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In Soviet Union, homosexuality was punishable by jail time. The law was repealed in 1993. Still, since 2006 all permits for gay pride parades in Russia were denied without any given reason. Instead, many LGBT activists were intimidated and arrested.

A law banning propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations to minors passed in June 2013. According to the law, any information on same-sex relationships is illegal. The law focuses on opposing “nontraditional relationships” to “ traditional values.”

Many in the Russian LGBT community consider the law as one of the moves used by the government to shift away the focus from the real problems and also, a way to draw Russian society closer to the Orthodox Church, which is against homosexuality.

Russia is rated 49th of the 49 European countries on the protection level for LGBT citizens, according to ILGA-Europe, the European section of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

Now, the law in Russia has fuelled anti-gay discrimination and violence. LGBT citizens, especially the younger ones, are not able to come out and look for support.

Lyosha Gorshkov, 30, came to New York, a place he’s always dreamed of, to escape a world of discrimination and hate crimes. As a gay man, Lyosha has experienced violence and verbal assault in Russia and is currently waiting for his asylum application to go through. He has been living in New York for just over one year and he can’t picture himself living anywhere else.

Aleksandr Smirnov, 42, was born and raised in Russia. He lives in New York for a year now and he still studies English. He never thought of leaving his motherland, but in 2012 he was brutally attacked and one year later he was fired from his job for a public coming out as a gay man in a popular Russian magazine, Afisha. For two years he worked in the press office of Moscow deputy mayor. In Russia, government and gay do not mix nor match. So, Aleksandr had no choice but to search for better life in a place he had never been before – New York, the city that always accepts you as you are. At this point, Aleksandr applied for the asylum and he is waiting for his interview with an immigration officer. Even though, right now he lives in an unpretending way compared to his prestigious job back in Russia, he still prefers to clean hotels and accidentally do some journalism work for a living but in a much safer environment.