AskDefine | Define Russophobe

Extensive Definition

Anti-Russian sentiment covers a wide spectrum of prejudices, dislikes or fears of Russia, Russians, or Russian culture, including Russophobia. In modern international politics the term "Russophobia" is also used more specifically to describe clichés preserved from the times of the Cold War. Many prejudices, often introduced as elements of political war against the Soviet Union, are still observed in the discussions of the relations with Russia. The extent of Russophobia varies country by country and depends not only on the geography but also the fraction of the society. The intensity of Russophobia in various countries evolved throughout history. The most popular russophobe sentiments are, that all Russians are drunkards, Russian mafia or Asiatic barbarians.


Dislike of Russians is sometimes a backlash of the policy of Russification in the times of Imperial Russia and Soviet Union and, a backlash of the policies of modern Russian government.However, some authors assert that Russophobia has a long tradition and already existed many centuries before Russia became one of the major powers in Europe.
During the 19th century the competition with Russia for the spheres of influence and colonies (see e.g. The Great Game and Berlin Congress) was a possible reason for the Russophobia in Great Britain where British propaganda of the time portrayed Russians as uncultivated Asiatic barbarians. These views spread to other parts of the world and are frequently reflected in literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It is difficult to draw a distinction from a casual xenophobia, observable for any two peoples living side by side or even intermixed and historically involved in armed conflicts. Also it might not be always easy to separate actions unpopular in Russia caused by rational political concerns of its neighbors from the actions caused by an irrational Russophobia. The opinions on these matters are highly subjective and may vary a great deal between different historians.

Northern Caucasus

Russophobia in the North Caucasus traces its roots to the 17th century when the Terek Cossacks first came in contact with the local natives, followed by the prolonged conquest of the region by the Russian Empire during the 19th century and then the Stalinist deportations of many groups of the indigenous peoples. However in the late 20th century, with the collapse of Russian authority, the Russophobia resulted in incidents of persecution and ethnic cleansing of against the ethnic Russian population.
Worst affected was the Russian minority of Chechnya: in the 1989 census, the Russians accounted for approximately a quarter of the population, and from 1989 to 1994, as many as 300,000 people of non-Chechen ethnicity (mostly Russians, but also a notable Armenian and Ukrainian minority) were forcefully evicted from Chechnya, and an unknown number were murdered or disappeared. Many were also kidnapped, and even slave-trade was reported (the earliest known example was Vladimir Yepishin held since 1989).
It is however difficult to say which of the acts of murder or kidnapping were examples of Russophobia and which were cases of crimes with no ideological background. Some observers also argue that most of anti-Russian sentiments should be seen in the wider context of the Chechen conflict, at the same time there has been a general emigration from all the North Caucasus republics, although none have shown such a drastic drop in the ethnic Russian population as do figures for Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia.
At the same time, the approach to the ethnic Russian problem by the North Caucasus republics is indeed very different. The official Republic of Chechnya chooses to bypass the question altogether. However, the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia, has a completely different approach. The impoverished republic actively encouraged people to return and help rebuild the infrastructure damaged by the Ossetian-Ingush conflict in 1992 and more than a decade of disrepair. However, as the security situation remains tight, so far little progress took place; on June 9 2006 Galina Gubina, Ingushetian administrator in charge of a programme to encourage the return of ethnic Russians, died after she was attacked by a group of armed men.

Attitudes and claims of attitudes towards Russia and Russians by country

In the October of 2004, the International Gallup Organization announced that according to its poll, anti-Russian sentiment remained fairly strong throughout Europe and the West in general. It found that Russia was the least popular G-8 country globally. The percentage of population with a negative perception of Russia was 62% in Finland, 42% in the Czech Republic and Switzerland, 37% in Germany, 32% in Denmark and Poland, 23% in Estonia. However, according to the poll, the people of Kosovo had the lowest opinion of Russia: 73% of Kosovar respondents said their opinion was "very negative" or "fairly negative". Overall, the percentage of respondents with a positive view of Russia was only 31%.
A Russian commentator Vyacheslav Nikonov claimed Russia’s image is so negative in the West by quoting his Canadian friend: "The main problem is that these Russians have white skin. If they had been green, or pink, or came from Mars…or had flowers sticking out of their ears, then everybody would have said – well, these people are different, like Turks, or Chinese, or Japanese. We have no questions about the Japanese. They are different, their civilisation is different. But these Russians … they are white but they have totally different brains … which is thoroughly suspicious."

