Does Russia hate America . . . or Love it?

The Jamestown Foundation reports:

The Galygin television show is perhaps the best popular representation of Russians’ idiosyncratic relationship with the United States.

The show copies Seinfeld, the quintessential American sitcom, with its own standup comedy bits sprinkled between the daily lives of Russian versions of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. While the former is familiar, Galygin.ru characters are deep patriots. In one episode, for example, they throw a Western tourist out of a bar while cheering on the Russian team in a televised hockey game (STS TV channel, February, 2010).

Russian mainstream press outlets, mostly controlled by the government, convey a rigid narrative about what the West (Europe and the United States) means to Russia. In the crudest terms, the narrative claims that the West is trying to undermine Russia by luring former Soviet states into its own sphere of influence. Broadcast by the national TV channels, it portrays United States as a competitive power.

However, little is known about what ordinary Russians believe the West has to say about Russia.

This could be one of the reasons why websites that translate international press stories about Russia, such as http://www.Inosmi.ru and http://www.Inopressa.ru, attract curious readers. Both websites include intense discussions in which readers vent about the supposedly negative portrayal of Russia abroad. On an average day, both websites feature mostly negative reporting about Russia and Moscow’s policies, claiming to reflect the overall mood in the international media.

For the average Muscovite, the government narrative is appropriate for the greater Russian population. Muscovites are convinced that the official narrative is necessary because it educates people and keeps them disciplined. Yet more internet-savvy Russians sense that local television channels present biased news and recognize them as government mouthpieces, broadcasting the Kremlin’s take on domestic and international issues.

Events such as the ongoing anti-government protests in Khimki forest outside Moscow or a movement of activists that convenes on the 31st of the month expose the contrast between local news sources and the international media outlets. “Finding truth somewhere in between” is a common saying for internet-savvy Russians who seek news both from national and foreign outlets.

On the other hand, shows like Galygyn.ru reveal Russians’ genuine curiosity towards the United States. As one economist from Moscow puts it, “It is really interesting to know what the United States has to say about what our government has to say about the United States.” Russian admiration for Western products and fashion is expressed in a subtle manner, mostly in shows that copy the format of popular U.S. television programs. There are Russian versions of Jon Stewart, for instance. Similar to their American prototype, they make fun of Obama and American politics, as Medvedev and Putin are off-limits.

This love-hate relationship with the United States is typical for a young urban Russian. In Moscow the lifestyle entails numerous Westernized attributes, yet the West, overall, is not popular. According to the British GfK Group, which measures country and city brands worldwide, U.S. brands are indeed more popular among Russians than is the U.S. government.

The movie Avatar and the restaurants TGI Friday’s and McDonalds are the most conspicuous reminders of American presence in everyday in Moscow. “Chasing the West has turned into a trap for us!” says famous comedian Mikhail Zadornov, for whom American and Western culture is a common subject for satire. Many would agree that he ridicules how Russians often adopt the worst habits and products imported from the United States.

4 responses to “Does Russia hate America . . . or Love it?

  1. The problem is that Russia’s once again sinking into xenophobia. It wasn’t this way in the 1990’s, back then things were totally different. And it’s kind of sad because ordinary Russians aren’t xenophobic by nature, they’re just extremely gullible and liable to believe whatever they’re told if it comes from an official source. So if Channel 1 says that the western press always badmouths Russia and Russian policies then that’s what Russians will believe. What they fail to understand that the West mostly doesn’t care about Russia, Russia just isn’t front page news in the West unless it something nasty happens here, like these wildfires that have blanketed Moscow in thick smog. Russia’s not the USSR and thus it stopped posing a serious threat to the West a long time ago. Ballistic missiles? well, with the sort of maintenance they’ve had it would be a miracle if 10% of them even managed to lift off out of their silos. Russia’s been reduced to a local power that can still make life difficult for its next door neighbours, small nations like Georgia or Estonia, by supporting separatists or staging riots over the movement of WWII monuments but other than that Russia’s no longer news-worthy.
    And as for those mineral resources the Russian government is so protective of, the truth is that most of them can be extracted elsewhere much cheaper and in greater quantities. Hell, if Russia was a developed economy it would probably be buying oil from the Persian gulf, why Russia is in the oil business now is for the simple reason that it’s got nothing else to offer in the global market apart from its scarce mineral resources.
    So what am I on about? the gullible Russians, well they just don’t know better, the government tells them on TV that the west is after Russia and its resources and they repeat the party line but deep down inside they crave to be like those Westerners, because they’ve heard rumours and some of them have even been abroad and seen with their own eyes that in the west the people live much better, they have more stuff, wear better clothes, drive better and cheaper cars and even pay less got gasoline. As the saying goes every gook (read Russian) has an American inside, thus the ambivalence in the attitude of an average Russian towards the US, on the one hand it’s been drummed into their heads that the US is bad, an aggressor and what not, but on the other hand they badly want Russia to become more and more like the US.

  2. That’s sad. I pray for the peace between two great countries, Russia and America.

  3. I think they don’t hate the USA but they hate arrogant, hypocritical idiots like La Russophobe!

  4. As Chinese, I love USA and dislike Russia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s