Gay Icon Nesting Dolls Sent to the Kremlin for Christmas

A classic symbol of Russian culture is reimagined to promote LGBT rights in the country.

From left: Elton John, Stephen Fry, George Michael, Graham Norton, and Tom Daly, an Olympic bronze medalist diver who came out publicly earlier this month. (Photo: To Russia With Love/Mother London)

Dec 21, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Who wouldn't love a set of traditional Russian nesting dolls painted to look like gay icons? Probably not anybody working at the Kremlin. But this year officials there will receive the novelty gift as a Christmas present meant to "stick two fingers up at homophobia in Russia."

For its holiday campaign titled "#ToRussiaWithLove" U.K.-based creative agency Mother London commissioned seven sets of the matryoshka dolls, each painted to look like a gay celebrity, such as Elton John and Stephen Fry.

One set of the dolls will be sent to the Kremlin and another to the Russian Embassy in London. The rest are being auctioned off on eBay to raise money for Kaleidoscope Trust, a human rights organization dedicated to promoting LGBT equality worldwide.

Fry, who autographed one set of the nesting dolls scheduled for auction, recently tweeted about them:

Oh look, I fit snugly into Elton, and George Michael fits snugly into me.

Homophobia in Russia has become an increasing international concern since the summer, when the country passed its anti-gay propaganda law, banning the promotion of any nonheterosexual relationship. As a result, human rights advocates have also pointedly criticized the International Olympic Committee for upholding its decision to stage the next Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.

This week President Barack Obama made it known he would not attend the games but would instead send a U.S. delegation that includes openly gay athletes such as Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano.

At a press conference, the president explained, "When it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance, we do not make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. We judge people on how they perform."

In anticipation of the Winter Olympics, activist group All Out created a viral video criticizing Russia's treatment of its gay population, while controversial T-shirt company FCKH8 launched a campaign vowing to send 10,000 pro-gay children's coloring books to the country.

As for Mother London's nesting dolls, there's a chance that even after auction, they'll reappear in the near future. Creative team member Paddy Fraser told FastCoExist, "We finally decided to start with a British set and only gay men, rather than make it international and mixed," he said. "The ambition is to widen it later on and have a lesbian set, and a Winter Olympics athlete set."