Literal translation: Red Army is a broom to sweep the homeland clean of scum!
In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, the Party can always find you!
— Yakov Smirnoff
The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), America's sworn enemies during the Cold War
, has gone through several periods of stereotyping. The most famous is the Communist Russia of the Cold War
. Everyone's red
, calls each other "comrade", and is trying to take away the freedom of the world in the name of Communism
. Of course, with the fall of Communism
in the country, this one is pretty dead
. Then again, Vladimir Putin made his name in the KGB.
Then there are tall, furry hats, the Cossack Dance
borshch, vodka (lots of vodka
), and everyone constantly being miserable
, which is why they drink the vodka. These tropes seem permanently associated with the area. In recent years, the Russian bride
has started to turn up a lot. Chernobyl has also become very important in the outside world's views of the country, even though it is in Ukraine. This building◊
will probably show up, too. No, it's not
. This is the Kremlin.◊ note
(Image searches on "Kremlin" invariably turn up far more of the former building than the latter.)
For obvious reasons
, the Sovetskiy Soyuz
(and later Rossiyskaya Federatsiya
) have been subject to a lot of California Doubling
over the years, although there are a number of late eighties films (such as The Russia House
) actually filmed in Moscow, because of glasnost
This article will list some of the more common ways for foreigners to get all things Russian wrong. In Russia proper, they are called razvesistaya klukva
(blooming cranberry) and are a source of much humor.
- Fluffy hats. Yes, they are somewhat practical during the long cold winter, but they are not part of the national dress. The ushanka is a functional winterized headgear, as simple as that. Also not really big and fluffy. In modern Russia they even aren't very common, worn by mostly older people; young folks prefer more international headgear like knitted caps. But an ushanka made of fake bluish fur is still standard issue for soldiers and policemen during winter.
- Ushankas are also commonly confused with papakhi, a larger fluffy hat without the ear-flaps. The papakhi is not really Russian, it's from the Caucasus, and is only associated with Russia via Cossacks, who adopted it from Caucasian peoples.
- Vodka. Sadly true, but again, mostly for the older generation. There's a lot of raging alcoholics among younger people, too, but they prefer beer and cheap "cocktails" sold in cans.
- Borscht. It is actually a matter of dispute between Russians and Ukrainians about whose national food it is (borscht as we know it today is of Ukrainian origin). But still mostly true, it's common and liked in Russia.
- Other cuisine. It's usually caviar and pierogi. However, what the average American means by pierogi (dumplings) is actually Polish; a Russian pierog (or an Ukrainian pyrih) is a pie, not a dumpling. The dumplings are called pelmeni (Russian), vareniki (Ukrainian) or kolduny (Belarusian).
- At any rate, the dumplings are originally Chinese in origin and were brought to Eastern Europe by the Mongols in the middle ages.
- Bears. It's true that the bear is a common and well known animal in Russia, inasmuch as Russia having 60% of all Brown Bears in the world (and most of the remaining bears living in Northern Canada and Alaska). But they don't walk the streets of Russian citiesnote , and you can see a trained bear only in a circus. Using the bear as a symbol for Russia itself is mainly a foreign thing, although it is used in coats of arms for a number of cities, mostly in Siberia again, as well as the logo for Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party. Bears and any big animals (including wolves) are very rarely seen in a wild by modern Russian urbanite.
- Communism. The old Cold War stereotype of "Russian equals Soviet equals Communist" is not true. Communism is an ideology that had fallen out of fashion in most of the world, including Russia. Soviet is a system of government by workers' councils, a form of parliamentarism, and it outlived Communism in Russia for two years. The modern Russian Communist party is in fact actually rather reactionary in a number of ways, particularly on social policies.
- Atheism. Cold War-era Russians are often stereotyped as "godless Communists." The reality is more complex. The Soviet Union did persecute clergymen and dismantle religious institutions. However, the laity was mostly tolerated as the Communists realized that persecuting a group that made up a majority of Russia's population was a bad idea and many lay Christians actually supported the persecution of priests, who were viewed as a greedy and corrupt elite. Also, Josef Stalin himself would revive the Russian Orthodox Church to drum up support for Russia's entry into World War II, and never really bothered suppressing the Georgian Orthodox Church at all (he was afraid of getting an earful from his mother). While some of the anti-religious were revived by Krushchev, they were again considerably relaxed from the Brezhnev era onward.
