LGBTQ+ history in Belarus and Eastern Europe

Illustration of a ruined castle on a hillside

Discover the history of being LGBTQ+ in Belarus and Eastern Europe through Volha Kavalchuk's contribution to the Europeana Digital Storytelling Festival's Creative Online Residency.

Volha Kavalchuk

In May-June 2023, eight participants took part in the first ever Online Creative Residency from Europeana’s Digital Storytelling Festival. They worked with mentors in animation, social media stories and new writing relating to LGBTQ+ culture and communities. Volha Kavalchuk uses Instagram reels to share her research of LGBTQ+ histories of Belarus and Eastern Europe. Explore her posts and find out more about Volha below.

About the author

Who am I?

My name is Volha Kavalchuk, and I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Communication Studies and Information Management Technologies in Lithuania. I spent the first 19 years of my life in Belarus before moving to a neighboring country. I received a high school education with a focus on history and social studies and decided to continue on this path. My interests lie in various areas concerning society and social sciences, such as history, technology and communication, politics, and the intersection of human rights with these fields.

Why did I apply to the Digital Storytelling Online Creative Residency?

I saw the advertisement for the Digital Storytelling Festival on Instagram Stories. I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to sharpen my skills in content planning and creation and expand my creative potential in the frame of a certain topic and place. Moreover, it was useful to interact with the professionals from your field. It is difficult to focus on your project on your own, and it seemed nice to me to have such support.

What have I got out of the residency?

Considering my fields of interest, study path, and country of origin, it is pretty logical that I focused on the topic concerning the LGBTQ+ history of Eastern Europe. I tried to focus on Belarus more though the history of countries in my region is interconnected. As some countries are authoritarian right now, the archives regarding this topic especially are not wildly available. There is an academic discourse on the topic of homosexuality and other queer identities in Eastern Europe, especially in the 20th century though this is not wildly spread to the public, especially in English. I would like to clear up the specificities of queer history of my region for queer people and allies from the West part of Europe. Actually, I discovered a lot myself, looking at the usually hidden parts of history I was studying at school.

Where might I go from here?

I am planning to continue with these series and explore different formats of content for Instagram exploring the more recent history of laws and persecution of non-heterosexual people. What's more, a new administrative law article is implemented in my home country against 'propaganda of non-traditional relationships' and I think it is important to talk about this topic with external audiences.