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Russophobia? No. We just don’t like your policies.

April 29, 2016

A recent opinion poll by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung looks at German public opinion on Russia: A growing number of Germans, now 64%, thinks that Russia’s government is not an internationally credible partner.

Acceptance of Russians increasing
At the same time, the German view of the Russian nation and the Russians themselves remains unaffected by the dissatisfaction with the Russian government. In fact, acceptance of Russians in various social roles has been increasing since 2013 (see second image below).

This poll disproofs a popular claim in pro-Kremlin narratives, namely that negative attitudes towards Russia – what pro-Kremlin media and officials label “russophobia” – are the reason behind negative assessments of the Russian government’s policies.

Societies with and without strong propaganda
The term “russophobia” and its use have also been criticized in a recent article by academic Andreas Umland, entitled “The Putinverstehers’ Misconceived Charge of Russophobia: How Western Apology for the Kremlin’s Current Behavior Contradicts Russian National Interests“.

He argues that “To interpret Moscow’s current policies merely as a manifestation of centuries-old Russian traditions ignores the tragic course of recent Russian history and its effects on post-Soviet Russia.”

Finally, the German poll can serve as an example of how public opinion develops differently in societies with and without strong propaganda by state media: Russian negative views develop broadly against “the West”, whereas German public opinion targets the Russian government, leaving the Russian nation unaffected.