The Haus of Tina: an introduction into Moscow’s ground-breaking drag haus5 min read

 In Culture, Interview, Russia
The popularity of drag has exploded over the past decade, with franchises like RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Boulet Brother’s Dragula expanding across the globe. In 2014 a drag queen won the Eurovision, with the art of drag being more visible across Europe than ever before. The growth of said drag culture is also present in Russia, despite tough government restrictions on LGBT+ rights and culture. 

Whilst it may be easy for one to assume that Russia’s increasingly strict homophobic laws – which prevent the promotion of ‘gay propaganda’ in public spaces – mean that queer culture is non-existent in Russia, this is not the case. Although arguably more underground than in other European countries, Russia’s cities of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg have thriving queer spaces, including a growing drag scene and development of drag houses.

During Scotland’s first lockdown in 2020, I became acquainted with the Haus of Tina, a Russian drag house based in Moscow. Whilst bars and nightclubs here were long since closed, Russia’s lax restrictions meant that the Haus of Tina were able to continue their shows, and throughout lockdown, their videos helped fill the hole that a lack of live drag shows had left in my life. Although a big fan of drag culture, the Russian drag scene was not something that I had previously thought about, and I immediately became curious as to how the Moscow drag house had formed. After following and exchanging messages via Instagram with the group over several months, I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Haus of Tina’s founder to learn more about the house and their queens.

Introducing the Haus

Tina Abramian – the founder of the House of Tina – told me how the idea for the drag house grew out of her own ballroom-themed art exhibition, which brought together many of the soon-to-be members of the house. Taking place in April 2019, the exhibition was initially just meant to be displaying her own art. However, Abramian stated that the ‘integral’ aspect of drag within the ballroom scene meant that she felt it was only right to include drag performers within her exhibition, and soon seven Moscow based drag artists were performing in the gallery alongside Abramian’s own art. According to the founder, the inclusion of drag queens in such an event surprised the attendees, who had not seen anything of the sort before. From then on, Abramian decided to create her own drag house, hosting evening shows in clubs, which – according to her – was new for the Russian drag scene at the time, as shows only ever took place during the day. Due to the presence of several gay bars and clubs in Moscow, Abramian notes that despite Russia’s tough laws, the group does not face any trouble performing their shows, which are kept at an 18+ admission to avoid the involvement of any minors.

A Haus of Tina show: what to expect?

If you are wondering what to expect from a Haus of Tina show, the honest answer is a little bit of everything. Whilst many drag queens – both amateur and professional – have set numbers that they perform or set themes their shows incorporate, the Haus of Tina is truly varied when it comes to their performances. From honouring drag history through their Club Kids show, to experimenting in mixing their drag with goth and punk rock in their Gothic Sisters show, the Haus of Tina have proven themselves to be diverse and ground-breaking within the Moscow drag scene. Russian icons are not forgotten within the Haus either, with entire shows being dedicated to Russian pop icons such as t.A.T.u and MakSim. The group’s Glamazones show also saw them cross the barrier of drag into the burlesque scene, with the queens collaborating with the burlesque dancers from the Haunted Cathouse burlesque show, also found in Moscow. So, whilst it is hard to describe exactly what you will find at a Haus of Tina show, it is undoubted that you will be entertained.

Breaking the Boundaries

Ever since its conception, the Haus of Tina has been consistently reshaping the face of the Russian drag scene, and the past few months have been no different for the group. Recently, the Haus held a Drag Picnic’ outdoors event that gave attendees the opportunity to play lawn games such as limbo and darts with their favourite queens. This style of drag event is not overly present in the international drag scene as a whole and was certainly unique to the scene in Russia when the Haus of Tina first held it. Likewise, Russia’s Drag Race hasn’t quite made its way into the RuPaul franchise yet, but in April of this year the Haus of Tina took matters into their own hands, and by holding their own Drag Race show – including versions of the all-important Snatch Game and the iconic lip sync battles – they once again proved themselves to be trailblazers in the Russian drag scene. However, it is not just the Haus as a whole that is breaking the boundaries, but also individual members of the group too. Kanareyka – frequent Haus of Tina performer – recently starred in the music video for MARIA’s “PRAISE”. Throughout the video they are seen acting both in and out of drag, proving that Russia’s drag artists’ talent is multi-faceted, and can break out of the nightclub setting should the performer so wish. Whether it be as a group or as an individual, the members of the Haus of Tina are consistently pushing the boundaries of the drag scene around them.

Whilst the Haus of Tina has already achieved so much in the short time since their formation, I have no doubt that even greater successes are waiting for them in the future. In a country that is consistently trying to repress and condemn queer culture, the Haus of Tina work tirelessly to ensure that the art of drag in Moscow is not only preserved, but also continues to grow. If you find yourself in Moscow in the near future, make sure to go and support the local queens, and if like me being able to freely travel is yet but a dream, you can follow the Haus of Tina’s adventures on Instagram here

Featured image: Haus of Tina / Haus of Tina
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