A queer Ukrainian journalist. A writer. A public speaker. A self-proclaimed bridge builder and “Russian colonialism storyteller-in-chief.” Maksym Eristavi was born to amplify voices!
For only being in his 30s, Eristavi’s reputation as a journalist and activist is both commendable and inspiring. He started reporting at the age of 16 and essentially pioneered queer representation in Eastern European media. Today he is still only one of a few openly gay journalists in his region.
Eristavi’s work entails the many intersections of identity politics, disinformation, and the harms of Russian colonialism which have ultimately affected him.
In addition to being the co-founder of the Russian Language News Exchange, the biggest support network for independent journalism in Eastern Europe, he also chairs the managing board of Kyiv Pride, the biggest queer and trans pride event in Eastern Europe.
On top of all that, Eristavi is a contributing writer for the Washington Post and Politico, and he is currently covering the ongoing conflict with Russia.
On his website, Eristavi mentions that his history and ultimately reconnecting with his Ukrainian roots was an “act of investigative journalism.”
“Growing up as a kid in Ukraine you have more questions than answers about where you come from, the history of your own country, or even of your own family,” he explains.
“For example, I come from a Ukrainian-speaking family where speaking Ukrainian in public wasn’t encouraged. Because of Russian repressions and Moscow-made genocide targeting multiple generations of my family, we were discouraged to ask our grandparents about our family history.”
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Sadly, this was and is a regular occurrence for a majority of Ukrainians. For Eristavi, there’s a duality between his journey of self-acceptance stemming from his sexual identity and nationality. He has said that coming out as queer was easier than coming out as Ukrainian. But over time, he learned to embrace his true identity.
“Similarly with my queerness, once I reconnected with my roots and went through decolonizing cleanse, now I can’t imagine myself being anything else than unapologetically Georgian, Roma, Asian but–above else–Ukrainian,” Eristavi says on his website.
However, the harms of Russian colonialism and repressions are more active and prevalent to this day as the country of Ukraine has been the victim of an unprovoked war since February.
As a life-long journalist, Eristavi’s curiosities are what ultimately drove him to fight for equality. Covering the conflict with Russia since the beginning of the year, Eristavi remains active on all major social media platforms and often takes to Tik Tok to share videos explaining the long history of Russian colonialism.
In addition, this year he founded #UkrainianSpaces, alongside fellow Ukrainian Activist and community organizer Val Voshchevska, which is a live broadcast event and podcast that amplifies Ukrainian voices, perspectives, and lives. Episodes can be streamed on Patreon, Apple Music, and Spotify.
We’re proud of Eristavi for amplifying the voices of those around him and continuing to use his platform to be a voice for queer Ukrainians the world over, to speak out against Russian colonialism, and spread a message of hope and change through activism.