Russia’s move to classify LGBTQ+ movements as extremism deepened the country’s human rights crisis. The court hearing was held on November 30, 2023 behind closed doors and without the defendant’s participation. The governments decision, however, came as no surprise, echoing long-standing Russian propaganda narratives, which demonize LGBTQ+ individuals as people with ‘deviations,’ ‘abnormal,’ and ‘Western poison’ headed by foreign intelligence services to infiltrate the state.
Despite claims by propagandists that citizens ‘private lives’ won’t be affected, this move is a dire setback for social progress, paving the way for more severe punishments for LGBTQ+ identification individuals. The law tells how, those participating in LGBTQ+ movements could face up to 5 years in prison, while organizers and donors risk up to 10 years under Criminal Code Articles 282.2(2), 282.2(1), and 282.3.
Propaganda Digest: This is our weekly analysis that exposes the most exaggerated, misleading, and outrageous rhetoric from recent Russian media sources, aimed at promoting critical thinking to better debunk the manipulation of Russian propaganda.
Dudayev Makhmudovich, Chechen Minister of National Policy
We Muslims are proud of our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his faithful associate, the Head of the Chechen Republic, Hero of Russia, my dear brother Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov! Together they are fighting for our right to practice our religion, to raise future generations in a healthy society, and, after all, to remain human beings! Russia has once again proved that neither the collective West nor the USA will be able to deprive us of the most important thing – our religious and national identity!
Chechnya is well-known for its severe oppression and violence against LGBTQ+ people, which is frequently supported by the government, resulting in a nearly eradicated presence of LGBTQ+ people in the region. Despite attempts to deny their existence, atrocities against this community continue, revealing Russia’s dire state of human rights. Kadyrov openly advocates a zero-tolerance policy toward LGBTQ+ people, deeming them incompatible with Chechen society; Zelimkhan Bakayev is just one of his victims who was killed as a result of the administration’s persecution of gay men in Chechnya.
Vitaly Milonov Member of the State Duma
LGBT members are unequivocally demanding to accept these new approaches, threatening that refusal will lead to sanctions and complicate international relations. This is the real political extremism – when the radical opinion of a minority is imposed on the majority, for whom it is unacceptable. The private lives of citizens will not be affected in any way
Vitaly Milonov is notorious for his vehement anti-LGBTQ+ stance, consistently perpetuating anti-gay rhetoric, including previous statements like ‘they are god-forsaken devils and demons.’ His rhetoric aligns with the narrative that portrays LGBTQ+ individuals as evil, fostering a perception that those with a ‘normal’ orientation are victims, facing abuse if they oppose LGBTQ+ people receiving equal rights as they have. However, as in any dictatorship, dissenting groups challenging the regime’s ideologies face suppression, oppression, and eventual eradication, so labeling the community as an extremist group was an unsurprising move.
War on Fakes (576000 subscribers)
After the Russian Supreme Court recognized the international LGBT movement as extremist, the “independence” of such publications and channels became more visible than ever before. Almost simultaneously, they changed their avatars to “rainbow” avatars without the blue color – the symbol of the movement. […]One of the most common narratives of opposition publications is precisely their independence and, as a consequence, their lack of methodology. Mathematically, the probability of a single identical decision in the absence of external management is measured in thousandths of a percent.
This account refers to various liberal and opposition platforms, along with Russian uncensored by the government (supposedly) publications and bloggers, changing their avatars to include rainbow colors—a symbol of LGBTQ+ rights—after the controversial new law was announced. This act, a common display of solidarity during times of stress and injustice, echoes past instances like when the world adopted yellow and blue during Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It doesn’t signify a coordinated effort among independent groups; rather, one initiative sparked others to follow suit for a group of people subjugated to injustice or suffering, offering no proof of a connected operation.
Armen Gasparyan, Russian ‘journalist’ and propagandist
This is not a fight against ordinary lesbians and homosexuals, as the transparent media have already happily written. No. We are talking about extremists who have been convicted of extremist offenses. But they cover themselves with their affiliation to the rainbow flag and make themselves out to be victims of homophobia. For what purpose? To continue to receive appropriate funding through Western funds and to receive the title of “prisoner of conscience”.
