Russia: 51% of population would not ‘under any circumstances’ want a gay neighbour or work colleague

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

According to a new opinion survey researching national identity in Russia, just over half the Russian population would not “under any circumstances” want to see a gay person as a neighbour or as a work colleague.

The state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM) attempted to examine which ideas and values united Russians, and which kept them apart.

Representing 45 regions across the country, 1,600 Russians took part in the poll.

One of the major divisions highlighted in the survey were attitudes towards gay people, in which just over half the population answered they would not want to live nearby or work with a gay person “under any circumstances.”

Valery Fedorov, head of the Russia Public Opinion Research Center pollster, told reporters on Tuesday: “The main dividing line (in Russian society) is between residents of large cities and central Russia as a whole, and the residents of Russia’s Northern Caucasus.”

He added this split reflects the existence of two different linguistic concepts for understanding Russian identity. While the Russian word “russky” implies an ethnic Russian identity, the word “rossiisky” suggests allegiance to the Russian state.

Additionally, when asked about religious faith, 77 percent of participants said they were Orthodox Christians, 6 percent said they were Muslims, and 6 percent were atheists.

VCIOM is the oldest marketing and opinion research company in post-soviet Russia.

The division of opinion over gay people in Russia reflects growing concerns and ambiguities over the notorious anti-gay “propaganda” bill signed by Vladimir Putin in June.

Activists in Russia say the controversial laws have led to an increase in homophobic violence, with those responsible for the attacks no longer fearing legal reprisals.

Last month, spoke to a PhD student originally from Moscow and now living in the UK on the challenges facing Russia’s LGBT community.

Anna Grigoryeva said that the main effect of the legislation so far in Russia had been the sanctioning by the state of “public organised homophobia and transphobia.”

She added: “There are lots of far-right groups; lots of Orthodox Christian activists who will show up at LGBT events and harass people and attack people quite violently – and that’s been pretty much sanctioned by the state.”

“The police won’t arrest them for it.”

In July, the Russian LGBT network urged its opposition to a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – because they say participation is an important way of highlighting injustice.

In an online statement, they said: “Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia! Stand in solidarity with people in Russia.”

The Russian Interior Ministry confirmed last month that the legislation will remain in force during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

A petition gathering over 150,000 signatures, has also called for the 2014 games to be relocated to Vancouver.