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Nicknaming the Enemy

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Rafin: It is one matter to fire at clay marks, but much another to nullify the Nemesis. That's what Namon told, and he told the truth before he went to the gloried way after.
Chakotay: He was right. Killing's not easy.
Rafin: Risking my own days and nights to drive the Nemesis from our sphere. That should be as easy as a long sleep.

Soldiers often come up with a name for the enemy that's easy to remember, usually quicker to say than their actual name (or if they never learn the enemy's name). Sometimes this is a racial or ethnic slur (and in some cases becomes such a slur); sometimes it's a cultural reference, and sometimes refers to appearance. Doing so is commonly a form of Demonization and has the effect of 'Othering' the enemy, making them seem less human, thus keeping the troops from considering the enemy's humanity, and thus making it easier for the troops to kill them. For that reason, the practice is often encouraged (or at least not discouraged) by the troops' superiors while the war's going on. In science fiction or fantasy settings, this is made even easier when the enemy is not the same species as the troops. In such works this trope may also be the result of the real name being forbidden, or a summons.

These designations often find a way into propaganda and slogans used to whip up civilian support for the war effort, and continued use of these terms after the war can indicate a person who lived through the war and either adopted the term as a habit of speech or is having trouble moving past those years.

A subtrope of Demonization. Compare to What Measure Is a Mook?, Fantastic Slurs, Reporting Names.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z: Frieza and most of his followers refer to Saiyans as monkeys or apes. This is played with in that the Saiyans weren't originally Frieza's enemies, and even worked for him, but in his paranoia Frieza grew to believe they could exceed his power and so decided to wipe them out pre-emptively. It didn't work.
  • Dragon Ball Super: A tragic example occurs in the Future Trunks Saga. Future Bulma is the one who gave Goku Black his name; he initially went by Goku's actual name, and Future Bulma couldn't stand associating such a genocidal monster with the identity of her dear friend.
  • Gundam
    • In the English version of Mobile Suit Gundam, the Federation and Zeon forces call each other "Feddies" and "Zeeks", respectively. In Japanese, they're just called "Renpou (Federation)" and "Zeon" regardless of who's talking.
    • Less creatively, the Alliance soldiers in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED are known to refer to Coordinators as "Space Monsters". A less-used, but more creative term is "Patchworker", in reference to their 'patchwork' DNA. On the ZAFT side of the coin, "Natural scum" and "Earth trash" are the most-commonly used slurs.
  • In Monster Rancher, Moo's minions are called "Baddies" by the protagonists. While the protagonists prefer the term "goodies" for themselves, Moo and his lieutenants dub them with the more dignified "Searchers".

    Comic Books 
  • The German forces in the World War I serial "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" are as likely to be referred to as "the bosch" or "the huns" as they are by any proper designation- Truth in Television, as the "Real Life/History" section below can attest.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): The US ground forces refer to the Germans as Jerrys.
  • Sigil: Samandahl Rey consistently refers to his Arch-Enemy, the Saurian prince Tchlusarud, as "Loser'.
  • X-Men: There's a lot of terms mutant-hating humans use to refer to the children of the atom. "Mutie" is the most popular, while "genescum" and "genejoke" are popular on Genosha. On the other end, "flatscan" and "deadend" are terms mutants use to refer to humans. A variant of the former, "halfscan", is a slur mutants use within their own community to refer to other mutants with weak or passive powers. "Geecee" (Genetically-Challenged) was a term coined by Strong Guy as a politically-correct alternative to "mutie", but it rarely saw use outside of X-Factor and other books written by Peter David.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Star Trek Online fic Bait and Switch, as well as in the Foundry mission it's based on, multiple characters call Orions "greenskins" or "greenies". In the fic, Eleya also once calls the Borg "boltheads".
  • In "Last Rights" Vaadwaur is truncated to "Vaads" by nearly everybody. This one originated on the Star Trek Online forums as a Fan Nickname.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K:
    • The humans from the Imperium of Man are nicknamed "Imps" by the Republic and Jedi.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus are nicknamed "droidmen" by the Republic's clone troopers due to their heavy cybernetic augmentation and droid-like behavior.
