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In the recent run-up to the Winter Olympics, Russia's Putin has indicated that he didn't have a problem with gays in Russia per se.

His only (stated) concern was with gay "propaganda", specifically directed to minors.

Do people believe his position on the matter is really something like "don't ask, don't tell"? Have people tended to take his statements more or less at face value based on his track record on this and other issues?

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  • The question is about Russians, NOT about Putin.
    – user4012
    Aug 20, 2021 at 19:54
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo - clearly less than your income being taxed if it isn't? :) Since I did something to improve the question (removed incorrect tag), while you are complaining about the improvement.
    – user4012
    Aug 20, 2021 at 21:13

3 Answers 3

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Putin personally probably doesn't care one way or the other (without mind reading machinery, you can't tell). But he is clearly pandering to Russian public view, which is opposed to homosexuality:

  • 74% of Russians think that society should not accept homosexuality (in general - not "gay marriage" or "gay pride"). Source: Pew Global Research, 2013

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  • In 1989, 31 percent of the Russian population said in polls that homosexuals should be executed, and 32 percent said they should be isolated. Only 12 percent said they should be left alone. The figures are shifting slightly, however: in 1994, 23 percent in a poll said homosexuals should be killed, 24 percent said they should be isolated, and 29 percent said they should be left alone. (source: NYT, 1995)

  • The latter numbers shifted slightly by 2013 - "only" 5% think that gays should be exterminated. I still await GLAAD to declare war on Russia.

    Around 85 percent of adult Russians said they were strongly against a law that would allow same-sex marriage, the Levada Public Opinion Center reported; 87 percent said they opposed the idea of holding regular gay pride events in their cities.

    Researchers claimed that the percent of supporters of same-sex marriage in Russia fell from 14 to just 5 percent over the past three years. The number of those who do not oppose gay pride events is a consistently low 6 percent.

    About 23 percent of those polled said they understood the concerns held by Russia’s sexual minorities, and believed that they should be left to themselves, minimizing societal intervention in private lives; three years ago, 24 percent of Russians held this belief.

    Another 27 percent said that the society must provide ‘psychological aid’ to gay people, compared to a previous 22 percent.

    On the other side of the spectrum, some expressed strong opposition to homosexuality: 16 percent of those polled suggested that homosexuals should be isolated from society, 22 percent said that the treatment of homosexuality must be made compulsory, and 5 percent said that homosexuals should be ‘exterminated.’

    (source: Levada Public Opinion Center)

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    That's the thing that surprised me. Based on your answer above, Putin' statements seem "mild" compared to the Russian people's. It seems like he's following "echoing," rather than leading the sentiment.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 22, 2014 at 18:16
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    @TomAu - That's because he doesn't care about gays one way or another. He's got bigger fish to fry. He'll pander to help his popularity, but he doesn't expend his energy/political capital on something this insignificant.
    – user4012
    Jan 22, 2014 at 18:17
  • There was an edit war regarding a certain phrasing in this question. One of the two version was offensive. I reverted it to the non-offensive phrasing.
    – Philipp
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:01
  • Being gay is not inherited, so they basically want to kill 5% of their people for all times.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 28, 2021 at 22:42
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His concern is with propaganda targeting minors.

Putin has no problem with gays, but specifically with the June legislation aimed at protecting children from nontraditional sexual propaganda. Russia doesn't discriminate against homosexual relations. ABC reports,

"We have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline that, on propaganda to minors." he said.

Putin and other politicians have defended the June propaganda law a a protecton of child rights [...]

The political researchers at Politifact agree with this assessment, noting that:

Russia is not listed as one of the 76 countries where homosexuality is banned.

In fact, according to the ILGA’s [International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ] profile of Russia on its website, male-to-male and female-to-female relations are not legally discriminated against there. Gays and lesbians can also serve in the military in Russia. [...]

In June 2013, Putin signed a law banning promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" toward minors, a prohibition on so-called "homosexual propaganda." The Russian law places stiff fines on individuals and companies that promote homosexualtiy in front of children, whether in public or through media or the Internet.

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    Politifact rated that statement only half true: politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jan/19/…
    – Publius
    Jan 21, 2014 at 22:30
  • @user1873 The difference between de Facto infringements that can be quickly overturned by courts and de jure infringements that will land you in jail is a significant one. But the statement you quoted from politifact was not the one politifact was rating: politifact was rating the statement that gays are treated equally, and that seems like a significant statement to talk about in light of OPs question.
    – Publius
    Jan 22, 2014 at 3:23
  • "Russia doesn't discriminate against homosexual relations." That's a lie, and one is indicative of, and promotes, bigotry. Downvoted and flagged. Jan 25, 2021 at 22:11
  • The word "targeting" is also an invitation to equivocation. It sounds like leaflets being handed out at school gates, but can also be interpreted to mean any statement that a person under 18 might see, such as a newspaper editorial. Jan 27, 2021 at 12:51
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"Propaganda" is in the eye of the beholder. There is the translation issue, so I don't know for sure how much of this applies to the Russian word he is using, but "propaganda" has the same root as "propagate". Its literal meaning is any speech or act that causes a view, attitude, cause, group, activity, or belief to be propagate or be viewed more favorably.

So anything that causes gay people to be viewed more favorably is "propaganda". "Gay people are not disgusting perverts" is propaganda. "Gay people shouldn't be killed" is propaganda. Putin is claiming (or, at least, his words are being translated as saying) that he doesn't have a problem with gay people, but he does have a problem with people saying they shouldn't be killed, which is absurd.

Now, of course, the connotations of "propaganda" are more specific: the connotation is that it's deceptive speech meant to manipulate people into accepting something bad. This gulf between the connotation and denotation of "propaganda" allows people to engage in equivocation. When it comes to defending their position, they rely on the connotation of "propaganda". But when it comes to actually implementing the policy, "propaganda" is so broad as to allow almost any conduct to be included.

This does have some similarity to DADT, but there are several differences. First, DADT was just with the military. People who didn't want to live under DADT could choose to not enlist, while the anti-gay laws of Russia apply to everyone in Russia. Second, the consequences under DADT were just discharge from the armed services, while Russia imposes criminal penalties. Third, DADT was a move towards loosening the restrictions. Clinton wanted to get rid of the restrictions entirely, but didn't have the pull to do so entirely, so he reached a compromise that allowed him to seriously weaken them. Putin, on the other hand, is increasing the restrictions on gay people, and it's clear that he is doing so either with malice towards gay people, or to pander to people with malice.

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