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Queer Life in Russia: A Historical Primer

History is recorded and recounted in many ways, even in the classroom.

Duncan Baumgarten, a comics and cartoon studies minor, used a creative approach to a recent course on the USSR and Contemporary Russia. Baumgarten wrote and illustrated a zine, Queer Life in Russia: A Historical Primer, which provides an overview of queer history from tsarist Russia all the way up to current events with the war in Ukraine.

It has been called criminal mischief.

It has been called sluggishly manifesting schizophrenia.

It has been called Western decadence.

It has been silenced, punished, killed, and minimized.

But, from the bathhouses to the Gulags to the streets and online, queerness in Russia has historically endured, and will continue to do so.

The entire zine is available to read on this website, linked below.

Artist Statement

“I embarked on the project out of sheer curiosity, aware that many general histories don’t include the experiences of queer people. The work Professor Hessler and I did was intended to not only educate myself on the history of queer people in the Soviet Union, but also, gradually, to figure out how to share that knowledge with others. Queer history is a special subject because it’s not only consistently unexplored, but it’s also a shared history in a way that many underrepresented groups experience. The experiences of those in the Gulags belong in the historical canon for queer people today to learn and contemplate. To document it and share it means so much to me as a historian and as an artist and creating a zine that synthesizes my term’s work—particularly finishing the class during Pride month—is exciting and extremely gratifying.”

—Duncan Baumgarten

Use the link above to read the complete zine online. Or download a PDF version.