Explaining the phenomenon of the Western Russophile, more accurately described as a Team Russia fanatic, is a long and complicated process. While these individuals often sound the same, almost word-for-word, their motives are not always identical. There also tends to be a divide between Team Russia fans who live in Russia, those who have only visited, and those who have never set foot in the country. Yes, that’s right, many Team Russia fanatics have never even been to Russia. There tends to be a rule-of-thumb which states that the less experience one actually has in Russia, the less likely they are to join Team Russia. If they are actually living here and spouting Team Russia’s bullshit then they either have nice cushy position or they are just plain delusional. Anyway, I’d like to share this comment I found, completely at random, which illustrates the typical Team Russia cheerleader mentality. It was on a Moscow Times story about the Kremlin.
“What the h#ck…!?!?!?! Have you been to the Kremlin…? It is the most Magical, Inspirational, Holy, Reverent, Mysterious, Beautiful, Wonderful, Historical place on Earth I have ever been. It’s about how Russia got to where they are today. Historically, America has nothing on Russia…”
Now first off, let me get some preliminaries out of the way. If you haven’t visited the Kremlin yet, don’t start booking your tickets after reading that individual’s description. Sure it’s impressive and it’s a must see for your first trip to Moscow, but this gentleman went far overboard. Let me also say that I was myself a Team Russia fanatic for several years after first visiting the country as a teenager. Those days ended before I even relocated to Russia, when I was 23. Russia was my first real trip outside the country and my first trip to the “Old World”, so I too was impressed to see churches in the Kremlin which were built centuries before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic. But even as an ultra-passionate Russophile I never took it that far. And that’s just it; most of my Team Russia phase took place in my late teens. Two years after I reached the legal drinking age, when I actually moved to Russia to live and not merely to visit, my Team Russia phase ended with a crash. I think I could understand a young person who falls in love with a country from a short visit, perhaps all the way to the age of 25. But when you have someone in their 30’s or even worse, middle-aged just slobbering over anything remotely Russian it’s really time to stop and take a personal inventory.
It’s wholly understandable that young people, even in their early twenties, may feel alienated and upset about their own country and culture. Some of their complaints may not be justified, but sometimes they are. People from all around the world feel this way about their own countries. There is after all the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” On the other hand, if you hit your thirties and you’re still angsty, bitter, and alienated at your own country and society, perhaps the problem is you. If you really think your outrage at your own society is justified, you really ought to be taking a stand and doing something about it rather than running away to Team Russia, whether figuratively or literally, and trying to live vicariously through another people you most likely don’t understand. It’s also worth noting that most of these types, if they do move to Russia, only find friends among hardcore nationalists who are only too happy to have an American who constantly complains about America around. That’s all you’re good for to them. Ordinary Russians just don’t seem to be too interested in listening to foreigners talk about Russia all the time, and dictate what their national identity should encompass.
And that’s just the thing; American and other foreign-born Team Russia fans deny Russians the very right that they claim for themselves. They claim to be fed up and tired of their own country’s culture, but many of them actually claim they are still true patriots of some sort. Yet the Russian who takes an interest in foreign cultures and dreams of living abroad is, according to these types, a traitor who is full of self-hatred. Most Russian people don’t like a foreigner dictating these terms to them.
Another thing one notices about the Team Russia fanatic is the constant groveling and sycophantic slobbering. Any news story which concerns a social problem in Russia is met with a wave of comments to the effect of “HEY THIS HAPPENS IN AMERICA TOO!” Most people aren’t stupid enough to suggest that the problem in the US is actually worse than it is in Russia, but apparently the fact that both Russia and the US have homeless people is supposed to negate the Russian problem entirely. It’s still a point against America, of course. This is because Team Russia fanatics have assimilated a definition of “patriotism” which is quite popular in Russia, especially supporters of the regime. Ignoring all the criticisms I have about “loving one’s country,” there are different forms of patriotism and some are better than others. The best is when people look at their nation, see all kinds of problems, and then set about to better their nation by dedicating their lives to solving those problems. If you look at other nations and see they are ahead of you in one way or another, you examine your own society to identify and solve its issues, and often in the process you critically analyze traditions and cultural norms with the realization that some of them are actually holding the nation back. This is what the Bolsheviks did, and modern Russia was truly build on a socialist foundation. Ataturk did this with the Turkish Republic. The Meiji restoration and the rebuilding of Japan after WWII were other examples of this phenomenon.
Russian patriotism, or more accurately Team Russia patriotism, is something quite different. Here you simply deny problems, or act like they are negated if the same problem exists anywhere else, particularly the United States. American Team Russia fanatics will sometimes go so far as to claim that Russia is better to live in than the States, but this is clearly ridiculous. There are advantages to living in Russia but nearly none of them have anything to do with Russia itself or the culture. More importantly, we could come up with all kinds of criticisms of the United States, but then we also have to account for countries like Sweden, Austria, Norway, Denmark, etc. which have standards of living which are considerably better than the United States and far above those in Russia. The irony is that as they grovel for approval which only comes from a rather small sub-set of Russians, American Team Russia fans are once again doing exactly what they condemn when Russians do it. That is to say that if they speak about a real, genuine problem in the United States, they will attack any Russian who speaks about real problems in Russia as a liberal traitor or someone with a self-hatred problem. Remember, Russians, you are to are only allowed to build your identity according to the decrees of the Church, small obscure political organizations with ties to the Kremlin, and of course, American expats or even those who have never visited Russia. They get to dictate your culture to you.
I cannot repeat this enough; I hate the groveling. If you don’t like the way things are going in America then take a fucking stand and change things instead of running away to Russia and becoming someone’s dancing American monkey. There are good reasons to live in Russia and living in Russia doesn’t require you to take an oath of allegiance to Vladimir Putin. In fact not doing so means you’ll find more friends among Russians of all political stripes.
One more thing, American Team Russia fans, stop making it seem like everything in Russia is so wonderful and magical. Yeah I did that myself once, because I was fucking sixteen. What’s your excuse now?
“OMG THIS RUSSIAN ALCO-ENERGY DRINK IS SO EFFERVESCENT, SO WONDERFUL, SO MAGICAL! FAR SUPERIOR TO AMERICAN ALCO-ENERGY DRINKS! I’M SURE THIS BEVERAGE IS LOADED WITH ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS FROM THE PRISTINE RUSSIAN STEPPES!”