On the Phenomenon of traditional Western (and not only) of Russophobia in an interview EADaily says a leading researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Oleg Nemensky.
Oleg, what Russophobia? What are the origins of this phenomenon?
Russophobia can be considered in two ways. You can simply as a manifestation of dislike for Russian and Russia and out of this fear. Such negative feelings are in part natural for any neighboring peoples, or the peoples who have ever fought with each other. And you can look at it differently and see a whole ideology, in many respects similar to anti-Semitism, only against the Russians. And then it can be explored more specifically: how and when it emerged, how it spread, what forms it has and how it relates to us. There are very few studies of this phenomenon, unfortunately, only recently (at the earliest in 1990, and in fact even later), we began to pay attention to it, and the matter has not yet been systematically studied. Around the study of anti-Semitism - a whole science and a great political practice of counteracting this phenomenon, and to Russophobia no one cares.
I can say about some of my conclusions, which I have described more than once in my scientific articles on this topic. First, Russophobia is precisely Western ideology. In other civilizations, a negative attitude towards Russia is either non-ideological in nature or a product of direct Western information influence. Secondly, in its main features, this ideology was formed in the 16th-17th centuries, but mainly during the years of the Livonian War, when the Russian state first encountered a whole coalition of Western powers. Thirdly, the most important role in its creation was played by the country, which we hardly ever think about at all - this is Poland. Simply Poles historically - the closest and largest of our neighbors from all Western cultures of culture, for many centuries waged with us numerous wars. The basic information about our country, which the West had before, was transmitted by the Poles - they are still considered the main experts in Russia. And they also spread their views on Russia and the Russians there, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, thanks to several large waves of Polish emigration - from the events of the sections of the Commonwealth, then Napoleonic wars and two large Polish uprisings, then as a result of the First and Second World Wars and the formation of the NDP.
But, I must say, all these ideas fell on fertile soil. In a sense, we were doomed to Western Russophobia simply for objective historical reasons. All Western self-consciousness, as it began to take shape even in ancient Rome, was built on the opposition of the "East", as was then called the eastern part of the empire, the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean. For us, the East is only Asia, that is, predominantly Muslim and even more Eastern peoples. And for the Romans, the East is primarily Greece. In the Middle Ages, alienation from the Greeks only grew due to the divergence of Eastern and Western Christianity. Byzantium - the Eastern Roman Empire - was seen in negative tones. Well, we - the adopted Rus' Orthodoxy - were part of this Greek world, and then its main heirs. And we inherited all the negative negativity towards the Greeks. We were and remain the most important "Other" for Western culture, in relation to which the Western peoples and realize themselves as the West. And absolutely positive western self-perception has the opposite side of absolutely negative perception of Russia. To Muslims, all these negative characteristics (on the same principle of binary oppositions) were also applied, but with them the West collided later, when it already had the image of a principled Other in the person of the Greek world. I remember that in the middle of the 90 a French politician was asked if Russia has a prospect of joining the EU, to which he replied with surprise: "If Russia becomes part of Europe, then what is Europe?" This is a very precise answer, well illustrating this identity, which we somehow misunderstood: the West (and Europe) because the West that has a border with Russia.
And Russophobia manifests in the same way, according to the principle of binary oppositions: everything that in Western cultures can be thought of as good, kind, is attached to Russia in its negative. Russians are seen as a people in everything opposite, and therefore by nature they are bad and dangerous. Ultimately, it comes down to the opposition of good and evil. "The Empire of Evil" is a very precise definition of the Western perception of our country, the quintessence of Russophobia. We once thought that such an attitude is connected with communism, but, it seems, already understood that no, communism here did not play an essential role. And at the same time one must understand that in any culture, good is asserted precisely in the active opposition to evil - and in the West, self-affirmation as the bearer of good beginnings occurs through the opposition of Russia or anything that is labeled as Russian or connected with Russian influence. So, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, who have joined Western structures or are just striving for this, are trying to prove their Europeanism through a particularly active ostentatious Russophobia. And the US, as the leader of the Western world, responsible for a common identity, aspires to be a leader in hostility to us. This is normal for Western civilization, it will always be like this.
If we talk about the image of Russia, which is set by Russophobia - then this is the image of the opposite world. And first of all it is the image of the country in which the Tyrant rules (that is, the absolute ruler who uses his power for evil), and its population is the slave masses of people who are most afraid of freedom and therefore long for their slavery and cruel ruler. Approximately in the West, Ivan the Terrible was described during the Livonian War, and exactly described Russia in any other era, and to this day. Of course, such a society is very aggressive, because evil is evil and evil, that it fights against good, does not tolerate it. And that's why you can not look calmly at such a country - you have to prepare for protection from it and look for ways to destroy it.
How justified Russophobia?
Not for how long. The Western image of Russia is in no way connected with real Russia and the Russians, has nothing to do with the experience of contacts or studying our culture. This is a simple negative of Western self-perception. We can say that the West has its own Russia, our country is not even similar. And the worst thing that we can do for the West is to show our real face, somehow make us see real Russia. This knocks down the entire identity system and turns a Western man into a kind of dissident who begins to destroy the internal information space and undermine the foundations of Western culture. The pledge of preserving Western societies is a supposedly demolished iron curtain, that is, a rigid fence against adequate information about Russia. They are not really afraid of our army, but of the fact that we will be able to convince someone that we are not really threatening their countries. The thought about the opposition of the East and the West laid down in the Western man easily turns into a conclusion: "if Russia is not aggressive, then are we aggressive?" Such a person becomes a critic of the Western system, his consciousness seems to get out of control. This is very dangerous and protection from real information about Russia is the task of Western self-preservation. Russia in Western culture should only be imaginary.
