RUSSIA as a state and civilization and Russian statehood as an institution have acted for centuries as system-forming factors of the world order. They have, at various times, exerted influence of varying intensity and significance on the shape, character, and content of international relations, while also being influenced by them. The West’s hostility toward Russia arose, took shape, and began to actively manifest itself as one of the constants of this influence, occasionally reaching the level of outright hatred and spiraling into attacks against Russian statehood, which invariably mobilized the country’s peoples to rebuff the aggressors.
The origins of Russian statehood and sovereignty date back to the reign of Prince Oleg (879-912), who de facto became the first legitimate head of the Old Russian state and established the principle that Russia is independent of any authority other than its own. By nailing his shield to the gates of Constantinople, he declared Russia’s entry into the international arena, codified in 941 under his successor Prince Igor in an agreement with the Byzantine Empire. The treaty is considered the first international document in which one of the parties is a state named Russia. By the end of the 10th century, this state was continuing to develop and had become so large and powerful that other parties in international relations of that period could no longer ignore it. The baptism of Rus, carried out under Prince Vladimir in 988, expanded the country’s international ties as a full member of the Christian community from that point on. The development of international relations was reinforced by marriage diplomacy. Prince Yaroslav married a daughter of the king of Sweden and married his daughters to a Polish prince and the kings of Hungary, Norway, and France. The marriage of his daughter, Anna Yaroslavna, to the French king Henry I is still viewed as a historical foundation of a special relationship between France and Russia.
Around the same time, the monarchy of Charlemagne both united and isolated the Romano-Germanic world, which, even after his kingdom’s collapse, continued to recognize its unity sealed by the Catholic faith. Herein lie the origins of the idea of the Romano-Germanic world as a special privileged world of the West that is superior to the East, the Slavic world, and other worlds. For centuries, the West has stubbornly cultivated this idea in international relations, imposing it on their participants.
In 962, King Otto of Germany declared the German lands separated from Charlemagne’s empire to be the Holy Roman Empire, which, in 1512, became the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The Holy Roman Empire, or the First Reich, which existed until 1806, began the German policy of eastward expansion (Drang nach Osten) with the Germanization of the Western Slavic tribes – the Pomeranians, i.e., those who lived along the coast of the Baltic Sea, and the Polabians, who occupied territories along the Labe (Elbe) River. The expansion was continued by the Second Reich: Kaiserist Germany of 1871-1918. Next, Hitler’s Third Reich attempted to implement it from 1933 to 1945, plunging the world into a global catastrophe before eventually suffering a crushing defeat.
Unlike other European powers, Russia never participated in colonial wars and partitions on other continents but expanded by annexing neighboring territories and advancing on its Eurasian continent toward Siberia and the Far East. The fact that Russia was acquiring new territories and possessions caused envy, jealousy, and concern in Europe and beyond. Karl Marx wrote about this: “Ancient maps of Russia are unfolded before us, displaying even larger European dimensions than she can boast of now: Her perpetual movement of aggrandizement from the ninth to the 11th century is anxiously pointed out.”1
The Muscovite state entered the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era as an impressive political force, having united vast expanses in eastern Europe and ready to take its rightful place in the European and global landscape. Western visitors started seeping into Moscow and, upon their return, talked about the wealth and power of Muscovite Rus. This was news to many in the West. As Karl Marx noted in his work Secret Diplomatic History of the 18th Century, “Astonished Europe, at the commencement of Ivan’s reign, hardly aware of the existence of Muscovy, hemmed in between the Tartar and the Lithuanian, was dazzled by the sudden appearance of an immense empire on its eastern confines.”2
The Russian state, gaining strength in the international arena, fought its way forward with difficulty, constantly overcoming the resistance of Western countries and having to resist their aggression almost from the very beginning. The appearance between 1198 and 1201 on Russia’s western borders of the Teutonic Order and the Order of the Sword – the supposed source of certain still existing aggressive inclinations and deep political structures of the West – was a direct threat to the Russian state, which soon resulted in brutal aggression. “God is not in power but in truth!” – Prince Alexander Nevsky proclaimed when mustering troops to repulse the Western invaders and refusing to betray Christian Orthodoxy and accept the promises of the West and the Catholic faith. The defeat of the “knight-dogs” on the ice of Lake Peipus under his leadership in 1242 and the resistance against the West’s other encroachments discouraged the aggressors from profiting at Russia’s expense for some time.