    • The Republic's clone troopers are called "toy soldiers" by the Imperial Guardsmen due to their nature as mass-produced clones that were artificially grown for war.
    • After their initial victories against the Republic, various Imperial officers call Republic forces "softies" due to believing them to be weak and soft.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Enemy Mine: Dracs are called "lizards" by humans.
  • Blade Runner uses the term "Skinjobs" to refer to Replicants. In the versions where Deckard is narrating, the term is implied to be used by bigots.
  • District 9's "Prawns."
  • In both the 1988 film Alien Nation and the 1989 Fox series that continued the film's storyline, the humanoid alien race is officially referred to as "Newcomers." The epithet "Slag" is used by the bigots who target them.
  • Three Kings had several soldiers discussing which nicknames for the Iraqis were appropriate and which ones were not. One particularly dim-witted soldier complains that he just can't keep it all straight.
  • In The World's End, after it's hammered in that they are not robots, the group discuss what they should call them. While "blank" is initially just a place-holder, they eventually settle on it because it fits.
  • The ace Nazi pilot antagonist in Red Tails is given the nickname "Pretty Boy" by the Red Tails, and no one ever learns his actual name.
  • It's heavily and hilariously discussed in Inglourious Basterds when Hans Landa gets his hands on Aldo and Utivitch:
    Landa: So you're Aldo the Apache?
    Aldo: So you're the Jew Hunter?
    Landa: 'Jew Hunter'. I'm a detective. A damn good detective. Finding people is my specialty, so naturally I worked for the Nazis finding people, and yes some of them were Jews, but 'Jew Hunter?' Just a name that stuck.
    Utivich: Well you do hafta admit it is catchy.
    Landa: Do you control the nicknames, your enemies bestow on you? Aldo the Apache and The Little Man?
    Utivich: What do you mean, 'The Little Man?'
    Landa: The Germans nickname for you.
    Utivich: The Germans nickname for me is 'The Little Man?'
    Landa: Or 'The Little One', either one means you, and as if to make my point, I'm a little surprised how tall you were in real life. I mean, your a little fellow but not circus midget little, as your reputation would suggest.

  • In the World War I-era book The Alice Network, the Germans are sometimes called the Huns or the Bosche. A British officer refers to the French (who are not his enemy) as Frogs, and Eve, half French, sometimes calls English soldiers Tommies out of disdain.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Humanity's main opponent was officially known as "the Arachnids" (or "Pseudo Arachnids"), but the MI called them "the Bugs".
    "The historians can't seem to settle whether to call this one '"The Third Space War"' (or the fourth), or whether '"The First Interstellar War"' fits it better. We just call it '"The Bug War"'."
    • The other opponent's official name was never mentioned, but the MI called them "the Skinnies".
  • In Heinlein's Between Planets, the rebelling Venus Nationalists are called "fog-eaters" by Federation troops due to the heavy mists common on Venus and the Federation troops are called "greenies" due to their mottle green fatigues. Among themselves, the Venus guerrillas called themselves "duckfoots".
  • In both the book and the movie Black Hawk Down, the Somalians are referred to as "Skinnies" by the Rangers, as they apparently were in real life. While many assume that this refers to the malnutrition of the locals, it's actually a reference to Starship Troopers, which is a popular book among the battalion and required reading at West Point.
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Footfall, the invading aliens are called the Fithp, but humans call them "Snouts" because they look like baby elephants with two trunks.
  • In Horatio Hornblower Frenchmen are always referred to as "Frogs", and the Spaniards are called "Dagos".
    • Also applies to the army, the sailors disparagingly/jokingly referring to the members of the rival service as "the Lobsters".
  • Honor Harrington has "Manties" (Star Kingdom/Empire of Manticore), "Peeps" (People's Repubic of Haven),"Andies" (Andermani Empire), "Sillies" or "Confeds" (Silesian Confederacy), and "Sollies" (Solarian League). Haven's State Sec troopers get called "Black Legs", owing to their black uniform trousers.
