In the Thick of ItA blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship
Many Russians Support Harsh Measures Against ‘Deviants,’ But Less Than in the Past
Russians’ tolerance of gays, lesbians and other individuals the Levada Center refers to as people “whose behavior differs from commonly accepted norms” has increased over the years, but the latest survey by this independent pollster still shows that almost every fifth Russian supports the “liquidation” of gays and lesbians. In 1994, 22 percent of respondents said that gays and lesbians should be “liquidated,” while 29 percent said they should be left to themselves. In 2020, fewer respondents, 18 percent, supported harsh measures against homosexuals, and more respondents, 32 percent, were in favor of leaving them to themselves (see Table 2).
Other “deviant” groups are also not looked on kindly by some Russians. For instance, 15 percent of Russians polled by Levada in March said they think drug addicts should be “liquidated” and 9 percent said the same of feminists (see Table 1). However, in 1989, more than double the number of respondents, 31 percent, said they were in favor of eliminating drug addicts (see Table 3). Also in 1989, 30 percent of those polled supported the “liquidation” of prostitutes, a number that has decreased by more than two-thirds to 9 percent in 2020 (see Table 4).
Of the groups mentioned in the March survey, Russians are most in favor of eliminating terrorists (80 percent), pedophiles (75 percent) and murders (51 percent).
Such formidable support for execution is all the more astounding given post-Soviet Russia’s official pledge to refrain from capital punishment per its Council of Europe (CE) membership (though this has not prevented Russian authorities from allegedly condoning or turning a blind eye to extrajudicial killings both in Russia and abroad). The support for “liquidating” terrorists, pedophiles and murders indicates that if the Kremlin, which has repeatedly bristled at criticism from fellow CE members, were to exit the organization and reintroduce capital punishment for grave crimes like murder or terrorism, the measure would enjoy significant public support.