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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



Outcasts: The Last Queer Soviet Generation

Roman Utkin • Wesleyan University

April 22nd @ 6pm • PAC 100

In 1989, a Wesleyan alumna named Julie Dorf travelled to the Soviet Union to do the unthinkable: to shoot a documentary about the lives of Soviet gays and lesbians. The film was an extension of Dorf’s senior thesis for her B.A. in Soviet Studies, and it helped launch her career as an international human rights advocate. The film itself, titled Outcasts and released in 1991, sheds light on the individuals whose very existence the U.S.S.R. questioned, pathologized, and denied. In documenting those experiences, Dorf collaborated with young Soviet art historians Olga Zhuk and Natalia Sharandak. Outcasts’ indie quality captures the immediacy and intimacy of Soviet lesbians, gays, and trans individuals, who were emboldened by Perestroika reforms, in a collage-like portrait of the final Soviet queer generation. This rarely screened film, as well as hours of outtakes which this paper analyzes, presents an archive of self-definitions, historical ephemera, and organizing tactics. Perhaps most importantly, it offers a backwards glance at a time when the future for post-Soviet queers seemed full of possibilities.

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