Nationalism and Homophobia in Central and Eastern Europe

  • Richard C. M. Mole
Part of the Gender and Politics book series (GAP)


In terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, few organizations have done as much to promote the legal equality of sexual minorities as the European Union (EU). Especially since the inclusion of sexual orientation in the equalities agenda through Article 19 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU; formerly Article 13 TEC), there has been increased pressure at the European level for existing members and accession states to promote the equal rights of their LGBT citizens (Slootmaeckers and Touquet 2016). Despite similar top-down pressure, however, the degree of legal equality for LGBT individuals—not to mention social attitudes towards homosexuality—differs markedly across the region, with the situation particularly difficult in the states of the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The aim of this chapter is to suggest that the failure of Europeanization—understood here as the adoption of EU laws and values—to liberalize attitudes towards sexual minorities in Central and Eastern Europe can be explained in large part with reference to the nation. In line with the conclusions of Freyburg and Richter (2010) and Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier (2005) on the need to move beyond rationalist arguments and incorporate ideational factors to explain the relative success or failure of Europeanization, I argue that in many Central and East European member states and accession countries, homosexuality clashes with discourses of national identity, which have greater resonance among the population. This chapter will also demonstrate that EU support for LGBT equality can also have a negative impact on attitudes towards non-heteronormative individuals in states that are neither EU member states nor candidate countries, in that nationalist politicians use the EU’s more liberal position towards LGBT rights to draw a boundary between the ‘decadent West’ and ‘traditional East’ for their own social and political purposes. The analysis will focus in particular on the case studies of Latvia, Serbia and Russia to show that in each case, the marginalization of LGBT individuals is legitimized with calls to ‘the defence of the nation’.


European Union Sexual Minority Internal Homogeneity Patriarchal Family Ethnic Nation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. M. Mole
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Slavonic and East European, StudiesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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