Putin moves to Ohio iROZHLAS

When Vladimir Putin recently spoke of the “so-called West,” he raised his hand to mimic the quotation marks. Few movements are more American than this gesture. Maybe just a hat the Russian president had his picture taken in while hunting. Russia’s relationship with America is one of the most wonderful chapters in Russian cultural history.




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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an online meeting with government officials (January 2021) Source: Reuters

Perhaps even the German term Hassliebe, hateful love, does not describe the full range of emotions that America evokes in some Russians. Or else America, fictitious rather than real, is at once a Russian mirror, a motif and a shadow.

Jan Fingerland: Putin moves to Ohio

Every country and every society has such counterparts, for Russia France, then Germany, and now America for a hundred years has played such a role. Lenin had once shown a keen interest in American craftsmanship, perhaps wisely aware that technologically the future would be “American”.

This was even more evident during the Stalin era, when Russian skyscrapers, cars, movies, and even ice cream were actually modified copies of American models. In another form, it continued under Khrushchev, after all the famous slogan of the time “catch up and overtake” applied to America. As the Soviet Union, in the role of “greater Russia”, begins to produce more steel, cement and rubber than the United States, American capitalists will be in business.

bound by fate

America was the only remaining superpower after World War II. Even its rivalry with him led Russian officials to believe that Moscow was playing in the World Premier League. There was also a fascination with something that Russia somehow resembled – in size, in population, in relatively short history, in messianism, and perhaps otherwise.

It still lasts. Admiration and fear, admiration for America’s wealth, dynamism and power. In recent years, Russian propaganda has portrayed America, not China, as Russia’s main danger and rival. The United States, as the sole or main adversary, simply suits them better.


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Ordinary Russians have no less complicated attitudes. According to opinion polls, people who have a negative attitude towards the United States outnumber those who have a rather positive opinion, even if they are tens of percent. At the same time, even before the war, the vast majority of respondents believed that the tension in Ukraine was not the fault of Russia, or even Ukraine, but of America and NATO in as two united parts.

At the same time, symbols of American pop culture and industry were popular in Russia, from McDonald’s to iPhones, or at least their Chinese copies. Years ago, the Russian newspaper Kommersant asked why Russians don’t go to generously state-subsidized films and prefer American films. The answer was: Hollywood scripts are about how an individual will stand out – government, business, or bandits – and win. It is a more positive and even more natural and encouraging story for Russians.

chosen enemy

But back to the attitudes of the Russian ruling elite. He has a much more complicated and schizophrenic relationship with America than ordinary people. The ideology that America is a threat to Russia comes from above. Sometimes these views are bizarre in nature.

Leonid Reshetnikov, longtime director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, says America tried to destroy Russia for a long time, from 1917, when Americans helped the Bolsheviks take power, until 1991 , when the Americans helped break up the Soviet Union. Union. . People like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who found asylum in America but criticized it for its superficiality and decadent culture, and praised the depths of the Russian world, also had a complicated relationship.



There are currently over three million Russians in the United States. Many of them see Putin as a dictator and a murderer and flee him across the ocean. But some Russian Americans still seem to admire Putin, but have preferred to live in a country that offers what Russia no longer has, namely freedom, security of life and property, and the rule of law.

On the Internet, we sometimes come across a list of Russian potentates, or their relatives, settled in a rotten and hostile America. They are not the first, because Stalin’s daughter once went to the United States, and then also Khrushchev’s son.

Maybe in other circumstances Vladimir Putin would one day have bought a farm there. But he probably missed his chance at a quiet age in Ohio, so he was left with only America as a mirage he had to fight.

The author is a commentator for Czech Radio

Jan Fingerland

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