Anti-LGBT law in Russia: 'Leaders want to construct a united conservative base'

© Alexander Shcherbak, AP

Russian MPs this week updated, and expanded, an anti-LGBT law – the latest in a series of measures aiming to highlight "traditional" family values. Against a backdrop of conflict in Ukraine, Russian political and religious leaders are ramping up an internal identity war.

Russian MPs on Thursday voted to extend a law banning all forms of LGBT “propaganda”. When it was first introduced in 2013 the law purported to prevent minors from seeing content that framed LGBT relationships in a positive light. Nine years later it has been expanded to include adults, forbidding “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” in all media, books, films and online.

This is the latest move in a shift towards conservatism from Russian authorities that dates back to the early 2000s. At the heart of messaging from the Kremlin is the defence of so-called traditional Russian values against “harmful” Western influence.

Finding a national identity

“Russian society has been searching for its identity since the 2000, since the failure of liberal values that it was inclined towards at the end of the Soviet Union,” says Viatcheslav Avioutskii, professor of international relations specialising in Russia and Ukraine at ESSCA School of Management in Angers. “Today Russia is pursuing this with even more intensity. Lacking unanimous support for its war in Ukraine, Russian leaders have launched a conservative initiative of ‘ideological purification’ as it sees the Russian population as being at risk from harmful Western influences.”

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