Another Cold War is underway between Russia and the West, but this time, it's a war over civil rights. By now everyone has heard about Russia’s anti-gay laws that the state Duma just recently passed in June. The federal government has passed “anti-gay propaganda” laws prohibiting citizens from openly talking about or supporting gays and their rights. Even though many celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga have tcondemned Russia’s new ban, most Russians seem to support this action from their federal government.
To fully understand Russia and its relationship to the gay community, let's take a look at their relationship throughout history.
It was not until the 18th century when Russian leaders first took action against the country's gay community. Peter the Great is believed to be the first tsar to implement anti-gay laws in his domain. And then by 1832, the criminal code was introduced (Article 995) that defined being gay as a criminal act punishable by exile to Siberia for up to five years.
Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union re-criminalized homosexuality in a decree signed in the 1930s. The new Article constituted the imprisonment of many citizens for up to five years. Arrested female homosexuals were even sent to mental institutions because they believed that it was some sort of disorder. But, during the troubles of the 1990s, Russian officials loosened restrictions over gay activities. Under Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost, the first Gay & Lesbian Alliance was formed in Moscow. And in 1993, Stalin’s Articles 121 was finally revoked, decriminalizing homosexual acts. During this time attitudes toward the homosexual community were improving as well. Prior to the 1990s, an alarming 31% of Russian citizens believed that gays should be executed and 32% believed that they should be isolated from the rest of society. During and after Gorbachev's tenure, these numbers improved slightly (only 23% believed in execution and 24% believed in isolation).
Even though the gay community had an awakening during the 1990s, the government has once again turned against them. Since Putin’s rise to power, various laws have been directed against the spread of this “gay propaganda” for the last decade. Russian officials state that this law is to protect the youth of Russia from gay ideology. Thus, they believe that this will prevent future Russian generations from being perverted. These laws have also been promoted as a way to protect the rights of true religious believers, who are offended by homosexual behavior. Between 2006 and 2012, 12 regions of the Federation passed laws that banned “homosexual propaganda amongst minors.” And during this time, numerous protests and attacks took place in cities such as St. Petersburg against the gay community. Most of the time the police ignored the incidents. In Moscow, the Courts took it even a step further by banning gay parades for the next 100 years within the boundaries of the city.
The gay community and its supporters are outraged by these anti-gay laws, but what they should be more alarmed about are the opinions of the average Russian citizen. The data shows: 74% do not believe that homosexuals should be accepted by society (only 16% do); 68% of Russians said homosexuality is always wrong; 44% of Russians are in favor of making homosexual acts a criminal act
Let us not forget that there was a wave of improving attitudes during the 1990s. Maybe this is just another trend in Russia’s erratic society.