Baltic states

The Russian authorities and media regularly accuse Estonia and Latvia of anti-Russian discrimination. One of the most common claims is about citizenship discrimination. Upon the breakup of the Soviet Union, Estonia and Latvia restored the pre-occupation citizenship laws and citizenship criteria, and Latvia made a special amendment for naturalisation procedures. Majority of residents in both countries, including a significant number of ethnic Russians whose ancestors were citizens of the pre-war republics, became recognised as citizens. On the other hand, the people who had immigrated during the Soviet times and their descendants did not automatically become citizens, but received permanent or long-term residence permits and could apply for naturalisation. While most of these immigrant families were Russophone, a significant portion were not necessarily ethnic Russian. The Russian Federation has presented this as evidence of anti-Russian discrimination by Estonian and Latvian authorities.
Estonia and Latvia have plans to move towards bilingual secondary education with the stated goal of improving the Russophone students' skill of the state languages. Eventually 40% of the curriculum time is to be taught in minority languages. The transition does not concern primary education (grades 1–9). In Latvia, public Russophone protests occurred in 2004, and Russian media portrayed the events as banning Russian-language education in Latvia.
The consequences of World War II for the Baltic countries have been a controversial issue and one that remains a high point in the society of the Baltic states. The Latvian president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, who, in a televised interview, when questioned about the Soviet World War II veterans, remarked: "''Of course we cannot change the opinion of those elderly Russians, who on May 9 (Victory Day as celebrated by Russians) will strip vobla on a newspaper, drink vodka and sing chastushki, whilst recalling how they heroically conquered the Baltic countries''.". A similar controversy erupted during the movement and grave excavation near the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn memorial, which was seen as deliberate provacation by Russia and local Russians.


According to recent polls 62% of Finnish citizens have a negative view of Russia. Furthermore, most Russian individuals a Japanese person outside a major city such as Tokyo can meet being seamen and fishermen of the Russian fishing fleet, Japanese tend to carry the stereotypes associated with sailors over to Russians. Russia and Japan also share a past filled with conflicts, and many Japanese people claim that the Russia's Kuril Islands belong to Japan. Historically, Japan conquered several of these ainu islands from Russia in the 1905 Russo-Japanese war, holding them until the end of World War Two, after which they were taken back by Russia. The islands have been a contentious issue ever since.


Russian officials claim that negative feelings towards Russia are widespread in Poland. The New York Times reported after the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that Gleb Pavlovsky, an adviser to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, complained during his 2005 visit to Warsaw that "Poles talk about Russians the way anti-Semites talk about Jews."
Poland's foreign minister Adam Rotfeld thinks that Russian politicians are "looking for an enemy and…find it in Poland.".
According to Boris Makarenko, deputy director of a Moscow-based think tank Center for Political Technologies, anti-Russian sentiments have existed in Poland for more than 200 years. He said that much of the anti-Russian feelings in Poland is caused by grievances of the past. The most contentious issue is the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers, priests and intellectuals in Katyn Forest in 1940. ''"It is easy to understand why, and I am not going to defend Russia either for three divisions of Poland [at the end of the 18 century] or many other [unjust things done to Poland]. These anti-Russian sentiments resurfaced in the recent decade and there are many examples of that."'' Makarenko said. He also noted that Poland had criticized Russia’s stance on human rights or press freedom, and had clashed with Russia over the Orange Revolution events in Ukraine.
Jakub Boratyński, the director of international programs at the independent Polish think tank Stefan Batory Foundation, said that anti-Russian feelings have substantially decreased since Poland joined the EU and NATO, and that Poles feel more secure than before, but he also admitted that many people in Poland still look suspiciously at Russian foreign-policy moves and are afraid Russia is seeking to "recreate an empire in a different form."


