Russia on the Eve of Sochi: Repression of Olympic Proportions | Freedom House

Russia on the Eve of Sochi: Repression of Olympic Proportions

What You Should Know About Russia

The Sochi Winter Olympics will take place in Russia amid the most severe crackdown against human rights since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This crackdown contradicts the principles of human dignity and non-discrimination that are at the core of the Olympic movement, and which are enshrined in the Olympic charter under Principle 6. As athletes, journalists, spectators, and corporate sponsors head to Sochi for the XXII Winter Games, they should be mindful of what is going on in the host country, particularly the abuses suffered by the Russian people.  Here are a few examples:


History of Abuses in Russia

Human rights in Russia have deteriorated in recent years. Here is a timeline of human rights abuses from 2000 - present:

Cannot See the Timeline? Click Here to Access the Interactive Timeline

What Can You Do?

Athletes and attendees of the Olympic Games cannot change the entrenched problems that Russian society faces during the two weeks they are in Sochi. They can, however, do some simple things to help:

  • Journalists covering the Olympic Games should shed light on the broader context in which the games are taking place, including the human rights abuses perpetrated by the host government. They should present stories that reflect the reality of what it means for ordinary people to live in Russia and not legitimize President Putin’s efforts to paint an idealistic picture of the country.
  • Athletes are strongly encouraged to become informed about human rights violations in Russia, including and beyond the state-sanctioned persecution of LBGTI persons. In their public comments and media interviews, they should be careful not to play into Putin's efforts to bolster his legitimacy at the expense of the Russian people by hosting the Sochi games. They should avoid praise for the spectacle or the organizers and instead recognize the effort and contribution of the Russian people in making the Olympic Games happen.
  • Spectators are similarly encouraged to learn about human rights abuses and the government’s role in perpetrating them in Russia.
  • Sponsors should press the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consult with civil society and human rights groups in Russia; repudiate violations of fundamental rights such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of association regularly occurring in Russia; condemn discrimination of all forms including of LGBTI people by the Russian government; support athletes who express support for human rights and non-discrimination; take steps to ensure the safety and rights of all athletes, trainers, and spectators, including LGBTI people; and explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policies.
  • Government leaders around the world are urged to refuse to attend the Olympic Games in Russia where respect for human rights is poor and international human rights commitments and norms are flagrantly disregarded, and to publicly explain their refusal to attend the Sochi games. They should make clear that the Russian government's orchestrated persecution of civil society, discrimination of sexual and ethnic minorities, and fostering of impunity for abuses is incompatible with the Olympic Charter, and unequivocally state that they do not want to lend legitimacy to a host government that is responsible for widespread human rights violations, including those directly connected to the preparations for the Sochi games.
  • Everyone is encouraged to join on to the Uprising of Love, Principle 6, Pride House International, and HRC #LoveConquersHate campaigns to show their support for human rights and non-discrimination in Russia.


Background materials and interviews with Russian human rights activists are available on these topics:

  • Human rights issues in Russia
  • LGBT polices
  • Press and Internet freedoms
  • Russia and its neighbors

Robert Ruby
[email protected]

To learn more about Russia, visit:
Press Release: Freedom House Releases Human Rights Guide for Athletes, Others Attending Sochi Olympics
Freedom in the World 2013: Russia
Freedom of the Press 2013: Russia
Special Report: Contending with Putin’s Russia
Nations in Transit 2013: Russia
Freedom on the Net 2013: Russia
Blog: Freedom at Issue