Culture Magazine

Anxiety and Nationalism in Russia

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

"[...] current opinion of America [...] this year sank to its lowest level since the Soviet Union collapsed nearly 24 years ago, according to polling by the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow.

Anti-Americanism is more potent now because it is stirred up and in many ways sponsored by the state, an effort that Russians, despite their hard-bitten cynicism, seem surprisingly susceptible to. Independent voices are all but gone from Russian television, and most channels now march to the same, slickly produced beat. Virtually any domestic problem, from the ruble's decline to pensioners' losing subsidies on public transport, is cast as a geopolitical standoff between Russia and America, and political unrest anywhere is portrayed as having an American State Department official lurking behind it.

Some Russians, of course, are on to the game:

The low opinion of America, Mr. Gudkov said, is not a permanent condition. The resentment seems to have more to do with Russians themselves than with any American action, a kind of defensive, free-floating expression of current anxieties.

But the biggest question is where it is all leading. Some Russians aren't sticking around to find out.

"I don't like what's happening now," said Alexander Yeremeyev, an Internet entrepreneur, walking with his family in Sokolniki, a park in central Moscow. "Now we're all supposed to unite against what - the U.S., Europe, cheese?"

There's a lot of this going on in America, too. But there's no convenient enemy everyone can agree on, so we have a fractured politics where various groups push their favorite enemies.

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