Russia has never been considered a trailblazer for human rights issues, as this powerful PSA makes clear, but cases of shocking and brutal violence against the LGBT community in particular dominated global headlines last year following the State Duma’s passing of a bill prohibiting the promotion of “homosexual propaganda.”
Armed with the government’s consent to commit heinous acts of violence, gangs of antigay civilians and police officers have made Russia one of the most dangerously antigay places on Earth. With Sochi Winter Olympics underway, it’s time to take a look back and remember the stakes and the victims of the government.
Below, our brief timeline of Russian violence against LGBTs in the past year:
March 29, 2013 — Video surfaces showing gay activist Artem Kalinin brutally assaulted for attempting to hold a gay pride rally in the city of Syktyvkar.
May 13, 2013 — 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi is brutally tortured and killed for being gay in the Russian town of Volgograd. He is reportedly “raped with beer bottles” and has his skull smashed amidst “the promotion of homophobic hysteria in Russia.” Elton John later dedicates a concert to his memory.
May 27, 2013 — More than 30 participants are arrested at Moscow Pride, including noted LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev. They were released the following day.
June 6, 2013 — Nikolai Alekseev is physically and verbally attacked by a gang of skinheads in Kostroma. He alleges the hit was ordered by the city’s mayor.
June 11, 2013 — The Russian State Duma votes 434-0 to approve a bill which bans the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” to minors. Gay rights activists call the legislation an “incitement to genocide.”
July 22, 2013 — Four Dutch tourists accused of spreading “gay propaganda” in Russia are arrested and banned from the country for three years. They were filming a documentary about gay rights.
July 26, 2013 — Russian Neo-Nazi group Occupy Pedophilia makes headlines for the first time. It is revealed that by using Russian social network VK, the ultranationalist group headed by former skinhead Maxim Martsinkevish tortures and humiliates gays on film by luring them under false pretenses.
July 30, 2013 — Russian authorities call the parents of activist Dmitry Isakov to assist in his arrest. The 24-year-old is taken into custody for holding a sign that read “being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime.”
August 6, 2013 — A gay teen kidnapped, bullied and tortured by Occupy Pedophilia dies as a result of abuse. Russia reacts by doing nothing.
August 20, 2013 — A video showing five men brutally attacking a transgender woman in broad daylight surfaces on Russian social networking site VK.
September 6, 2013 — A BBC documentary follows Russian woman Yekaterina, leader of her local Occupy Pedophilia branch, on safari hunting gays.
October 18, 2013 — Russian Thugs attack 60-year-0ld Dutch diplomat Onno Elderenbosch in his Moscow home, allegedly to send a message that “Dutch tolerance is not welcome” in Russia.
November 3, 2013 — Activists attending a social gathering organized by Russian HIV/AIDS group LaSky are attacked by two masked men with air guns and baseball bats.
November 7, 2013 — Russian group Occupy Pedophilia lures 20-year-old South African student David Smith to be humiliated before their cameras.
November 14, 2013 — Ahead of the 2014 Olympic Games, a state-funded Russian documentary paints LGBTs as a threat to the country.
November 25, 2013 — As many as 500 gay clubgoers at Moscow’s Central Station seek medical attention after a harmful toxic gas fills the club. The club’s owner Andrew Leszczynski claims this is the fourth attack of its kind.
December 2, 2013 — Former Ukranian X Factor contestant Alexander Bohun becomes the latest victim of vigilante group Occupy Pedophilia. After responding to a personal ad on Russian social media site VK, OP films Bohun while shaving his head, painting his skull rainbow and forcing him to drink and bathe in urine.
December 13, 2013 — Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin calls for all gays to be burned alive.
December 23, 2013 — Dmitry Isakov, the 24-year-old activist arrested in September 2013 for holding a sign reading “being gay and loving gays is normal,” becomes the first to be convicted under Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws. He is fined $120.
January 10, 2014 — Violent homophobe Maxim Martsinkevich, leader of the Occupy Pedophilia movement which filmed the torture of gay teens he solicited for sex, flees to Cuba after his arrest warrant is issued.
January 14, 2014 — Sir Ian McKellen joins 27 Nobel Laureates to “express abhorrence for the Russian government’s actions against its gay citizens.”
January 25, 2014 — The first anti-LGBT arrest directly related to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is made. Video surfaces showing a struggle between Russian law enforcement and activist Pavel Lebedev before being arrested for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Torch Relay. Coca-Cola approves.
February 2, 2014 — Three Russian men are convicted for murder after they brutally stab and set a fellow villager on fire for “believing” he was gay.
February 3, 2014 — VICE News launches a multi-part web series documenting the struggle of being “Young and Gay In Russia.” Much of the violence against Russian LGBTs caught on video is included in Part 1.
February 4, 2014 — Human Rights Watch releases disturbing video showing Russian law enforcement and antigay mobs brutally attacking LGBT people in public. According to reports, much of the violence can be traced back to an ex-con neo-Nazi called “The Cleaver.”
February 5, 2014 — After months of calls to action from LGBT activists across the globe, AT&T becomes the first Olympic sponsor to condemn Russian homophobia.
February 7, 2014 — Russian police arrest more than a dozen LGBT activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg for holding rainbow flags and singing the national anthem. According to reports, organizers in St. Petersburg were also holding a banner that read “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.”