TSUKERMAN: Anti-Gay Repression in Chechnya

Grozny, capital of Chechen Republic

Grozny, capital of Chechen Republic

By Slava Tsukerman

Last week Russian Internet was full of reports about mass detentions of residents of Chechnya in connection with their “non-traditional sexual orientation”, or suspicion of such. At the moment, the detention of more than a hundred men has been officially reported. Liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta gave that the names of at least three men known to have been killed in the “prophylactic sweep” in Chechny but, in reality, there are many more victims.

The information of the arrests has been checked by Novaya Gazeta and was confirmed by an unprecedented number of sources: the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechen Republic; the administration of the head of the republic; the FSB for Chechnya; the prosecutor’s office of Chechnya; and finally by local LGBT activists. Some of these activists were detained and left the republic after they were released (an extremely rare cases). Some activists left after their friends and acquaintances were detained. Detentions are taking place in various localities, not only in Grozny, the capital of the republic.

Among the detainees are representatives of the Chechen Muslim clergy, including prominent and influential religious leaders close to the head of the republic, as well as two well-known Chechen TV personalities.

Of course, all these people in no way publicly exhibited their special sexual orientation. In the Caucasus republics, a member of the Russian Federation, such demonstration is tantamount to a death sentence. However, in traditional Chechen society, where social distances are extremely short, such things are recognized quickly, no matter how much one tries to hide them.

Victims of persecution, even if only suspected of unconventional sexual orientation, have very little chance of surviving.

It is enough to inform the family about the reason for the detention of their loved ones. The relatives will not complain about the facts of detention and even conceal murder.

Chechnya is one of mainly Muslim countries in the Caucasus Mountains that are federated with much larger neighbor Russia. Chechen rebels fought for independence from Russia in 1994-1996 and again from 1999 to 2009.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the contemporary pro-Russian government, was one of anti-Russian rebels until 1999 when he and his father, then one of the Chechen’s leaders, switched sides to help Russian forces against their former allies. Kadyrov pacified the republic by getting substantial financial support from Russia and establishing a strong order of his liking in his homeland.

Putin and Kadyrov

Putin and Kadyrov



Billboard depicting Kadyrov saying: “I’m a slave of God, a servant of my people and GI of Putin!”

Billboard depicting Kadyrov saying:
“I’m a slave of God, a servant of my people and GI of Putin!”


There is a strict sharia order in Chechnya. In Grozny, a city with a quarter of million populations, there are only two movie theaters. There is a concert hall, but the concerts over there are attended mostly by male audience. A girl, who would go to a concert, is considered to be indecent, “a whore”.

This week Kadyrov’s press secretary had stated that “all reports of repressions against gays are untrue, because there are no gays in Chechnya… You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist.”

That is not the first statement of this type. On June 29, 2007, the Chechnya’s official news agency, The Chechen Republic Today, published an article, asserting that “Chechnya does not have such completely immoral phenomena as drug addiction, pedophilia, homosexuality, and prostitution, which are all alien to Chechens”.

Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov said in 2008:

“For a Chechen, the worst crime is to say: ‘I’m friends with a Gay!’ I should not even utter the word.“

In 2009, Kadyrov complained that openly Gay nightclubs in Russia aimed at “weakening the state, weakening of will, honor, and courage.”

“Gay clubs are opened here! Every day! If it will keep going on like that, we will simply have no power, no spirit,” he said in an interview to the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

What was the cause of this week’s “prophylactic sweep” campaign?

At the beginning of this March, Russian LGBT activists, participants of the GayRussia.ru project and within the framework of their Russian National campaign, applied for a series of gay pride parades in four cities of the North Caucasus Federal District. That is the district where the Muslim republics are located. Organizers have sent “notifications of the public event in the form of a procession” to the administrations of the cities. The notifications indicated that the processions are planned to be conducted along the main streets in the historic centers of the cities. The administration predictably refused. Everybody understood that the real gay pride parades couldn’t take place in the Muslim Caucasian republics. Applicants, apparently, just wanted to provoke authorities.

The information about the intentions of the GayRussia.ru project activists to hold gay parades in the Caucasus regions was published in the media. The news caused massive protests in the entire Caucasus, where speakers demonstrated a high level of aggression.

Here is the video of the protests in Kabardino-Balkarian Republic. Demonstrators proclaim: “It is our land and we’ll never permit this dirt here.”

Chechen reaction was not limited to protests. It’s clear that Chechen homosexuals are trying now to flee Chechnya. But where can they go? To the central Russia?

Are they welcomed there?

According to the latest pools more than two-thirds of Russians have negative feelings toward homosexuals: 24% have “disgust and fear”; 22% experience “irritation”; 19% – “watchfulness”. Homosexuality is considered “a debauchery or bad habit” by 26%, “a disease that needs to be treated” by 37%, “the result of seduction” by 13%. Only 11% of respondents believe that homosexuals are born this way, and that they have right to exist along with heterosexuals.

37% of Russians offer to isolate homosexuals from society, 21% – to liquidate them.

Updated: April 5, 2017 — 11:39 am
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