After Brutal Murder, Gay Activists Struggle to Highlight Russia’s Rampant Homophobia

vladimir-tornovoiThe 23-year-old man brutally tortured and killed in the Russian town of Volgograd over the weekend has been identified as Vladislav Tornovoi. His murder has enraged gay activists who continue to struggle against their country’s blatant dismissal of their rights.

The Moscow-based Investigative Committee initially reported that Tornovoi was killed after he came out to two men he was drinking with during Victory Day celebrations.

The assailants, 22 and 27, “hit him…and then they brutally beat him, set fire to the clothes he was wearing, slashed his anal area and then stuck three bottles in there, again beat him and then threw a 20-kg stone onto his head,” said Andrei Gapchenko, a senior investigator in Volgograd. They face up to 15 years in jail on murder charges.

Though his sexual orientation was given as the motive for the murder, Tornovoi’s parents deny that their son was gay. “We have no information about him belonging to this cast of people or not,” investigators in Volgograd told BBC. “A lot of media are writing about this and the parents of this lad are going about complaining.”

Igor Kekshin, a friend of the deceased, added that Tornovoi had “never shown any interest in people of the same sex and had mixed with a lot of girls.”

One might assume Tornovoi’s friends and family are trying to protect what’s left of his memory in the virulently anti-gay country, where homophobia is rarely cited as a motive. Just last month, President Vladimir Putin blamed Russia’s declining population on homosexuals, while a national ban on “gay propaganda” looms in the near future.

The social climate is as unfriendly as the political, according to a survey by independent pollster Levada: 50 percent of Russians believe homosexuals should be given medical or psychological treatment, while 5 percent said they should simply be ‘‘destroyed.’’

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev argued that investigators noted Tornovoi’s homosexuality “to portray him as someone abnormal…expendable” and downplay the gruesome nature of his murder.

Despite the city’s 100-year ban on pride parades, Alexeyev and other activists are planning one in Moscow on May 25 to bring attention to the dangers facing the gay community. They are considering dedicating the parade to Tornovoi.

Hoping the eighth time would be the charm, activists sought approval for the parade at City Hall on Monday, but unsurprisingly they were denied.  “From our point of view, there is no need for such events in the city,” said Alexei Mayorov, head of City Hall’s security department.

It’ll take more than a tersely-worded statement to rain on their parade, however.  “Whether authorities grant permission or not, we’ll hold our parade,” Alexeyev said ahead of the City Hall encounter. “Otherwise it looks like we’re accepting defeat, and we can’t allow that.”

Photo: IB Times

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  • Deepdow

    It just amazes me that people hate gays so much they want us dead. I can’t fathom this at all yet it happens. Does it take heinous acts of cruelty though to change attitudes for the better? It’s absolutely sad, but it seems so right?

  • doug105

    Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
    Steven Weinberg

  • JayHobeSound

    It does not help that Putin is running a “family values”/traditional morals-themed campaign for re-election. Gotta give credit to the LGBT folks in Russia for gathering in public even though it is outlawed: they are beaten by police and not much sympathy from fellow hetero citizens. Beautiful place to visit, the people are really friendly and interested to talk w/visitors from the US, of course they have had years of our marketing materials. Other East Europe states (Czech Republic, Poland) have become a bit more liberal in post-Soviet years, yet Russia still harbors some old views.

  • Saika

    Am I the only one that thinks this particular parade might end in violence? I’m really worried for them.

  • Deepdow


    When you have no more reason to actually dedicate good politics into your leadership, because being in power is the only salve for existence, then qualifying ignorance and validating the worst of your constituency becomes de rigueur.

    It won’t end well for Russian gays or for Russia in general on this path.

  • J W G

    @doug105: Well said Doug. May I quote you?

  • ait10101

    The reason the population in Russia is declining is that people are drinking themselves to death faster than they are reproducing. Last time I was there, about six years ago, I came away feeling really bad. I decided not to go to an important meeting in my field there this year. I met lots of friendly people, but a cop hit my butt with a stick when I bent over to tie my shoe in Red Square. I have some good Russian friends and colleagues, and I have had a soft spot for Russia since 1967, but walking to meetings in the morning having to avoid discarded booze bottles on the streets made me feel ill. And that was before Putin really started shutting down the alternative press.

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