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A cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe, Russia has a long, rich, and often violent heritage of varied influences and stark confrontations in regard to its patterns of same-sex love.
Topics In the News
Spike in Violence against GLBTQ People in Russia
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 09/02/13
Last updated on: 09/02/14
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The coat of arms of the Russian Republic.

Russian activists report an upsurge in homophobic violence following the new laws prohibiting "homosexual propaganda." The new laws ostensibly ban the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" among minors, but their effect has been to license homophobic vigilantism. Moreover, the government has recently encouraged the reporting to the police of neighbors who are believed to be glbtq. Clearly, a pogrom is underway in Russia.

Alec Luhn reports in The Guardian that "the legislation has emboldened rightwing groups who use social media to 'ambush' gay people, luring them to meetings and then humiliating them on camera--sometimes pouring urine on them. These groups often act against gay teenagers, several of whom told the Guardian that rising homophobia and vigilante activity force them to lead lives of secrecy."

Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT network, said the new laws "have essentially legalised violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws. With this legislation, the government said that, yes, gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group."

"It is an action to terrorise the entire LGBT community," he added.

Kochetkov said most homophobic violence was not reported to the police, but a recent study by his organisation found that of 20 attacks that had been reported recently, four were investigated and only one resulted in a court case.

In a series of interviews with young homosexuals, the Guardian found that because of widespread fear their relationships are nearly always clandestine and abuse is commonplace. In addition to vigilante violence, they fear negative reactions from family and friends. In the Russian provinces, homosexuality is the love that dare not even whisper its name.

Recently a legislator in the Siberian region of Zabaikalsk called for a law allowing gays to be publicly flogged by Cossacks.

As Michelle Garcia reports in The Advocate, Russian police have also recently begun targeting gay activists. Using the new legislation, the government has encouraged people to report their glbtq neighbors to local authorities.

A notice issued by the government says any person who suspects that a neighbor or tenant disseminates "homosexual propaganda" should contact the police immediately.

"Increase your vigilance when you talk to your neighbors, when you are checking your mail and in elevators," the notice says, according to a translation. "You can easily become a target of homosexual propaganda. There is one step from being homosexual and to start propaganda of homosexualism and molesting decent people."

Russian prosecutors reportedly raided the home of activist and lawyer Nikolai Alexeyev. According to Reuters, officials ransacked Alexeyev's home and removed several pieces of electronic equipment.

The raid was spurred by a Russian parliament member who lodged a complaint against Alexeyev.

There can be no question that we are now witnessing the beginning of Russia's new pogrom against glbtq people.

It is sobering to note that the very wordpogrom, a violent massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, is a Yiddish term derived from a Russian word to describe Russian attacks on Jews. In contemporary Russia, where there are few Jews remaining, the glbtq minority has become the convenient scapegoat for the country's insecurities and failures.

The Olympic Games must be moved from Sochi.

In the video below, Harvery Fierstein appears on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show The Last Word to explain the rising level of homophobia in Russia.

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