Well, here is an example, in our time, the most relevant: why the West does not want to admit that our country has made the biggest contribution to the victory in World War II. We simply do not understand that in order for a Western person to recognize this, he must, conditionally speaking, break his brains, since this conclusion contradicts his entire picture of the world. Any war is perceived as a battle between good and evil, victory in war is, of course, the victory of good. For Westerners, this story looks something like this: in World War II, good in the face of the US and its Western allies, responsible in this history for Western identity, and evil in the face of Hitler's Germany. Yes, it is also part of the West, but gone wrong way (and who is sinless?), And through the fault of a particular evil genius (Hitler). This involved another force - the Soviet Union, that is, the opposite of the West, Russia. Clearly, she is evil. A whole theory of "totalitarian regimes" was created, which explained that the USSR and the Third Reich are roughly the same, only after all Germany is bad by delusion, and Russia is by definition. The fact that this eternal evil in the face of the USSR has won a temporarily-accidental evil in the face of Germany, no one denies. But is this part of the victory of good over evil? No. Is it not enough that spiders devoured each other? Is it possible because of this to consider the USSR part of the victorious good? Of course not. How can evil do good? This is illogical, absurd. And, accordingly, the United States won, but not completely, not completely - one Empire was destroyed by Evil, and the other could not, therefore they started the Cold War against it. The fact that Russia (the USSR) has invested heavily in the victory over Germany, does not make it a side of good for a Westerner, and, accordingly, does not make it a part of the side of the winners. And no matter how much we try to convince the Western "partners" in recognizing our decisive contribution to the victory over Nazism, they will not be able to do this. Or, why so-called. the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is regarded as a criminal conspiracy that initiated the war, and other similar treaties concluded with Germany by the West are not considered such? For the same reason: when good makes a concession to evil and goes to some kind of agreement - this is a trick aimed at the subsequent victory over this evil. And when two evils agree with each other - this is a conspiracy against good, and it can not be considered in a number of treaties of other countries. The same is true of respect for our fallen heroes. For the Western man, it seems strange to compare the heroism of his soldiers and Soviet people, who are seen simply as blind slave masses, unquestionably going to slaughter at the will of the tyrant. Plus, being carriers of evil will, they undoubtedly committed a lot of associated evil - and hence the search for "millions of raped women," etc. There is no equality in perception and attitude.
How do you explain this "uniqueness" of Russia? Yes, of course, in the West occasionally they are asked why Russia is so in reverse to "civilized humanity". Here the versions of the historical plan are put forward, usually referring to the fact that we have combined the heritage of Byzantium and the Horde. Also often, especially before the Second World War, versions of racial and genetic versions were put forward, according to which everything was explained by our special mudflow, we are allegedly the heirs of the "Slavic-Finno-Mongolian Bastards", and therefore they are alien to the world of "normal" pure peoples. In our time, these two strategies of explanation are often combined - they say, our history was so terrible that it spoiled our genetics. By the way, it is more often possible to hear about spoiled genetics from our home-grown liberal community. Probably, this is due to the fact that genetics is the only thing that its representatives can separate themselves from the rest of Russians, although this too is usually very far-fetched.
In general, Russian Russophobia - it is usually even stronger than the western one. This is understandable, because for a person living in Russia (or coming from Russia), this is a kind of ailing place. But the meaning of it from the West is no different. I think it arose as a result of Westernization of our elite. We were never a colonial people (on the contrary, we were the Empire ourselves), but on a cultural level, we are characterized by much of what constitutes the traditional problems of the cultural life of the former colonies. From the time of Peter the Great, when the matter of educating the children of the elite was decided through trips to study for the West (or through the invitation of Western teachers to themselves), a peculiar subculture of the elite emerged, largely alien to the local Russian environment, and often consciously opposed to it. But the tradition of learning in the West is still alive. Together with Western culture, the Western view of Russia is also adopted. It only adds a painful reproach to the native country for being not the West, which easily grows into angry accusations. And here it is already difficult to escape from logic: we are not the West, because we have a slavish people, rulers of tyrants, etc. And if a person also finds some reasons to not consider himself Russian, thereby, as it were, all local, then such logic becomes the basis for burning scorn and hatred. By the way, the oldest case of the use of the word "Russophobia" - in the letter of Fedor Tyutchev to his daughter (1867), and there it was just about "Russophobia of some Russian people."
And one more vivid example of our own Russophobia is Ukraine, which is essentially the same ideological Russophobia, but dressed in the form of local nationalism, and designed for historically and culturally Russian people. You are immersed in the informational atmosphere of Russophobia and are offered to renounce Russianness, and instead adopt an identity that unites you with the West and makes you feel part of the side of good. But not for free - you have to become the best fighter against evil (that is, with all Russian), you have to prove that you are not Russian. And we see where this leads Ukraine.
Should we fight with Russo-phobia?
Of course, it is possible and necessary to fight against Russophobia. And examples of this are given to us in the practice of combating anti-Semitism, which is also a truly Western and, in the recent past, almost universally dominant ideology. Is it unlikely that we will be able to impose on the West a sense of guilt that exists there against Jews, and the anti-Jewish sentiment itself is not such a necessary component of the Western identity as the anti-Russian one. Nevertheless, the infrastructure of its study and counteraction, created for combating anti-Semitism, is, for the time being, an unattainable model for us. However, it is unlikely that we can be any more successful in opposing Russophobia in the West, if it thrives in our own home. On the other hand, there is always a danger that as soon as we begin to struggle with internal Russophobia, everything will be reduced to a ban on any criticism of the state of affairs in the country, in general, any self-criticism, which is even more dangerous. Probably, it is better to invest first in its study, in working out the criteria for its definition and the counter-argumentation system. I think we are still at the very beginning of work on this subject.