  • World War Z: United States soldiers referred to the undead as Zack; in the United Kingdom and Europe, they called them Zed. They're also referred to as "ghouls" or "G"s.
  • The Draka: Americans and the rest of the Alliance for Democracy refer to the Draka as "Snakes" for their ruthlessness and amorality. The Draka, for their part, refer to Germans as "Fritz", Russians as "Ivan", Arabs as "Abdul", and normal Americans as "Yank" or "Yankee".
  • In the Worldwar series, humans are called "Big Uglies", the Race are called "Lizards". The Race's official name for Humans is "Tosevites," after their name for Earth (Tosev 3).
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Being The Nicknamer, Harry Dresden does this with most of his enemies (and his allies tend to pick them up). Since I Know Your True Name is in effect in this universe this is actually quite a good strategy (some enemies are actually weakened by being referred to by nicknames).
    • Lampshaded with the Denarians, who Harry learned the name of before interacting with them much, and as such, never gave a nickname to (although, even then, their "official" name is "Order of the Blackened Denarius"). When they show back up, he remarks that actually calling them "Denarians" is giving them far too much credit, and asks his allies for suggested nicknames (they go with "Nickelheads").
  • The "Buggers" in Ender's Game.
    • In the Earth Unaware prequel, the Venezuelan family of Asteroid Miners who first spot the Bugger ship and see the creatures face-to-"face" label them "Hormigas" ("ants" in Spanish). When they transmit the data to a corporate mining ship, the first scientist to see it immediately rejects the name, as it uses a living language. She immediately reclassifies them as "Formics" (the same thing but in Latin).
  • The Mote in God's Eye:
    • The humans nickname the aliens "Moties", since it's believed that the alien probe came from the star called "The Mote". Though, it's done not because they're at war, but because they didn't know what the aliens actually are called.
    • "Outies" refers to anyone trying to fight against the Second Empire of Man.
  • In Star Wars Legends, the Rebels derisively call Imperials "Bucketheads". More often, they use the term "Imps".
    • "Yuuzhan Vong" is often shortened to "Vong" by New Republic (then Galactic Alliance) forces. Incidentally this is an insult: using just that part of the name implies the individual is without the favor of the gods. Given the circumstances, the GFFA denizens don't generally care. Meanwhile the fanbase uses "Vong" purely for the sake of convenience.
      • "Vong" is for convenience. When people want to get insulting and/or angry they refer to them as "scarheads" due to their ritual scars, which are used to mark rank.
    • Rebel pilots have several nicknames for TIE fighters: "eyeballs" for regular fighters, "squints" for Interceptors, "brights" for the Advanced models, "dupes" for Bombers, and "trips" for Defenders.
  • In the Star Carrier series, Confederation military personnel call the Turusch by a variety of puns on their name, including "Tush," "Tushies," and "Trash." Their fighters are "Toads" due to looking rather like a lumpy potato.
    • Even the names "Turusch" and "H'rulka" are adopted from the Agletsch. The H'rulka, for example, call themselves "All of Us" and all the other races, who are tiny in comparison (to the point where a H'rulka in their version of a one-man fighter doesn't notice a team of SEALSnote  entering its ship), are "vermin".
  • In "Resistance: The Gathering Storm" the alien Chimera are referred to as "stinks" due to the noxious smell they give off. Interestingly, this nickname does not appear in the video game series the novel is based off of.
  • In "The Enemy" Book series, the children call what's left of the adults: zombies, mothers and fathers, grown ups, sickos, strangers and other names. Nicknames depend on the faction.
  • Wasp (1957): Sirians call humans "Spakum", which means "bed bug". Humans return the favor by referring to them as "blowflies" (because of the Sirians' blue skin, and thus blue buttocks).
  • The High Crusade: "Bluefaces", for Wersgorix, because of their skin color.
  • The Expanse: Earthers are "squats", Belters are "skinnies", and Martians are "dusters" (with their navy specifically nicknamed "mickies"). Earthers and Martians get lumped together as "inners" by the Belters. Later, the Laconians get lumped into the "inner" category, or they get the much less complimentary "fuckonians" nickname. The protomolecule builders are frequently called "Romans" (as the civilization that built the roads) which led to the ones who destroyed their civilization being called "Goths".
