RE:RUSSIA: Flagships of Homophobia: Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community has become a key tool of authoritarian populism and the promotion of an anti-Western agenda in the post-Soviet space


Over the two years of the war, the situation surrounding the issue of the LGBTQ+ community in the post-Soviet space has seriously deteriorated. This deterioration is evident in Central Asian countries where ‘non-traditional relationships’ were already criminalised or semi-criminalised, as well as in countries like Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia, which previously maintained a policy of neutrality and non-interference in LGBTQ+ issues. Human rights organisations report increased discrimination and direct repression against LGBTQ+ individuals in these nations. Russia plays a special role in this shift, acting as a flagship of this crackdown, leveraging it for conservative mobilisation and as a tool of authoritarian populism. These initiatives are promoted under the guise of fighting ‘Western influence’, with Russian laws on ‘foreign agents’ and the prohibition of ‘LGBT propaganda’ being exported to post-Soviet countries in a single package. The Russian authorities are accumulating symbolic capital by positioning Russia as the leading homophobic power in the region (and possibly beyond), viewing this as a source of strength in its confrontation with the West and in garnering support from the countries of the Global South.

Since the onset of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the situation of the LGBTQ+ community in post-Soviet countries has significantly deteriorated, according to a review prepared by the Anti-Discrimination Centre ‘Memorial’ (ADC). This primarily concerns countries that previously did not dare to implement discriminatory initiatives at the legislative level but have, in recent years, adopted or are discussing the adoption of repressive homophobic laws (Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus). However, the situation has continued to deteriorate in countries where LGBTQ+ identities and non-conventional sexuality have already been criminalised (In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, there are criminal laws that penalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, and in Tajikistan, there is a law against the spread of HIV that law enforcement uses to persecute the LGBTQ+ community). Human rights defenders have recorded an increase in criminal prosecutions and a tightening of legislation.

Read the full review on the RE:RUSSIA