Sentiment towards Russia in Ukraine varies throughout the country. Among those living in the South and East of the country many would like to see a more Russophile attitude of the government, ranging from closer economic partnership to full national union with Russia.
According to a long-term survey by Institute of Sociology of National Academy of Science of Ukraine, the overall population of the country, excluding the Ukrainians from diaspora, has a on average similar attitude towards Russians as towards ethnic Ukrainians. On the other hand, the 2000 survey of the Lviv Oblast showed that the population of the region has a more negative attitude towards Russia (20%) (cf. 23% of negative attitude towards Ukraine in Russia ) than to other countries.
Another survey showed that in 2005, compared to the rest of the population, the population of Western Ukraine, Kiev and Kiev Oblast had a less positive attitude towards Russia. The ultra-right-wing radical nationalist political party "Svoboda", marginal on the national scale, often invokes the radical Russophobic rhetoric (see poster) and has sufficient electoral support to form factions in several municipal and provincial local councils in Western Ukraine.
After Viktor Yanukovych promised to make Russian an official language of Ukraine in his 2004 presidential campaign, a group of twelve Ukrainophone writers supporting Viktor Yushchenko wrote an open letter claiming that "Yanukovych promises to give the language of low-standard pop music and thieves' cant the absurd status of a 'second official language'".
Later, one of the writers explained that the phrase "the language of low-standard pop music and thieves' cant" does not refer to Russian language, but rather to the slang spoken by "a certain political force". He also pointed out that they were trying to defend the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine to have a "true Russian culture". However, Yanukovych never mentioned any intentions to give official status to thieves' cant, so the clarification does not explain the initial statement. Viktor Yushchenko expressed his gratitude for the support and respect to the group of writers.
According to the Kiev Institute of Sociological Research and Conflictology, whose director Mykhailo Pohrebynskyi supported Viktor Yanukovych during the presidential elections in 2004 , "Our Ukraine", "Yulia Tymoshenko Electoral Bloc", and other Ukrainian parties (i.e. the rivals of Yanukovych's Party of Regions) struggle for the support of "anti-Russian attitude" voters.

United Kingdom

In a July, 2007 interview with The Sunday Times, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yuri Fedotov, accused the British police of treating Russian nationals like the mafia. He said he can "quote examples where Russians were beaten by youngsters in London. Tourists, visitors, businessmen. They were severely beaten and the police did not open any investigation on these particular incidents." At the same time, according to Yuri Fedotov, offences committed by Russians were dealt with swiftly and disproportionately. He also complained that some Russians are being refused service in shops, restaurants, and taxis. He said that concerns about the developing Russophobia had been raised with senior figures in the British government. Russophobia has also allegedly also due to President Putin's perceived undemocratic traits, and this has been further worse by the fact that Alexander Litvinenko died in London, despite Russian denial of any involvement in his murder.
Anti-Russian sentiment is present in British media. Edward Lucas, central and east European correspondent of The economist published a book called The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West. He advises how to win a new cold war with Russia. BBC radio journalist Rod Liddle claimed that Russia has wreaked the most environmental havoc of any country on earth and Russians themselves are genetically predisposed towards incompetent and vicious autocracies

United States

Most anti-Russian attitudes in the United States and in American media had almost chiefly been as a result of the Cold War, expectations of a nuclear war with Soviet Union, and the conflation of the Soviet Union with Russia, as expressed in the phrase "The Russians are coming".
While Russophobia was prevalent in the United States during much of the Cold War, it was argued that it may have been at its hottest after the shootdown of KAL 007 and the death of 63 Americans at the hands of a Soviet fighter pilot. While South Korea had led most anti-Soviet protests in the wake of the shootdown, some protests were seen in the US as well with some Americans picketing holding signs reading "Kill Yuri Andropov", and later criticized President Ronald Reagan for being too forgiving to the Soviets about the affair. Many films and TV shows had played out this attitude, such as Red Dawn, Rocky IV, Red Scorpion, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III and Amerika.
In the mid of 2006, the State Department of the United States cancelled Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska’s multiple-entry visa claiming that Oleg Deripaska wasn't being candid with them about his past business dealings. The visa cancellation occurred in the United States amid rising concerns and calls for counter efforts about Russian businessmen and companies attempts to enhance their economic and political clout in the West.


