Even though Novosibirsk is the third-largest city in Russia, there is no official gay organization and no discotheque, bar or other gathering place for the gay community. The park in front of the city's Opera and Ballet Theater has long served as an informal gathering place for gays, who share the space with punks, heavy-metal enthusiasts, evangelists, prostitutes, and other "fringe elements."
Predictably, the mishmash of groups in the park occasionally erupts into fistfights, especially on weekend evenings when alcohol flows freely. So gays in Novosibirsk responded with great enthusiasm when two years ago the city's first gay discotheque opened for a brief time. Twice a week the disco opened its doors to a grateful flood of customers, both gay men and lesbians, who took specially chartered buses to the site just outside the city. To their dismay, however, the disco closed after only a month, supposedly because the owner had a sudden string of bad financial luck and couldn't support the venture.