Written by Tyler Ricardi
Russian-born singer-songwriter Sasha Gradiva has received several major music awards and nominations in her native country. She has also graced the pages of the Russian publications of Cosmopolitan, Maxim, and Vogue. Fans love her quirky, avant-garde ensembles and in-your-face activism.
But some in Russia are wondering if she’s gone too far with her latest single. The song, titled “Come with Us”, encourages young gay men and women to come out of the closet. On the album’s cover, she proudly flourishes a long flowing rainbow flag. It’s a brave statement for the young pop star and one that could land her in prison. Due to new anti-gay laws, it is now illegal to promote the LGBT flag in Russia.
Sasha blames Putin for reverting Russia back to the ideals of Hitler. “My grandfather put his life on the line, fighting to end Hitler’s atrocious acts,” she says. “And for what? For such horrid discrimination and violence to come back within one generation? It’s a travesty.”
We spoke to Sasha Gradiva about her new gay anthem and if she thinks there’s hope for change in Russia.
Should American gays boycott the Sochi Olympics?
Sasha Gradiva: Yes, America and all other civilized countries should boycott the Sochi Olympics. Do I believe a boycott will change the situation in Russia? Probably not. Do I think people around the world should still do something about it? Yes, I do.
Is a boycott fair to the athletes?
It’s incredibly frustrating to think that standing up for human rights may damage someone’s dreams. But we are talking lives here. We have to fight to save the lives of gay Russians.
Is it fair to compare Russia’s anti-gay movement to the anti-Semitism in Russia that existed ten years ago?
Russia suffers from a bit of intolerance, in general. Most Russians are not homophobic, however. They are simply ignorant. Sadly, most Russians equate gays with pedophiles. They have been made to believe that the propaganda of gay rights will encourage heterosexual kids to turn gay. It’s a question of education more than tolerance. For the sake of having a healthy society, it’s crucial that Russians learn the truth about the LGBT community.
Is change in Russia possible?
Anything and everything is possible. It will be difficult to change the minds of the people, but I do believe that if we think we can make change the current situation, we can.
You grew up in Russia. Why are you not homophobic?
I was raised to love everyone. It was a crazy idea that my parents had, but somehow it stuck.
Do you have plans to perform in Russia?
I was in Moscow this summer where I performed at a secret Gay Pride. They launched the educational gay web portal www.Tguy.ru at the event.
Is it safe for you to return to Russia now that you have publicly announced your support of the LGBT community?
I will be very cautious the next time I’m there because yes, I can be arrested.
What is your advice to gay people in Russia?
Continue to do everything possible to educate the people. Many of us support you. I will always support you.
Would you advise gay men and women in America to visit Russia?
No one is going to hurt you on the streets of Moscow for being gay. However, gay men and women need to be aware that several unexplained accidents have happened to prominent members of Russia’s LGBT community so please, take caution.
What’s next for you musically?
I’m finishing my album. I have so much more to say through my songs. Trust me, this is only the beginning.