Enemy Image Russia. A History of Demonisation
EDITOR'S CHOICE | 04.03.2016

Enemy Image Russia. A History of Demonisation

When Western media and politicians speak about «the Russians» in recent times, negative adjectives are never missing. They address them as an anonymous mass, using insulting attributes that express distance, detestation, and hate. Contemporary history showed us, that Western elites and mass media only upheld friendly relations with Russian leaders during the period of destruction of the Soviet Union. Friendship turned into scepticism when consolidation measures took place after the year 2000. Shortly afterwards a new enemy image appeared.

Hundred years after the First World War Europe (and the United States) are again turning towards a russophobian mood. Washington and Brussels deny entry permits for Russian diplomats, inflict sanctions, close accounts of Russian citizens, exclude Moscow from international organisations, boycott sport events and disrespect people who plead for understanding Russian positions and politics. Wars in the Ukraine and Syria, where a Western alliance and Russia indirectly fight each other strengthen the mutual mistrust. 

Hannes Hofbauer follows the roots of russophobia back to the late 15th century, when tsarist troops marched to the north-westwards striving to enlarge the Russian Empire. The conflict was over economic power, geopolitical dominance, and access to the Sea. Rivalry between Russia and the West has always been accompanied by ideological means –defamation and negative ascriptions. Not by accident it was a Polish philosopher who created the first anti-Russian stereotypes. «The Russians» were reputed as Asiatic, unbelieving, barbarian, dirty, and cringling – stereotypes that lasted for centuries.

The enemy image paradigm dominates the reception of Russia, Russians, and Russian politics throughout the centuries, although short periods of a positive image existed in between. Actually the demonization of Russia by the West is a reaction to the Kremlin’s policy to consolidate the state and pursue a sovereign foreign policy. The new enemy image developed along different occasions: the NATO-war on Yugoslavia (1999), the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky as well as the US-war on Iraq (2003), the Eastern enlargement of NATO and European Union (since 1999 resp. 2004), the wars on South Ossetia and Abchasia (2008) and – most important and long-lasting – the struggle over Ukraine’s international orientation, beginning with the EU Association Agreement in November 2013.

«ENEMY IMAGE RUSSIA» is a book about Russian-Western relations and outlines the economic and geopolitical foundations of russophobia.

The author:

Hannes Hofbauer, born 1955 in Vienna, studied economic and social history. He works as journalist and publisher.