It is incorrect to believe that this law only targets extreme LGBTQ+ activist groups and not actual gay or lesbian people.
For starters, it denies them basic human rights, creating a world in which they must live in secret, rather ‘Orwellien.’ Second, holding hands, kissing one’s partner, or dying one’s hair bright colors are not acts of extremism, labeling the organization as much as a threat to the state as ISIS.
Furthermore, Gasparyan’s narrative that Ukraine aligned itself with Europe’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights for financial gain during the war. Yes, in order to join the European Union, Ukraine’s societal and legal approaches to these lifestyles must be modified, but these are the changes Ukraine wants to go through for a safer, more democratic future. Ukraine is currently fighting for freedom and European values against a tyrannical neighbor who is promoting ideological remnants of the past.
Farhad Ibragimov, Lecturer – Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
It is reported that the organizing committee of the Eurovision Song Contest has disqualified Russia for life as a country that once participated in the contest. The contest’s executive supervisor Martin Esterdal said that the entire gay community is shocked by the inclusion of LGBT on the list of extremist organizations. Finally, we will definitely not be in the once normal but now degenerate, freak and imbecile contest, where political sympathy and LGBT ugliness are valued rather than a real voice.
It is correct, Eurovision boasts a significant LGBTQ+ fanbase, yet its essence revolves around musical expression, creativity, and artistry—established for collaboration and unity among European countries post-WW2. Contestants have the freedom to express themselves artistically, as Russia’s artists had done for years on the show (before its ban). It’s worth noting that Russia harbors LGBTQ+ artists, albeit not publically ‘out’.
Dmitry Drize, Russian Columnist
But if done quietly, if not publicized, particularly without trying to stand out. You can’t go against the tide; you have to be like everyone else, without flaunting yourself. Everything will be fine if you follow these simple rules, and you might even make a good political career. Who knows what weaknesses anyone might have? Our state makes decisions based on fairness.
“Our state makes decisions based on fairness.” Let’s take another look at that. Drize implies that you can lead your life however you wish, even pursue a thriving political career, but only under the condition that it’s all a façade. You’re required to conceal your true self to evade a 5-year arrest and if anyone found out about who you truly were, well, no career for you. Doesn’t strike as ‘fairness,’ yet the ‘don’t stand out and be like everyone else’ is reminiscent of soviet times.
Sergey Markov Political ‘scientist,’
Russia is accused of persecuting gays and lesbians. Of course, not by North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China, but by Western countries. But this is a mistake on their part because there is no repression against representatives of the LGBTQ+* community in Russia, but a specific manner in which the gender majority, the so-called ‘normal’ people, interact with individuals who exhibit various forms of social deviation
The term ‘deviation,’ often used by Russian propagandists and homophobic individuals, instantly denotes disapproval toward anyone diverging from ‘societal norms.’ Under this new law, this disdain may escalate, most likely providing the way for further crack-downs on LGBTQ+ people. Markov’s comparison of the West to other dictatorships is telling. In North Korea and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is illegal, leading those who are to remain hidden and liable for severe penalties, corporal punishment, and even death for any public display of same-sex affection. It’s therefore unsurprising why these nations remained silent post the new law, labeling LGBTQ+ as extremism.
Roman Golovanov, Russian propagandist and host of Solovievlive’s propaganda empire
It has taken a very interesting turn, and we haven’t just once spoken all these programs about how LGBT is a terrorist extremist organization that is not as hellbent on destroying one person, but the whole of the human race
The notion that legalizing same-sex relationships or marriages will lead to the decline of the human race is a fear-based narrative propagated by Russian propaganda and its ultra-religious groups. These fear tactics are often used to garner support for anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Russia. However, history and empirical evidence from countries that have legalized same-sex marriages demonstrate that allowing such unions doesn’t affect heterosexual individuals’ orientations, but affords LGBTQ+ individuals the freedom to openly express their identities and engage in consensual relationships without fear of persecution or legal repercussions.