Management at Northern Ireland’s premier gay nightclub, Kremlin, have no plans to change its name following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Indeed, staff characterised the name as a “middle finger” to the notoriously homophobic Russian Government under Vladimir Putin.
And one employee at the club, which features a statue of Lenin above its entrance to welcome the partygoing proletariat, revealed that some people in touch on social media believed they were contacting the actual Russian seat of power — as the club features highly on Google searches.
The management of the club on Belfast’s Donegall Street was not immediately available to comment on the name, but posted a statement following the invasion.
“Kremlin’s thoughts and prayers are with the whole of Ukraine,” it began.
“Kremlin was set up over 22 years ago. Its theme was inspired by the uprising of the Russian workers revolution led by Lenin and meshed with the opulence of the Tsar Nicholas’ Palaces,” the statement read.
“When it was passed that it would be illegal to be gay in Russia, we received many messages asking us would we change Kremlin’s name.
“We saw it as an even bigger political stance to keep the Kremlin name as it is.
“A bar that is gay owned, gay managed and in the heart of gay community for nearly a quarter of a century — everything Putin detests.
“Seeing what is unfolding over the past couple of days has been heartbreaking. The images will remain with us for a long time to come. We pray that this ends soon.
“This Kremlin stands with Ukraine and we see you at this immeasurably difficult time and we send our love and prayers.”
Russia has used legislation to promote what it calls “traditional values”. Most notably, Putin signed legislation in 2013 making it a criminal offence to disseminate “gay propaganda”, a law that Human Rights Watch described as one that “targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain”.
One employee of the company that owns Kremlin, which also runs the Union Street Bar around the corner, said he understood there was no plan to change the name of the club.
“Kremlin has been around for 23 years and it has always been Kremlin, a massive gay club that has always supported the LGBTQ community,” said the employee, who did not want to be named.
“If anything this is a big middle finger to Putin.”
The staff member also noted that because the nightclub appears high on Google searches, some people have contacted Kremlin, the nightclub, on social media thinking they were getting in touch with the actual government in Moscow.
Companies large and small have taken action in the wake of the invasion more than two weeks ago.
Downpatrick-based food producer Finnebrogue showed solidarity with Ukraine by changing the name of its plant-based Chicken Kiev to Kyiv, the translated name most used in the invaded country.