As many as 1-in-5 people in Vladimir Putin’s Russia would welcome the ‘liquidation’ of its LGBTI community according to shocking new polling.
Researchers at the Yuri Lavada Analytical Center have been charting Russians’ views of marginalized groups since 1989 and has documented how attitudes towards the LGBTI community have gone backwards under the rule of President Putin as he increasingly sought the support of the Orthodox Church in Russia.
When the Lavada Center first sought Russians’ views on homosexuals in 1989, when homosexuality was still illegal under Soviet rule, 35% said sexual minorities should be ‘liquidated’ and 28% isolated from the rest of society.
In 1999, six years after homosexuality in Russia was decriminalized, only 15% of respondents still held that view and only 23% said they should be isolated from society.
However in 2015, 15 years after Putin first came to power as President of Russia, 21% of Russians say they want homosexuals ‘liquidated’ and 37% say they want LGBTI people forced to live apart from the rest of society.
Another poll by the Lavada Center published in May found that 37% of Russians thought that homosexuality was a disease that needed treating – even though Russian authorities removed it from the list of recognized mental disorders in 1999.
LGBTI Russians have been experiencing a climate of fear in recent years under Putin’s rule with vigilante groups seeking them out online and their right to free expression curtailed under laws that ban so-called ‘propaganda of homosexuality to minors.’
However Putin has sought to downplay persecution of LGBTI people in Russia, dismissing such reports as exaggerations.