  • In The Lord of the Rings Gondorians do not speak Sauron's name, as that would give him honor that they refuse him. Ironically the occasional use of "the Nameless" (usually in phrases like "servants of the Nameless") itself amounts to giving him a name, and a disparaging one—he who does not deserve a name.
  • In Small Gods, Urn reflects that this is one of the problems with a civil war, at least before the sides get entrenched:
    It was much easier when you picked enemies who were a different colour or at least spoke with a funny accent. You could call them "gooks" or something. It made things easier.
  • In The Lost Fleet books, the aliens obsessed with remaining hidden at all costs are dubbed "Enigmas" by the Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds. Their true name is never revealed. The Omnicidal Maniac "bear-cows" are dubbed "Kicks" by the Alliance fleet, which is short for "Krazy Kows". The ugly but friendly "spider-wolves" are called "Dancers" because their ships seem to dance rather than move through space. It's not until much later that the Alliance actually runs into an alien race that flat-out introduces itself (having developed a translator before even meeting humans) as the Taon. From their perspective, the Taon refer to the Dancers as "eight-legs".

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H: both North and South Koreans are occasionally called "gooks" by unsympathetic guest characters, as was the case in real life (from Hangook, the Korean word for Korea).
    • The North Korean pilot who tries to bomb a nearby ammo dump every day at five is nicknamed "Five O'Clock Charlie."
  • Game of Thrones: people of the Seven Kingdoms, when speaking of tribals from beyond the Wall, they use the term "wildlings", as they view them as uncivilized. Those living North of the Wall refer to themselves as "the Free Folk", and call the people from the South "kneelers", as they kneel to kings they never chose and serve people regardless if they prove worthy to be their leaders.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The term "Chigs" were used to refer to their alien enemies.
    • Meanwhile, a Silicate agent informs the humans that the Chigs have their own unflattering nickname for the humans, which loosely translates as "Red Stink Creature"—rather close in meaning to what the humans call them. Just as we think the Chigs seem "unnatural" by Terran standards because they have green blood and smell like sulfur, by the standards of what "normal" life forms are on the Chig homeworld, our red blood and non-sulfur smell is disgusting and frightening to them.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) has the cylons as "Toasters" or "Bulletheads". Human-form cylons are also called "skinjobs", a Shout-Out to Bladerunner.
  • The Sirian Scary Dogmatic Aliens of V (1983) call themselves "visitors" and are referred to as "lizards".
  • Ultraviolet (1998), a character who is a former soldier refers to Code 5's as "leeches".
  • Most of the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost (1974) were given nicknames. The local T-Rex was called "Grumpy".
  • Independent-leaning characters in Firefly are known to call Alliance troops "purple-bellies". Goes both ways as the Alliance calls them “Browncoats” for their, well, guess.
  • In Star Trek, Cardassians are commonly called "Cardies" or "spoonheads" by their enemies, chiefly Bajorans. Cardassians in turn refer to Klingons as "foreheads".
  • In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill occasionally refers to the Goa'uld as "snake-heads". This name derives from several things. First, it's a reference to fact that the Goa'uld symbiotes reside in their host's heads. It can also be applied to the Jaffa of Apophis, whose helmets are in the shape of a snake's head, and who have a crude tattoo of a snake on their foreheads.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Nemesis", a group of jungle freedom fighters are engaged in a guerilla war against an inhuman, genocidal adversary they refer to as "beasts", but primarily "the nemesis". It turns out to be part of a brainwashing propaganda campaign. However, the uglier aliens refer to the jungle warriors as their "nemesis" as well, suggesting that they also vilify their enemy.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Frontier in Space", the distinctly reptilian Draconians are referred to by their human enemies as "dragons", usually said with either contempt or fear.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Imperial Guardsmen have a wide variety of nicknames for their enemies (such as "greenskins" for orks, "bugs"/"'nids" for tyranids, "blueies" for Tau/their human followers...).
