HELSINKI, Finland – Police in Finland have received a complaint after two pranksters erected a makeshift gay bar based on the Blue Oyster from the Police Academy films to protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
The bar, a wooden structure hung with fairy lights and decorated with blue lettering, was built last weekend on a plot of land belonging to the Russian presidency on the remote Åland archipelago, a Swedish-speaking region of Finland.
Pictures posted by the pranksters show people outside the bar, some clad in leather and wearing yellow builders’ helmets, with one couple kissing.
“This is pure hooliganism,” the Russian consul to Åland, Mikhail Zubov, told the Finnish news agency STT.
The bar, outside the village of Saltvik, was erected by the Swedish comedy hip-hop duo Far & Son, who told local media they were protesting against Russia’s crackdown on gay rights, including a law forbidding the “promotion” of homosexuality.
“We expected a bit more of a vigorous response from the Russians and that they would immediately send the Scud missiles into the gay bar, but it seems they can’t keep up with Far & Son,” the comedians told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “They are simply cowards.”
Approximately 28,000 people live on the Åland islands, a popular summer resort for Finns and Swedes. The archipelago of 6,000 islands between Finland and Sweden is an autonomous region of Finland with its own parliament and has been demilitarized since 1921 because of its strategic location in the Baltic.
Before that it was part of the Russian empire as a region of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, and there is still some residual local unease about Russia. Zubov, who was appointed consul to the islands in July, told the local press in August that Moscow had not trained troops to mount an invasion.
An editorial in Thursday’s Ålandstidningen said it supported the hip-hop duo’s satirical protest, saying that whereas the Soviet Union had attacked the west for its decadence, commercialism and pop music, Vladimir Putin’s Russia now attacked it for gay rights and preaching radical feminism.
It added that it was dangerous to underestimate the Russian president, who had a measure of global popularity that meant it was important to stand up for tolerance.
The Blue Oyster replica was built on land that became Russian property in 1947 under postwar peace treaties requiring all German-owned items in the area to be given to the Soviet Union.
The uninhabited 17,800 sq meter plot once belonged to a German-Finnish couple, and was revealed to be owned by the Russian presidency last autumn.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Baltic region has been jittery as a result of Russian military exercises and operations in the area, culminating in the Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago in October 2014. Putin has also visited shipwrecks in the Baltic in a submersible on a couple of occasions.
Åland police confirmed they had received a complaint about the incident on Sunday, and said the area belonged to the Russian state.
“The perpetrators forced their way into the area and built something, leaving their rubbish behind,” they said. “This incident has been classed as trespassing, as well as some sanitation violations. Police have been in contact with the Russian consul and documented the crime scene.”
The crime could be punishable by up to three months in prison but Far & Son told Aftonbladet they were not afraid. “I think someone will build this again with cement next year. Then it will remain there forever.
“The Blue Oyster will be the only thing you can see from the moon, apart from the Great Wall of China. They will never take us alive.”