5 LGBT Activists Defying the Laws in Russia

It’s no secret that the institutionalized homophobia in Russia has reached frightening heights. With the Olympic Games months away, there’s plenty of cause for concern about how the Russian government and the IOC will treat gay athletes and their allies.

Fortunately, even amidst the threats of imprisonment, there are activists willing to take a stand in Russia. Here are five such LGBT activists who prioritized the cause over the consequences in the crusade for equality:

1. Anton Krasovsky

Tired of having to report on the anti-gay laws in his country, Russian news anchor Anton Krasovsky decided to take a stand and come out on live television. “I’m gay, and I’m just the same person as you, my dear audience,” he said. Almost immediately, Krasovsky was fired, his shows were cancelled, his email password was changed, and his information was taken off the television station’s website. Although Russia has taken pains to scrub all evidence of the public coming out from the internet, Krasovsky’s courage will certainly not be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

2. Nick Symmonds

With all of the controversy surrounding how Russia will handle gay athletes for the upcoming Winter Olympics, an American runner has been the first to challenge the country’s stance. After winning a silver medal at the Track and Field World Championships in Moscow, Nick Symmonds, who had previously agreed to not discuss the issue of homosexuality, changed his mind and dedicated his medal to his LGBT friends.

“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds said in a statement to the Russian press. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.” Of course, arrest is not out of the question for Symmonds considering others have been detained for similar statements of “propaganda.” How Russia handles this incident will be a good indication of what’s to come at the Olympics.

3. Nikolai Alekseyev

Nikolai Alekseyev is arguably the most prominent gay activist in Russia. Despite bans on gay pride parades, Alekseyev continues to organize such events and foster pride for the gay community in a country that has tried to outlaw even signs of homosexuality. He has taken a leadership role in many LGBT causes in Russia including criminalizing hate speech, fighting to keep gay businesses open, allowing gays to donate blood and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Most recently, in his communications with Russian politicians, Alekseyev has been accused of “obscenity,” a bogus allegation that has become the go-to charge in Russia against those who disagree with the government.

4. Pussy Riot

Obscenity charges also landed members of Pussy Riot in jail. The now famous female punk band represents several dissenting politicial ideologies, including sexual minorities. In fact, at least one member of the group identifies as LGBT. Performing at both pride events and other public arenas to spread its message, Pussy Riot screams songs that condemn the government for its attitude toward homosexuality. One particularly critical song features the lyric: “Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains.”

Though two Pussy Riot members are currently incarcerated, the other dozen or so anonymous members continue to organize and promote LGBT rights.

5. Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and she did precisely that while visiting Moscow this summer. The Oscar winner held a rainbow flag in front of the Kremlin; she captioned a photo of the event with “In solidarity. From Russia with love.” Though it may seem like a minor act of defiance, the police have apprehended others for similar action… just check out the police car creeping up behind her in this picture.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi fast approaching, LGBT athletes should be focused on their sport rather than their safety in Russia during these events. Sign this petition to tell the IOC to protect LGBT athletes and visitors.

Photo Credit: Peter Gray


Heather G.
Heather G4 years ago

Gay is here to stay, and not hidden or "contained" either, but with full MARRIAGE rights. It's already happening regardless of what "choices" homophobes express. Religious homophobia is what is passé. The only "consequences" of LGBT rights is EQUALITY FOR ALL!! The ignorant anti-EQUALITY crowd will be the ones to fade into the background as has happened in the past, left behind by the changing times, and remembered as shameful if at all.

Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud4 years ago

Dale O.: Besides your impertinent and irrational hatred of the Christian church due to your ignorance of reality I still think that gay is passé and it has been so for ages.. nothing new under the sky.. seen it all before.. LGBTs are all over the news for a little while and you will fade into the background as if you never were.. it's always been like that.. nothing new indeed.. you have been contained before ..you will be contained again.. when things settle down you will have expressed your choices and those who oppose homosexuality will have exposed theirs.. and you will fade into the background of mediocrity as it has happened in the past.. nothing new indeed..
As for the Russians I just dare to think that they are being careful about the openness shown here in America and other countries towards homosexuality; nothing is perfect and the consequences of such permissiveness concerning the rights of LGBTs is yet to be seen.. they are just being careful and wiser than most just in case this LGBTs rights event is a farce in the long run.. time will say..-

Dale O.

Jack S certainly believes that his dreams of pontificating that being gay is somehow passé. He wonders why they shouldn’t simply stay in the closet during the Olympics. I sure that during the racism debate in the southern States some pondered ‘why didn’t Rosa Parks just submit and meekly go to the back of the bus?’… as in the days of old. How can others get so vocal for human rights? The shock, the horror! He believes that their mere open presence will ‘contaminate’ minors. The LGBT community’s de facto existence is no threat to minors who are daily exposed to the openness of the heterosexual community. Minors are hardly threatened by the open displays of affection, holding hands by heterosexuals. He ponders the reasons for the new permissible society all of a sudden. Perhaps society has been learning and continues to grow as it begins to move beyond some of the older sexist and homophobic ramblings and fears.

The only thing that is passé is his prehistoric attitude regarding the civil rights of others.

Dale O.

The dissidents in Russia continue to show raw courage as they protest the unfair and unyielding laws of oppression directed against the LGBT community.

The violence and threats are not the hallmarks of a progressive society. The fact that Anton Krasovsky was summarily fired and removed from his job as an anchorman illustrates the hostility that the LGBT community continually faces. Continued defiance of these injustices will continue with unending courage. When the Olympics are over and done with, one can only wonder what kind of even harsher fates will await dissidents when all the publicity of the Olympics fades as they continue the struggles for LGBT rights. After all the media have left, authorities will be well out of the glare of publicity and without the eyes of the world that were focused upon Russia during the Olympics.

Michael H.
Mike H4 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Ilya Strashnenko
Ilya Strashnenko4 years ago

Jack S.
What you describe should be, in theory, the idea of the law. The idea which I, for example, greet with all my heart. The reality, unfortunately, is much uglier. Even while the law itself is quite measured and says nothing to restrict normal human rights, the gap, that exists in Russia between laws on paper and the real practice, amplified the anti-gay message hundredfolds. For common people in provincial towns it became some sort of homophobic call to arms. I mean to say, that not only what's written counts, but the rhetoric and the atmosphere surrounding it. So it is a shame really, but with that law the right idea was drowned by the inadequacy of Putins regime, as was with so many right ideas before.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Louise D.
Louise D4 years ago

The whole anti-gay legislation is pandering to a jaw-dropping compilation of some of the most batshit crazy homophobia, racism, paranoia, and outright fawning over anybody who extolls both right wing politics and Christian fundamentalism. In the case of Putin a man who seems to have a penchant for homo eroticism like flying penis-shaped helicopters, knowing Judo, bringing his dog to staff meetings, capturing and taming a tiger which he kept as a pet and going fishing without a shirt. I would of thought he would of been a bit more tolerant but then he banned gay pride parades and protests in Moscow for 100 years. Shortly after, he continued to uphold the traditional family by getting divorced. Suggests he may have a major case of denial.

Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud4 years ago

The Russians are just saying to the LGBTs to stay in the closet.. to NOT propagandize their gender confused sexual orientation to minors; I think it is a good stand compared to here in the West where homosexuality seems to be something to look forward to as if it would be something new under the sky.. and is now taught in schools.. why such permissivity all of a sudden..??
Gay is passé.. so stay in the closet- no homosexual propaganda allowed-
So.. what's the fuzz about..? Go to Russia all you want but stay in your closet.. that's all they say..

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Noted. Thanks.