The fear of Russians may stem from the tensions that existed between Russia and America during the Cold War. During that time, ideological differences made the two countries enemies. Today, the fear of Russians is known by
the Latin name, Russophobia.
Russian History And Russophobia
The history of Russia includes much bloodshed and revolution. From the times of the Tsars, when a simple command could spell death or ruin for anyone in the lower (or higher) echelons, to the times of Stalin, who ruled with a fist of iron…the Russian people have been subjected to poverty, oppression, and a hardscrabble existence.
The KGB, the notorious branch of the Soviet Police, are a source of resentment to this day for many people. Their activities, which included spying and the apprehension of many innocent people and political dissidents, are a trigger for Russophobia. Along with the Communist past that defined the U.S.S.R, the KGB were a symbol of secret activities and the dearth of basic rights and freedoms for ordinary citizens.
Certain books can inspire Russophobia in sensitive people. In Ayn Rand’s novel, We The Living, a young woman, Kira, tries to live her life according to her own ideals. This requires a measure of defiance against her Communist government. She is forced to endure “red” ideology and the atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust that makes even family members turn one another in for “disloyalty” to the government. In the end, Kira chooses to risk death for her freedom, as she attempts to sneak through the border and escape.
In this story, Kira is smart, driven, and focused on her goal of becoming an engineer. She is interested in facts and scientific proof. Her derision for the ideals that others believe so unthinkingly pushes her towards the Western ideology, and the idea of individual freedom. For those who read We The Living, the Russian culture was a frightening scenario straight out of George Orwell.
Stereotypes Are A Factor
Stereotypes about Russia can cause Russophobia. Some people fear the Russian Mafia, who’ve gained a higher profile in the world media since Russia opened up its commerce during glastnost. Prime Minister Gorbachev wished to create a freer market system during this time, bringing a long overdue change to the system of government. Glastnost has been a stressful process, and increased criminal activity by organized gangs is Russia is covered extensively in the media.
The rough image of the typical Russian can be off-putting to some. The idea of a heavy-drinking population is also a stereotype that may have some basis in fact. Most Russians do drink vodka as part of their social rituals. 2 percent of Russians self-identify as “heavy drinkers”.
There are other stereotypes at play since Glastnost. For example, the surge in “mail order bride” businesses on the Internet have given Russian women a somewhat tawdry image. The desperation and poverty that drives Russian females to sell their bodies to strange men in other countries is actually very sad. In order to leave Russia and have hope of a better life, they are willing to make serious sacrifices. However, these women may seem cheap and mercenary to many people.
The passionate nature of the Russian people often comes across as tempestuous and hot-tempered to other cultures. Famous Russians such as the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev were known for their fierce tempers and their explosive talent. Dancers such as Nureyev and Baryshnikov gained great notoriety when they defected to the West in the days before Glasnost. Their lives became a symbol of the oppression of the Communist Government.
The symptoms of Russophobia include avoidance of Russians, including people, language, and other components of the culture. People with this phobia may become ill and agitated when they are forced to be around things of Russian provenance, or Russian people.
Treatment for this phobia often includes psychotherapy and anti-depressants.