- Russian language. In media, it is mostly portrayed with a ridiculous accent, flipped Latin letters and a small number of commonly known words like "vodka", "da", "nyet", "pravda", "babushka", "suka", "tovarisch", "rodina", "borsch", "soyuz", "mir", "avtomat", "pulemyot", "slava", "kommunizm", "revolutsyia", "kapitalist", "mudak", "bratva", "gulag", "intelligentsiya", "kosmonaut", "balalaika", "matryoshka", "kazakh", "pogrom", "ruble", "Kopeck", "samovar", "kremlin". "partiya", "cheka", "bolshevik", "Spetsnaz", "commissar", "kapitan" "glasnost", "perestroika", "KGB", "Politburo", "tsar", "Afganistan", "Rossiya", "Chechnya", "dacha", "Amerika", "sharashka", "laika", "Kalashnikov"note . See Russian Language for an in-depth look at it and Gratuitous Russian for more common ways to do it wrong.
- Russian names. In media, they are formed by slapping suffixes like "ov", "ski", "vich" on a bunch of common names like "Boris" or "Vladimir", not caring what those suffixes mean and in what order do various Russian names follow. The end result is something like "Boris Ivanski Vladimirvich", which doesn't sound right at all to a Russiannote . See Russian Naming Convention on how to do it right.
- In fact, -ovich can be used as a surname ending, but the "o" must be stressed. It also indicates either Jewish, Serbian or Ukrainian descent, and is not very widespread in Russia itself.
- Surnames that end with "-ko" also usually indicate Ukrainian origin.
- The "off" or "koff" ending is Bulgarian, not Russian; however, names of Russian historical figures may be transcribed with an "off" ending, as this was the way the very Russian "-ov" was usually transcribed in French and from time to time in English until around the end of the 19th century. (This is why older translations of Fyodor Dostoevsky's final novel spell it The Brothers Karamazoff, and why the US-based vodka maker is spelled Smirnoff.)
- St. Basil's Cathedral, that church with those colorful onion domes, appearing whenever we see Moscow. Often confused with the Kremlin.
- Everything is cold and miserable. Mostly true, except in summer when everyone is hot and miserable — it's called "continental climate". OTOH, cities near the Sea of Japan do not have a worse climate as New York (and the ones on the Black Sea are downright californian), and some central cities look quite better in the last decade (less cold and miserable and more brain-melting hot and miserable).
- An ornery attitude, stubborn resistance to change from outside. In Real Life... kinda zig-zagged. It's true that Russia resisted invasions and attempts to bring foreign order into it for most of its history, and Russians are most of the time very suspicious of foreign culture. But the biggest aversion for the entire history is the fall of the USSR, caused, among other things, by Russians rushing to adopt democracy and Western culture. It backfired wildly on them, possibly reinforcing the trope back.
- The creation of the USSR in the first place may be an even bigger aversion, if you think about it. Centuries of czarist rule and tradition were replaced with ideas which came from a German guy living in England, and who was a pretty committed Russophobe at that.
- Although what did backfire was trying to make production facilities self-sustaining... While prohibiting the free market. Go figure.
See The Great Politics Mess-Up
, Dirty Communists
, and Fake Russian
explains Russia and its predecessors in some depth.
Also see History Of The USSR
for the Useful Notes
Аниме и манга
- Beyblade finished out its first season in Russia. Obviously, there was no vodka, just borscht, really cold weather, and some conspiracy theories.
- Digimon Adventure 02 had an episode set in Russia. To communicate with the Russian Chosen Children, Miyako simply used "Borscht", "Pierogi", and "Caviar" to indicate what directions to fly their monsters. Naturally, the monster fight took place outside of the Kremlin, and it was snowing the entire time; though this took place right before Christmas.
- Russia, an anthropomorphism of the country, from Axis Powers Hetalia is a Psychopathic Manchild who loves vodka and often wishes to leave his cold, unforgiving homeland. He also claims that one day, "everyone will be one with Russia." (No fuzzy hats or Cossack dances, though, oddly.)
- Actually, the aforementioned fuzzy hat and Cossack dance appeared in Russia's character song, My Heart Has a Light.
- He's shown wearing a papaha, but since he was younger is at least period appropriated.
- However, it should be kept in mind that part of Hetalia's humor is to make fun of stereotypes.
- Hotel Moscow from Black Lagoon is generally not very Klukva, but Balalaika's real name is still a case of this trope. "Sofiya Irininskaya Pavlovena" is a case of confusing the naming order, getting a suffix wrong, and even if the "Irininskaya" was where it belongs (a last name) it would be still grammatically correct but vaguely not right.
- Superman: Red Son has Kal-El's escape pod landing in the Ukraine instead of Kansas, and includes the miserable cold, vodka, Stalin, Sputnik probes and comic covers with the angular style of propaganda posters. But maybe nothing invokes this quite so much as Moscow's Batmankoff and his furry ushanka Bat-hat with earflaps.
- Often invoked in the dialog between the Soviets in Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja .
- The Helmsman Saga has Sodeskaya, an empire of a race of bipedal bears wearing papakhas, mostly living on frozen planets and inhabiting one sixth of the galaxy.
- The Durmstrang students and their headmaster Karkaroff in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, especially the film, blend aspects of this with German archetypes.
- A few of the songs by Sabaton are about Russia's military conquests over the Nazis, including "Panzerkampf" and "Attero Dominatus."
- Want to see every Russian/Soviet stereotype condescended into one rap? See this Saturday Night Live skit from 1985.
- There is a lot of this in the first 2:17 of this video, NBC's intro to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. Come to think of it, there was plenty of it in the Opening Ceremonies, too.
- Surprisingly, a complete aversion comes in one of Ragnarok Online's island maps (which debuted from none other than the Russian rRO servers), being the peaceful and early czarist Moscovia, complete with a dungeon and monsters based on Russian folklore.
- The nation of Khador in Iron Kingdoms is essentially a Steam Punk Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Soviet Russia. They dress in red, wear fur hats, and their Warjacks share the same design philosophy as Soviet tanks (heavily armed and armored, not very sophisticated but extremely reliable).
- The same goes for AT-43 where the Red Blok is supposed to be the space-age evolution of Soviet Russia, although it is not explicitly stated in the rulebook.
- VOR The Maelstrom shows a resurgent 21st century brown-red (ultranationalistic communist) Russia that invades half the world with its crude war machines, innumerable cannon fodder, NBC weapons, and ugly mutants. It is even said that the Russian "Ursa" warwalker can take out two American "Ares" singlehandedly, but will probably overheat and explode just after. Luckily, America Saves the Day.
- The Imperium of Man includes Soviet & Tsarist Russian themes, like the use of commisars & double-headed eagles, among others.
Оригинальный сетевой контент
- Played straight to ridiculous levels the Moscow stage of Tony Hawk's Underground, and with the Russian Boneless.
- In Zangief's ending in Street Fighter II, Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev arrives to congratulate Zangief, and suggests they celebrate "in our traditional way." They immediately start doing That Russian Squat Dance.
- The second set of levels in the console versions of Alien Hominid took place in Russia. It combined the Soviet set of stereotypes with the more recent ones, and some far stranger material, like giant robot frogs that shoot tree-frog-shaped homing missiles.
- The political simulation video game Republic: The Revolution takes place in "Novistrana" (a poorly translated rendering of "New Country"), a post-Soviet East European republic. While explicitly not associated with Russia (first of all, Novistrana is too small to be it), the game goes a long way to reconstruct most of the archetypal Russian flair.
- According to an interview to one of the Russian magazines of the time, the name "Novistrana" is not a case of poor research but rather the developers thought that "Novistrana" sounds "better" to non-Russians than "Novaya Strana". Novistrana was never meant to be an accurate representation of Russia.
- The first three Advance Wars games have the Blue Moon country which is obviously patterned after this trope. Its leader is a bearded man named Olaf whose special power is to make it snow on the battlefield.
- Oddly enough his second is Grit, a defector. The other two COs are siblings who are basically millionares, so it is sort of... odd.
- Well, the "millionaires" do provide an analogue for the We Have Reserves military style shared by Blue Moon and Russia.
- Gamecube/Wii spin-offs Battalion Wars 1 and 2 have the Tundran Territories. A "nation of conquest" as described by their late Tsar Gorgi, they use red units, have a rather unhealthy obsession with turnips (especially in the sequel) and faux-Russian accents. Note also that Tsar Gorgi's successor, Marshal Nova, doesn't adopt the rank of Tsar.
- Most everything in the fan community involving Mega Man 4 and Dr. Cossack falls under this trope.
- Bob and George takes it to Refuge in Audacity levels. Ran dies when you touch him. They used VERY cheap Soviet style parts...
- Don't forget the fact that he has an almost unlimited number of spare bodies available/available for production. And that Cossack Buster....
- Cossack in Mega Man Battle Network 3 is pretty tame; but in four, the contestant from "Sharo" (aka Russia) is a grumpy, bitter old man with a silly accent who wears a humongous fur coat and complains about it being too hot in Netopia, then hacks his country's weather satellites to induce a blizzard to cool things down (rather than, say, taking off his coat). His navi is, of course, "Cold Man.exe".
- The Heavy in Team Fortress 2 started as a heavily armed, intimidating giant with a a beloved gun named Sasha and a Slavic accent (and slightly broken English), and the Heavy update includes a lot of Achievement names that quite blatantly parody Soviet Russia in general. Finnish translation ups the ante with Winter War references.
- "Redistribution of Health," "Stalin the Kart," and "Communist Mani-Fisto," just to name a few.
- And of course, the Killing Gloves of Boxing and the Gloves of Running Urgently.
- Tet42 Tetris clone (1989) showcased the game's roots by displaying Kremlin-style architecture and playing Russian theme music at the start of each game (it's called the Russian folk song played is called "Korobeiniki", if you're curious, but everyone in the West [and possibly the East] knows it as "The Tetris Song"), and using The Backwards R. Followed (1991) by USSR-themed Super Tetris. Later (1992) Tetris Classic from the author of original Tetris has pictures related to Russian tale or historic character or St. Basil's Cathedral for background, and music to match.
- The Spectrum Holobyte version of Tetris from the 1980s had Russian stage backgrounds and music; e.g. the first stage used the Kremlin Wall as the background and "Polyushko Pole" as music.
- Backyard Soccer has a World Cup. A Russian team, by the name of Cagey Bees, participates.
- The countries of Yuktobania, Erusea, and Estovakia from the Ace Combat series are all loosely based on Russia.
- Estovakia is based on the former Yugoslavian states rather than Russia/the USSR.
- Comrades, how could we forget the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series? In Red Alert, the Soviets are basically realistic, as part of the game's "What If? World War II had been fought between the Allies and Stalin?" premise. In Red Alert 2, they start picking up some... oddities, like Powered Armor with LightningGuns, giant squid as naval units, and a mind-controlling Rasputin Expy, with a Tsar from the Romanov family to rule them all. In Red Alert 3, they go completely off the rails with units like War Bears, tanks equipped with tractor beams that grind up enemy vehicles, and APCs that shoot infantry out of a giant cannon, all led by Tim Curry.
- In X-COM, Russia is the only country on Earth that never succumbs to alien infiltration, and will keep fighting the invaders until the end of the game.
- The racing team Qirex in Wipeout. Born after Holst McQueen, former worker of AG-Systems, had an heated debate with his best friend Delia Flaubert and deserted his team, it is by far the most successful AG racing team in history and one of the fan favorite teams right from the start of the series.
- In Wargame: European Escalation the USSR is part of the Warsaw Pact, its armed with the heaviest tanks and helicopters over the rest of the Warsaw factions who have downgraded versions of the USSR's arsenal.
- TaleSpin had Thembria, a snowy and desolate country populated by blue boars based on this.
- The first part of the 20th Century Fox animated film Anastasia fits this to a T, especially during the song "Rumour in St. Petersburg".
- Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures had recurring villain General Vostok. In "General Winter" he even lectures his cronies on the strategic advantages of Mother Russia's unforgiving winter.