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Renegade Russian
How to have a Red Scare villain without insulting the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation.

The Renegade Russian, formerly Renegade Soviet before The Great Politics Mess-Up, is (or was) a member of the Soviet/Russian military, government, or Secret Police. They are involved in an evil scheme, as either The Dragon or Big Bad. They may well have Communist beliefs.

However, there's one big caveat. Their actions are neither authorised nor condoned by the Kremlin. Indeed, the Kremlin may well be actively trying to stop them, at the time of the Détente in particular. If you're too bad for the Soviet Union, then you are really bad.

This sort of villain may also be used in post-Cold War stories (usually as an ex-KGB or Russian army official gone rogue, who may or may not be trying to bring back the Soviet Union).

Note that it is also possible to have Renegade Chinese and in today's context, Renegade Middle Easterners.

Some works have also used Renegade IRA in a (mostly unsuccessful) attempt to have Western Terrorists without getting into The Irish Question.

Compare Renegade Splinter Faction. See also The Mafiya, another popular Russian villain group. Rogue Agent is an individual version of this trope.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In an issue of Teen Titans, a Renegade Russian, who blames the USA for the death of his family, infects a young woman with a virulent plague and sends her to the US to spread it. The Russian government sends their superhero Red Star to stop her, leading to the requisite misunderstanding (and superhero fight) with the Teen Titans.
  • Batman once fought the "NKVDemon", a Russian Super Soldier, when he tried killing the new Soviet leadership, starting from the bottom and going right up to Gobrachev.
    • And a few years before that, the KGBeast went against his government orders to kill ten political targets, the last one being Ronald Reagan. He was also the NKVDemon's mentor.
  • "The Crossing Line", an old Avengers storyline by Fabian Nicieza, features a group of Soviet soldiers who have decided that starting a global nuclear war would be, uh, good for the economy. Not unreasonably, the Soviet government disagrees, and the official Soviet supers team up with the Avengers and Alpha Flight to take them down.
  • Dr. Voronov in The Voronov Plot is a Soviet scientist who attempts to launch a series of bacteriologic attacks targetting the Western Block, by using an alien bacterium which has just been discovered.

Film
  • The James Bond movie series has had a few:
    • Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love. (In the novel, she is explicitly working for the USSR.)
    • General Orlov in Octopussy. He wants to do his country an unasked favour by blowing up a nuke in Western Germany, but ends up getting shot by GDR border guards before Gogol can arrest him for theft and embezzlement of Soviet state funds (to pay the terrorists).
    • Christopher Walken's character in A View to a Kill is a French millionaire installed by the Soviets. When he goes rogue, the KGB itself attempts to get rid of him. After Bond finally manages to kill him, he is offered the Order of Lenin from Gogol.
    • General Koskov from The Living Daylights, who tries to implicate his boss, Pushkin, as one. Pushkin then has him arrested and executed on the spot for double treason.
    • General Ourumov from GoldenEye. Xenia Onatopp also counts.
    • General Chang in Tomorrow Never Dies was to be conveniently delayed by traffic when Beijing was to be struck by a nuke previously stolen from a British warship, whereupon he would launch a coup and take command of the Chinese government.
      • In the novelization, the Chinese government sends their agent to find Chang, since he stole a high-tech radar system. He is later arrested for the theft and treason.
    • Valentin Zukovsky's nephew, the captain of a nuclear submarine, in The World Is Not Enough.
      • He and Zukovsky thought they were smuggling; they had no clue about the real plan.
    • Colonel Moon, a renegade North Korean, in Die Another Day.
      • Moon does gain the loyalty of the North Korean generals after the coup.
    • In fact, there is only one James Bond movie in which his enemy is a communist agent acting with the blessing of his government: For Your Eyes Only.
  • Ramius and his officers in The Hunt for Red October — according to their government. Ramius planned to defect with his brand new hi-tech submarine, so the Soviet Ambassador fed the US government the Renegade Russian line to get them to sink him.
    • In the novel, the Americans know that Ramius is defecting and the Soviets say they are conducting a rescue mission. They say the Kremlin will not use the renegade story, since it will indicate that the Soviet government has lost control of the military.
  • Telefon (1977). A KGB clerk, motivated either by Stalinist sympathies or an insane need to write his name in history, steals a list of Manchurian Agent saboteurs in the United States and tries to start World War III. An interesting twist in that the protagonist (played by Charles Bronson) is a KGB agent trying to stop him. A further twist is that his KGB bosses neglected to inform the new Premier of these agents, so they can't just get him to inform the Americans as they'll be for the chop.
  • In Crimson Tide, the nuclear threat is from a Siberian separatist who hijacked a missile emplacement on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
  • In the third The Librarian film, the main villains are these.
  • The Soldier (1982). Renegade KGB steal nuclear material and, posing as terrorists, threaten to detonate an atomic bomb in the Saudi oilfields unless the US forces the Israelis off the West Bank.
  • Renegade Middle Easterners? Sounds like Crimson Jihad.
  • General Chan Lu from the remarkably silly Battle Beneath The Earth is an example of the Renegade Chinese version.
  • The villains in Salt are a group of KGB Communist hardliners that somehow outlived the Cold War.
  • Terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov in Air Force One.
  • Given that the Klingons are Cold War analogs, the renegade Klingon commander on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier counts as a sci-fi version of this trope.
  • Inverted in Dr. Strangelove, whose villain is an American renegade who launches a nuclear attack on the Soviets without authorization.
  • Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, to a certain extent in Iron Man 2.

