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Fyodor Lukyanov America as the Mirror of Russian Phobias AM ERICA THE ALMIGHTY ON NOVEMBER 4 , 2 0 0 5 , RUSSIA CELEBRATED FOR THE FIRST TIME ITS new national holiday, the Day of Popular Unity. Ever since Russia lost its imperial and great power status, its authorities have been tiying hard to build a new national identity. They believe the foundation for society’s consolidation can be found in the past, and the new holiday is an illustrative example of that. The citizens of the Russian Federation are to recall on that day how ordinary people took up arms and drove Polish invaders out of Moscow’s Kremlin in the autumn of 1612 (Poland was Russia’s main geopolitical rival then). According to official Russian histoiy, that event marked the beginning of the rise of the centralized Russian state. On the new holiday, the ultrarightists marched along Moscow’s central streets. The participants in the march, which for the first time was sanctioned by the government, urged the government to restore the country's former might. The organizer ofthe march and the leader ofthe Eurasian Youth Movement, Valery Korovin, said at a rally: “Like 400 years ago, Russia is again tom by internal discord, and the ring ofWestern evil spirits is being tightened around it.” He went even further to specify that “our union has an absolute enemy, this is the United States.” One can probably not find another country in the Northern Hemisphere where people are so convinced ofAmerica’s omnipotence. The majority of Russian citizens and a large part of its elite suspect that the United States is behind everything taking place in the world, espesocial research Voi 72 : No 4 : Winter 2005 859 daily insofar as it concerns Russia. The writer Alexander Prokhanov said in a recent radio interview that the riots in the Arab and African suburbs of Paris in November 2005 were orchestrated by Washington to punish recalcitrant “old” Europe for its position on Iraq. Washington’s “hand” is believed to be still more involved in the developments in the post-Soviet space. The wave of “colored revolutions” that swept Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan; the disorder in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan; and the criticism of the post-Soviet regimes for the absence of democracy or for violations of human rights—these are all parts of Washington’s plan to drive Russia out of its sphere of influence and to establish control over it. This attitude is a blend of the former Soviet views on the United States as a traditional enemy and the main threat to peace around the world and the new Russian feeling of wounded pride, caused by the country’s loss of superpower status. It is interesting to trace the changes in the perception of the United States by Russians since the cold war. In the early 1980s, Soviet television showed a documentary, ConspiracyAgainst the Land ofSoviets,” which dealt with the CIA’s attempts to destroy the Soviet Union by means of dissidence and spite. These are the things schoolchildren were told in class, and I would not say that no one believed in those stories. But almost all young people of my age dreamed of having real American blue jeans and watched, holding their breath, poor-quality copies of movies with Sylvester Stallone on private video players, which at that time cost a fortune on the black market. In those movies, the gallant commander Rambo battled communists in Vietnam and Afghanistan, and the dashing boxer Rocky Balboa fiercely fought the Soviet monster Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. And at night our parents, glued to the radio, listened to the Voice ofAmerica and the US Congress-funded radio station, Radio Liberty, both of whose broadcasts the KGB tried to jam. The decline of the Soviet system brought about a strange situ­ ation. Almost no one in Russia sincerely believed in the communist ideology in its final stage, yet Russians’ idea of the surrounding world was still a strange blend of Soviet propaganda about aggressive impe­ 860 social research rialism and dreams about the blessed consumer society, where there was no shortage of goods, and where there was freedom—something completely unfamiliar to...


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