such pressure since it was launched three years ago. She noted it would have an impact both on the situation in the country and Belarus’s international image: “These actions were a surprise for our foreign guests, partners from the embassies of Sweden, the UK and the US who provided their support in organising the festival. The festival has always been supported by international organisations, which had a positive impact on the overall image of the Republic of Belarus as an open and tolerant country.”
Read the official statement on the festival’s website dotyk.by.Subscribe to our mailing list: