Gay rights activist Vladislav Slavsky (R) poses for a photograph with his boyfriend, who wants to remain anonymous, at the Black Sea promenade in Sochi, south western Russia October 21, 2013. During Soviet times, Sochi gained a reputation for tolerance but the city's once vibrant gay scene has been shrinking since Russia won the right to host the 2014 Winter Games. This year President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning the spread of "gay propaganda" among minors. His increasingly conservative social agenda has boosted the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader has suggested homosexuality is one of Russia's biggest threats, and given more air time to anti-homosexual rhetoric on media outlets. The new law has focused attention on Sochi, which will host many foreigners as well as Russians during the Olympics. Some activists have called for a boycott of the Games in protest. Picture taken October 21, 2013.   REUTERS/Thomas Peter (RUSSIA - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS SOCIETY)


Photos: Inside a Gay Club in Sochi

Gay nightlife pushes forward in the Winter Olympics host city despite Russia's anti-gay laws

With February’s Winter Olympics fast approaching, Sochi is preparing itself for all things professional sport: building stadiums, unleashing CIA-grade security at its airport and, of course, antagonizing openly gay athletes and spectators with oppressive rules.

For Sochi’s vibrant, local gay scene, though, the show must go on.

Despite Russia’s so-called gay “propaganda” law—which could land someone wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow on it in big trouble—the doors at the Mayak cabaret club remain open.

Below, a collection of recent photos taken at the Mayak:

A performer at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

A performer limbers up before going onstage at the Mayak. Mayak means “lighthouse” in Russian.

Andrei Tenichev owns the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Andrei Tenichev, the Mayak’s owner, opened the club eight years ago.

A performer at the gay club Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

A Mayak performer gets suited—and painted—up for an evening show.

Two performers backstage at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

The club features a number of performers and attracts customers from throughout the Caucasus region. Above, a quiet moment backstage.

The dressing room at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

The Mayak hosts nightly performances despite Russia’s strict laws, and plans to continue to do so as the world’s best winter athletes descend on the city.

Customers file in at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Customers file into the Mayak as showtime approaches. The club is open only to those 21 and over.

A striptease at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Performers strip onstage at the cabaret club during a show. Outside the club, Russia’s LGBT community faces increasing hostility and violence, with state TV lending a hand to fuel the hate.

The stage at the Mayak in Sochi.
(Reuters/Thomas Peter)

The action onstage heats up at the Mayak. Speaking of heat, the average temperature in Sochi during February is a decidedly un-frigid 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Respond Now
  • The club looks empty in these pictures. Where’s the vibrancy?

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