In May and June 2006, Russian media cited discrimination against Russian companies as one possible reason why the contemplated merger between the Luxembourg-based steelmaker Arcelor and Russia's Severstal did not finalize. According to the Russian daily Izvestiya, those opposing the merge "exploited the 'Russian threat' myth during negotiations with shareholders and, apparently, found common ground with the Europeans", while Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the State Duma observed that "recent events show that someone does not want to allow us to enter their markets." On 27 July 2006, the New York Times quoted the analysts as saying that many Western investors still think that anything to do with Russia is "a little bit doubtful and dubious" while others look at Russia in "comic book terms, as mysterious and mafya-run."
However, the same article also quoted Aleksandr Temerko, a former vice president of YUKOS, the company which was broken up and sold off by the Russian government, saying that Western investors should treat take-overs by Russian companies with suspicion: ''"What if tomorrow they decide to grab Mordashov [the oligarch in charge of Severstal] and force him to sell his stock to a state company?... Then some K.G.B. agent will show up at Arcelor and say, 'I'm your new partner'.... Political motives are real; they exist.... Investors are right to fear them." ''Arcelor shareholders themselves portrayed their doubts about Severstal's bid very differently, and completely unrelated to stereotypes of Russian business practice: they were worried about the manner in which the bid was being presented to them by the Arcelor management, who were in favour of the take-over, and the degree of personal control Mr. Mordashov would have over the new company.

View of Russia in Western media

Some Russian and Western commentators express concern about too negative coverage of Russia in Western media (some Russians even describe it as "informational war") . In April 2007 David Johnson, founder of the Johnson's Russia List, said in interview to the Moscow News: "I am sympathetic to the view that these days Putin and Russia are perhaps getting too dark a portrayal in most Western media. Or at least that critical views need to be supplemented with other kinds of information and analysis. An openness to different views is still warranted."
In 1995, years before Putin was elected to his first term, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported: "coverage of Russia and its president, Boris Yeltsin, was decidedly negative, even though national polls continue to find the public feeling positive toward Russia and largely uncritical of Yeltsin."
In February 2007 Russian creativity agency E-generator composed "rating of Russophobia" of Western media, using for the research articles concerning a single theme — Russia's chairmanship of G8, translated into Russian by InoSmi.Ru. The score was composed for each edition, negative values granted for negative assessments of Russia, and positive values representing positive ones. The top in the rating were Newsday (-43, U.S.), The Financial Times (-34, Great Britain), The Wall Street Journal (-34, U.S.), Le Monde (-30, France), while editions on the opposite side of the rating were Toronto Star (+27, Canada) and The Conservative Voice (+26, U.S.)
Various post-Soviet ehtnic-based organized crime groups such as Armenian, Chechen, Belorussian, Kazakh are often referred to as "Russian Mafia" in Western media.



  • / ed. Jerzy Faryno, Roman Bobryk, "Polacy w oczach Rosjan - Rosjanie w oczach Polaków. Поляки глазами русских - русские глазами поляков. Zbiór studiów" - conference proceedings; in Studia Litteraria Polono-Slavica; Slawistyczny Ośrodek Wydawniczy Instytutu Slawistyki Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Warszawa 2000, ISBN 83-86619-93-7.
Russophobe in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Русафобія
Russophobe in Estonian: Russofoobia
Russophobe in French: Russophobie
Russophobe in Dutch: Anti-Russisch sentiment
Russophobe in Polish: Rusofobia
Russophobe in Russian: Русофобия
Russophobe in Finnish: Ryssäviha
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