The cradle of russophobia


If I can say a few words, by the way, about the hostility towards Russia that one finds here in the United States and maybe in the West in general:

This is a very complex phenomenon. I think a lot of people simply assume this is a Cold War “hangover,” that people don't realize that the Soviet Union and communism don’t exist anymore. And I think that is a part of the problem with some small segment of the population, especially some conservatives who are not particularly well-informed – but I don't think it's the major problem.

Russophobia in the West goes back a very long time, as we know, well before the October Revolution of 1917. Part of it is, of course, that Russia is a very big, powerful country, and some people are maybe just naturally afraid of it.

But from my perspective there is something much deeper there. Unfortunately it starts with the difference between the Byzantine and Orthodox cultural heritage on the one side, versus the direction that Western Europe took first with Roman Catholicism and later with the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Therefore, from that perspective, and from my analysis, Orthodox civilization has always been something that Westerners don't quite know what to make of. They know it's “wrong” because it doesn't share the same values as the direction that Western civilization took. But on the other hand it's not like East Asia, or Africa, or Latin America where they feel a “multicultural” need to show tolerance and understanding or even to recognizing that those other values are “superior to ours” in some way. The Byzantine cultural matrix is something that is seen as an approximation of the West but “deficient” in some way, and I think that affects their attitude towards Russia, which is the powerful Orthodox country – very big and scary for many people.

Finally you have to put it in the contemporary geopolitical context where the United States had emerged after the Cold War as a hyper-power willing to rule the world. For a while they thought of Russia as simply the puppet that it was under Yeltsin. But it became clear with Vladimir Putin that it would not be a puppet anymore but it would assert its own interests. Of course, that became intolerable because then they had somebody not only asserting interests but also capable of defending those interests. That situation upsets many people from the ruling establishment here in the United States