    • Orks refer to their enemies almost exclusively by insulting or demeaning names: "pointy-ears"/"panzees", "spikeboys", "grots", "gits" (Orks that are not part of the speaker's group), "greyskins" (the Tau again), not helped by their Funetik Aksent.
      • You'll sometimes hear Orks call Space Marines "Beakies", which was inspired by the beaked helmets of the Mark VI "Corvus" armor, even though few Space Marines wear Mark VI armor these days, it having been mostly replaced by the Mark VII "Aquila". Humans as a whole, especially Imperial Guard, are usually called "humies".
    • The generic Eldar term for humans is "mon-keigh". Not as in monkey, but after a near-mythical race of ogre-like creatures the Eldar fought against eons prior.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, the Oseans refer to Yuktobanians as "Yukes".
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, Gallian soldiers occasionally refer to their imperial enemies as "imps". There is even an in-game attribute some recruitable soldiers have called "Imp Hater" that gives a damage boost to enemies.
  • In Halo, the marines call the Elites "split-lips" or "hinge-heads", and have plenty of derogatory names for the Covenant's other species too.
    • In fact, the species names "Grunts", "Jackals", "Brutes", "Elites", "Hunters", "Drones", "Engineers", and "Prophets" are all nicknames given by humans to refer to the Covenant's separate races, with the alien hegemony's members as a whole referred to as "covies". Even Covenant vehicles (Ghosts, Wraiths, Banshees, etc.) are nicknamed.
  • In Fallout 3, Ghouls refer to humans as "Smoothskins." However, it's not clear whether this is necessarily a slur, as even friendly, sympathetic Ghouls refer to humans as this, sometimes even to their faces. On the other hand, when humans refer to Ghouls as "Zombies," it's definitely intended to be derogatory.
    • Ditto when Three Dog refers to the Super Mutants as "Frankensteins."
  • In the Wing Commander franchise, expect the humans to call the Kilrathi some variation of "Cats" or "Furballs", while the Kilrathi call the humans "Hairless Apes".
  • In video games featuring a war between the United States and a resurgent Russia, the American soldiers will sometimes use the hypothetical Cold War-era nickname "Ivan" to refer to their enemies.
  • In Killzone the ISA refer to the Helghans as "Higs".
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Republic forces sometimes call the Sith Empire troops "Imps". Imperials, in turn, refer to their rivals as "Pubs".
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Aliens are called either "ET" or "X-Ray".
    • Several of the alien names are confirmed to be nicknames given to them by soldiers, which stuck.
    Vahlen "This is the most physically aggressive specimen we've discovered so far, which the troops fondly refer to as "The Muton". I can only assume there's a colorful backstory for such a designation."
  • In the Left 4 Dead comic, the army codename the infected as "Whiskey Deltas" (walking dead).
  • In ARMA 3, the NATO troops on Altis and Stratis derogatively refer to the local armed forces, the AAF, as "Greenbacks". This doesn't help when the AAF turn around and actively engage NATO forces on Stratis in an effort to push them off the island.
  • In Metroid, the Space Pirates usually call Samus "The Hunter" in their logs. In the "Metroid Prime" subseries, Dark Samus is called "The Dark Hunter" by them.
  • The titular Einhänder is actually the name given to the Player Character's spacecraft by the Earth Forces enemy faction. Its real name is either "Astraea" or "Endymion", depending on the specific model you're flying.
  • In Far Cry 5, the local resistance has dubbed the Project at Eden's Gate the "Peggies".

    Web Original 
  • In the SCP Foundation Mythos: Two splintered sects of The Church of the Broken God, the Cogwork Orthodoxy and the Church of Maxwellism, disparagingly call each other "tickers" and "hummers" in their animosity.
  • In The Salvation War humans named the denizens of hell "Baldricks", mostly to avoid calling them demons and thus imply that they are very much a beatable enemy. The name caught on after Gordon Brown replied to The Message with the phrase "Sod off, Baldrick!"

    Western Animation 
  • During the Beast Wars, the Maximals would sometimes refer to the Predacons as "Preds".