Literature
  • A couple of examples from the Alex Rider series of books, since they draw a lot of inspiration from James Bond. Most notable are General Alexei Sarov from the third book, Skeleton Key, Yassen Gregorovich, who appears in Stormbreaker and Eagle Strike, and Nikolai Drevin from the sixth book, Ark Angel.
  • While Dale Brown novels often use a remilitarised Russia, Act of War and Edge of Battle has explicitly ex-military Colonel Yegor Zakharov and his men.
  • Rainbow Six has Dmitriy Arkadeyevich Popov, a former KGB intelligence officer who instigates terrorist incidents on behalf of the Big Bad. At least until he learns the truth of the plan, decides that Even Evil Has Standards, and turns informer.
  • In the prologue to the Death Lands series about an After the End United States, a hardline communist faction called vseesozhzenie (terrible fire) tries to take out the US military and political command system by exploding three nuclear bombs in Washington D.C. during the Presidential inauguration, as a prelude to a nuclear attack. It doesn't go well.
  • The Big Bad in James Bond novel Death Is Forever (which is set ten months after the dissolution of Soviet Union) seeks to restore international communism, and the book repeatedly posits the threat of people who won't give up on its ideology, and will continue to fight the west until the bitter end.

Live Action Television
  • A few MacGyver bad guys.
  • Jake20 used this.
  • 24 uses this from time to time, particularly when Charles Logan shows up.
    • Before subverting it in the final season.
  • NCIS has these everywhere.
    • As did parent series JAG. Most motable example is submarine captain Mikhail Yerastov, hired by Al-Qaeda in season 7, who wants to avenge his dead KGB wife who was killed by the CIA.
  • Spooks has a very interesting variant in its tenth and final season. In this case, the renegades' endgame is to trick Britain into attacking a Russian jetliner bound for London, thus stopping a proposed Partnership and driving the two nations into war while simultaneously opening the way for the Ultranationalist Party to seize power in the Kremlin.

