It becomes increasingly difficult to follow the news using the major Russian media due to the frequent change of the official position of the government on any issue. In order to see how fast the agenda in Russia is changing, one should only follow the news and have a more or less decent memory.
Over the past decade, many Russian neighbors were under attack in the media: Ukraine became the “Kiev junta” (and then again turned into “Ukraine”), Georgia and Turkey became eternal enemies in a couple of moments. However, not many can compete with Barack Obama, who is now a part of the Russian folklore. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump will avoid his fate, though, anything can happen, taking into account his changing stance towards Russia. Here is, for example, his recent statement about Crimea:
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 15 февраля 2017 г.
So don’t be surprised if Trump’s image in Russia will follow Obama’s, he will get an offensive nickname (maybe “the showman” or “the wig”) and some Russians will impose personal sanctions against him.
Going back to the governmental information attack — it does create many unpleasant feelings. It’s like you are constantly poured with cold and hot water — a feeling of instability and real danger for your future emerges.
Here’s, for example, a recent selection of news on mail.ru — the sixth most visited site in Russia: “NATO Specified the Size of the Forces Located in Europe”, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Warned Russians About the Dangers of Visiting 111 Countries” and “Russians Supported the Introduction of the Visa Regime With Byelorussia”.
In the Moscow’s section we can find another remarkable headline: “The Ministry of Emergency Situations Reminded About the Capacity to Hide All Muscovites Under the Ground”.
These four headlines are perfect examples of the idea that is in the air — “enemies are everywhere”.
This is what we are being told: NATO is approaching Russia’s borders (or is already at the border); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that it’s dangerous for Russians to visit 111 countries (almost 55–60 % of all countries); Belarus, obviously, turns into an enemy (just like Ukraine). Lastly, the Ministry of Emergency Situations somehow pleasures the Muscovites that it can shelter all of them under the ground. The only question is — what for? The answer is, once again, between the lines: some country (USA) or a military bloc (NATO) can carry out an aggression against Russia (drop a nuclear bomb on Moscow), but the Ministry will save everyone.
I specifically cite news from mail.ru as it is primarily a mail service. Therefore, every day when millions of people (and not only Russians) check their e-mail, they see thirteen headlines that are displayed on the homepage, and these thirteen lines are responsible for the formation of the reality of many visitors.
As we can see, it’s tough for Russia in this reality. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs even includes in the “danger”-list countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe — the ones that supported the annexation of Crimea, and which are considered to be the definite political allies of Russia.
Though, the main news is about Belarus. In it, 78 % of Russians support the introduction of the visa regime with “Byelorussia”. The same “Byelorussia” that is the most important ally, partner, and neighbor of Russia. The same “Byelorussia” that forms the “Union State” with Russia.
Russia that broke up all relations with Ukraine now has only two close partners — “Byelorussia” and Kazakhstan. Given how the Russian position changed towards Ukraine in a couple of years, one shouldn’t be surprised if Belarus would suffer the same fate (as well as Kazakhstan).
All this, of course, would be amusing and funny, if people in Russia didn’t really think that enemies are everywhere and everybody hates Russians and Russia. If there wouldn’t be an image of the “offended” by everybody, who are forced to defend themselves from the (fictional) aggression of the West and to fend off greedy neighbors who want to get a piece of the pie of this great country. I see no reason to give arguments regarding the “truthfulness” of this worldview — the national media are used for this with their vast resources and budgets and that terrify Russians every day as well as create new enemies.
I suggest looking at the whole situation from a different angle. Instead of the standard “Why there are so many enemies around Russia?”, I would like to ask the question — “What is the reason for the enmity towards Russia?” Perhaps Russia is the reason for this situation? In particular, due to its past and current actions.
For example, some say that Russia has never attacked anybody and was always in the defending position. Older generations that lived in the USSR usually bring up this argument. At the same time, the Soviet Union invaded Poland on the 17th September 1939 after Hitler (1 September 1939), thus splitting up Poland with Germany. We can also recall the Katyn massacre and the subsequent deportation of Poles to Siberia.
Continuing the course of history, we can think of the occupation of the Baltic states by the USSR (in the Russian Wikipedia this process is neutrally called as the “connection”) with another round of deportation of people to Siberia.
After the Second World War, the Soviet Union occupied the Eastern Europe and imposed socialism in these countries, despite the fact the no pro-Soviet party achieved a majority during the elections. This resulted in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in Hungary, which was suppressed by Soviet troops. One can also recall the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
During the collapse of the USSR, one should not forget Vilnius and Riga in 1991, both opposed the Soviet forces wanting independence. In the end, Eastern Europe joined the West after obtaining its long-awaited freedom from the Soviet Union and Russia, that became the successor of the USSR.
We can, of course, analyze the conflicts with Caucasus, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and other countries, but I’d like to return to Belarus since it is the most recent example.
In its current form, Belarus is a region of Russia. The short recovery of culture in the 90s was immediately stopped and now people in Belarus only speak Russian, work primarily with Russia and are almost completely dependent on Russia.
Russians believe that Belarus should pay for energy resources the same price as other countries? OK, but in that case let the country be independent. Allow Belarus to cooperate with the EU and other democratic countries. Allow the popularization of the national language, the revival of the Belarusian culture. Unfortunately, neither the Russians (under the influence of aggressive propaganda) nor the Russian politicians want adequate neighborly relations. Russia needs subservient colonies that follow the will of the master, as well as enemies that can be used to frighten the population of the country. Russia doesn’t make any friends with democracies since it’s obvious who in such an alliance would be the “ugly girlfriend”.
The current Belarus is a model colony of Russia, but even such colony Russia presents as an enemy and predicts the “path of Ukraine”. If Russians don’t want to take an objective look at themselves, their government and wonder how the country has come to the point that it is “surrounded by enemies”, in that case very soon Russia will indeed be surrounded by enemies. It’s hard to believe, but after Ukraine became the number one enemy, I don’t think it will be difficult to declare Belarus as a “traitor”.
Though, Russia has a chance. To use it, one has to take a look at the history of your own country, the history of your neighbors and their perspective on many historical events. Here’s an example: in the Russian Wikipedia all events associated with the Soviet Union and Russia are described vaguely with words like “connected”, “entered”, while in all (!) other European languages completely different words are used — “occupied”, “attacked”.
So far, Russia (as the USSR) behaves like a grown-up spoiled brat who fights with children (Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Georgia, Ukraine or Belarus — adequate opponents for the largest country on earth?) and in each situation considers himself an innocent victim. Maybe, after all, the reason is not in the whole world but in yourself?
One can start with the basics, for example, with the use of the official name of the neighboring country — “Belarus” and not some Soviet “Byelorussia”. People speak the same Russian in Belarus, and if Russia and Russians believe that it’s time to cool the relationship with the neighbor, then it’s a one more reason to use “Belarus” out of respect. After all, the servant can be called any name that suits you — “Bill or Bob, don’t remember what your name is”, but there is only one correct name when we’re dealing with an equal.
Although, of course, the current position is, without a doubt, very convenient — “enemies are everywhere, everyone is bad, but I’m good”. Though, it sounds immature and looks like the person is reluctant to take responsibility for his actions. It’s strange how the largest country in the world and tens of millions of people live in this infantilism, completely breaking away from any objectivity or even the desire to find it.