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: The eco-villains tend to call the titular team "Planet pests", "Planet pains", "Planet punks" and other similar variations on their title.
  • In Exo Squad, the Terrans use either "Neos" or "Sapes" for Neosapiens. The first one is PC, the second is a Fantastic Slur, as Marsh points out once.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: the Clone would often call droids "klankers" (for the clanking sound they make).
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Michelangelo gives virtually every mutated enemy of theirs a nickname; Dogpound/Rahzar for Chris Bradford, Fishface for Xever, etc. Humorously, in The Pig and the Rhino, his naming the mutated Anton Zeck and Ivan Steranko as "Bebop" and "Rocksteady" was a case of Line-of-Sight Name.

    Real Life / History 
  • In World War I, the Germans were often called "Huns", "Gerry", or the "Bosch" by the Allies and "Fritz" by Russians.
  • Works made in (or to a lesser extent made later but set in) World War II refer to Japanese as "Japs" or "Nips" (short for Nipponese), and Germans "Krauts," though some World War I vets may still call them the "Huns"; "Jerry" was another popular term.note  Calling Italians "Wops" also crops up whenever writers remember the Italians were even in the war. Even officially issued documents like "Know Your PT Boat" (US Navy Bureau of Ships Technical Publication No. 9) did this.
  • The Germans had their own nicknames for the Allies: "Tommy" (British), "Amis" (Anglo-American), and "Иван"/"Ivan" (Russian).
  • During the Russian Civil War it was "redbelly" (краснопузы krasnopuzy) by the White for the Red, and "whitehoof" (белокопытов belokopytny) the other way round.
  • As noted above under M*A*S*H, during the Korean War both North and South Koreans were sometimes disparagingly called "gooks" by American troops, from Hangook (한국), the Korean word for Korea.
  • Works set in The Vietnam War will contain references to "Charlie" (from the radio callsign for Vietcong, Victor Charlie) in more or less official communiques and to 'gooks' (rolled over from the Korean War) or 'gomers' in the American troops' slang.
  • In The War on Terror, insurgents are referred to as "hajis", "ragheads", "goatfuckers", "sand niggers" or "dune coons" by US armed forces.
  • During the Afghan War in the USSR, and the Chechen War in The New Russia, "dukh" ("spirit") or "shaytan" (Islamic devil) was used as the Russian equivalent for the above mentioned "haji" or "raghead".
  • Russia is usually nicknamed "Иван"/"Ivan" in wars real, hypothetical, and Cold. During the Cold War, Americans additionally used "Russki" and "commie". The latter, referring to political ideology rather than ethnicity, was also applied to other communist enemies and to Americans regarded as too sympathetic to the Soviet Union.
  • "Finns" usually called Russians "Иван"/"Ivan" or "Ваня"/"Vanya". Sometimes also the derogatory "ryssä" and "slobo" were used. Germans were called "Fritz" or "Saku"; also names like "sakemanni" and "niksmanni" are known.
    • The Finnish Civil War 1918 was extremely brutal and the Reds were called "punikki" ("rednicks") or "kommari" (quite literally "commies") and Whites as "lahtari" ("butchers"). Technically both sides were guilty of high treason.
  • The American Revolution had "Yankee"/"Yank" used for the Americans (made famous for its use in "Yankee Doodle").
    • Period pieces often have the Americans calling British soldiers "redcoats", but historically, they were called "the King's men" by the American rebels.
  • In the American Civil War you had "Rebs" or "Johnny Rebs" for the Confederates. "Yankees" were often used for the Northerners, but this predated the Civil War.
  • Among the Yanks with Tanks, the Army (and to the lesser extent the Airforce) would prefer this trope be named "Nicknaming The Adversary". Only the Navy is referred to as "The Enemy".
    • Most of the Interservice Rivalry in the United States Military is this trope with a helping of good nature humor (usually).
  • Within the Ingress community, it is common for players to refer to players of the opposing faction as "Smurfs" (Resistance) and "Frogs" (Enlightened).
  • Orcs has become a rather common insult directed at Russians, especially Russian soldiers by Ukrainians, ever since the start of the 2022 Ukrano-Russian War.