Tabletop Games

Video Games
  • Zakharov in the video game Act of War.
  • The similarly-named Zakhaev in Modern Warfare. Inverted in Modern Warfare 2 when we learn that Zakhaev's movement actually does take control of the Kremlin not so long after his death, and the second game instead makes the Bear angry again. Black Ops has Nikita Dragovich planning to disperse lethal biological agents in major U.S. cities in a plot that is hinted to be running without anyone in the Kremlin either approving or knowing the full details.
  • And again, the also-similarly-named Zaitsev in Vanquish, who initiated a coup in Russia with his robot army.
  • General Alexei Vasilievich Guba from the Operation Flashpoint series, particularly the first installment, Cold War Crisis. The year is 1985, and Guba and his loyalist troops have launched an unauthorized invasion on a certain backwoods island chain sandwiched between NATO and Warsav Pact territory. They have 2 stolen nuclear SCUD launchers and intend to provoke World War III between the East and West Bloc (because Guba is deeply disgusted by Gorbachov's perestroika and the decline of the economic and military might of the USSR).
  • Colonel Volgin in Metal Gear Solid 3, an interesting example as the Soviet Union is still around during MGS3.
    Ocelot: 20th century Russia had its share of problems, but at least they had an ideology. Russia today has nothing!
    Snake: They're struggling between freedom and order, and a new spirit of nationalism has been born.
    • Subverted with the Soviet personnel in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops: They were doing exactly what the Soviet government told them to do on the San Hieronymo Peninsula (build a missile base), and carried on with the top-secret mission while suffering all the while specifically because they thought doing the mission under the Soviet government would greatly benefit Russia. However, when Detente came, and the Soviet Union experienced a policy shift, the Soviet government screwed them over, cancelling all shipments and cutting all communications with them, not even allowing them to come home specifically because they wanted to make it seem as though the Soviet soldiers were of this trope in case the missile base was ever discovered. Suffice to say, the soldiers weren't pleased at this development.
  • In Splinter Cell, General Kong Feirong and his faction of the PLA provide another Chinese example.
  • GoldenEye Wii upgraded its Renegade Russians to accommodate advancing the story to 2010. General Ourumov became an under-the-table arms dealer out of jealousy toward rich, post-Soviet era oligarchs, while Xenia Onatopp is a veteran of the 2008 South Ossetia War who left the Russian army and went mercenary.
  • Older Than They Think trope as far as video game plots go, actually, particularly for Mil Sims. "Red" Russian forces bent on restoring the old Soviet system by taking control of nuclear arms and facilities in Murmansk and the Kola Peninsula have served as the plots for the original Ghost Recon game and the study combat flight sim Jane's F/A-18. Both games predate Modern Warfare by seven years.
  • Colonel Markov, General Stanisgeslov, and Major Illich from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, whose coup forces against the Russian government of 2016 are called the New Russian Federation (NRF).
  • Red Ivan from Evil Genius is an ex-Soviet commando who was exiled to a gulag for having a sadistic streak that even his old Soviet taskmasters found distasteful. Being betrayed left him disillusioned with Communism, but he also retains his hatred of western politics, making him the perfect tool for an Evil Genius out to cause global chaos.
  • Modern military shooter spoof and Doom mod Call Of Dooty parodies this. The player is clearly just fighting the same zombies, imps and demons from the core game, but the map designer just slapped a few hammer-and-sickles on the maps, while every character swears up and down that they're actually fighting Russians (on Phobos.)

Web Original
  • Sapphire: Boris Rubanenko. Officially, he pledges allegiance to the Soviet Union. However, in Episode I, he plans to nuke the West AND East indiscriminately, so that both sides will be weak enough for a Psychic takeover.
    • Not to mention trying to start another war between North Korea and Japan in Episode II, plus whatever he has up his sleeve for Episode III...

Real Life
  • The group of military officers and KGB leaders who tried to depose Gorbachev in 1991.

Renegade Splinter FactionVillainsThe Renfield
Reluctant RulerAdded Alliterative AppealRequisite Royal Regalia
Mother Russia Makes You StrongEurope IndexRuritania

alternative title(s): Renegade Chinese
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