However, the riches of the vast country continued to beckon, and in order to gain access to them, the Jesuit Antonio Possevino, papal ambassador to the court of Ivan the Terrible, formulated the doctrine of the dismemberment of Russia in 1582 and proposed it to Pope Gregory XIII. In 1604, the Polish invasion of Moscow began. It marked the beginning of the Time of Troubles, which ended with the expulsion of the invaders. In 1700, Peter the Great’s Russia repulsed the West’s new aggression in the Northern War, from which it emerged as an empire and a great power. In addition to open armed aggression, the West used covert methods of struggle against Russia engaging in subversive activities within the country. The first attempt at a “color revolution” in Russia was the “Decembrist” revolt in 1825, which, just like the assassination of the Russian Emperor Paul I by conspirators, shows a “British trace.” The “covert hand of the West” is also suspected in the death under strange circumstances of several more Russian tsars and statesmen who firmly defended national interests and interfered with the plans of Great Britain and other West European states striving for world hegemony.
Western aggression against Russia and attacks on its statehood became collective starting in the 19th century. In 1812, Russia repelled not only the invasion of the French, who comprised only about half of Napoleon’s united army, but the collective aggression of all of Europe involving many states. In fact, this intervention ushered in a new era in relations between the West and Russia characterized by the fact that the Western countries began to act against the Russian state in concert both on the diplomatic field and on the battlefield.
Temporary coalitions like the Treaty of the Three Black Eagles (Austria, Prussia, Russia) or the Entente (Great Britain, Russia, France) changed little: The Western members immediately turned against Russia as soon as this move became profitable. For example, allied Austria, feeling no shame, betrayed Russia in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, in which the countries of the West once again acted as a united front against the Russian state. A quarter of a century later, collective actions of the West came to include charges of aggressiveness against Russia that were then used as a pretext to carry out their own aggressive policy. The spectacular victories of Russia in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, which brought liberation to the Orthodox Balkan peoples, were neutralized at the Berlin Congress by the collective efforts of the West, and the Western powers took advantage of the weakening of the Ottoman Empire, defeated by the Russian Army. Austria-Hungary captured Bosnia and Herzegovina; England occupied Cyprus and then Egypt.
After World War I, Russia’s former allies and opponents once again formed a united front to attack it, for the first time establishing a community with the participation of Japan that formed the concept of the “collective West.” Fourteen countries took part in the intervention of 1918-1920, intending to destroy and dismember the Russian state. A similar task was set by the Nazi regime in Germany, which unleashed World War II. Seven allied European states took its side to oppose Russia, using the potential of almost all of Europe, which by that time was under occupation. The Cold War against our country, launched by the West shortly after the end of World War II, was also a coalition effort. At present, having unleashed aggression against Russia from the Ukrainian bridgehead, the West is once again trying to break it through collective efforts under US leadership, not even concealing the fact that their ultimate goal is the destruction and dismemberment of Russia.
When noting the open hatred of Russia by the collective West that is currently united against it (more precisely, the hatred of the West’s ruling elites and not of its peoples, who at various times in history enthusiastically welcomed Russian liberators and admired [Yury] Gagarin’s flight and other achievements of the great power), it would be appropriate to ask about its underlying reasons.
In his essay “What Dismemberment of Russia Would Mean for the World,” written back in 1950, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin pointed to the West’s intention to “take the united Russian ‘broom’ apart into separate twigs, break these twigs one by one, and use them to kindle the fading fire of their civilization.” He labeled this strategy a “plan of hatred and lust for power.”3
It is amazing how accurately the philosopher formulated in just a few words over 70 years ago the essence of what still constitutes the West’s policy toward Russia. The scholar believed that there was not even the slightest reason for “the dismemberment of Russia prepared by the global power brokers” except for an “absurd fear of a united Russia.” He also noted that “Western peoples do not understand and do not tolerate Russia’s uniqueness.”4 He also drew attention to the demagogy and hostility of the West toward Orthodox Christianity.
More than 100 years before him, in 1845, another Russian philosopher, Alexey Khomyakov, reflecting on the reasons for the West’s hatred of our country in his article “Foreigners’ Opinion on Russia,” noted: “These hostile feelings in Western peoples are hard to explain…. The hostility is clearly based on two foundations: a deep awareness of the difference between Russia and Western Europe in all spiritual and social development principles and an instinctive frustration in the face of this independent force.”5
Historically, the West’s rejection of Russia’s spiritual principles has been connected with its struggle against Russian Orthodoxy, which today, in the context of the events in and around Ukraine, is visible not only in attempts to split the Orthodox Church but also in the intentions to replace Orthodoxy with Catholicism, as some Polish leaders openly suggest.
The same trend also results in the introduction of Satanism, barbaric rites, and pagan cults and symbols into the Orthodox space of the Slavic world. It is evident in the “conversion” of Ukrainian militant gangs to racism, Nazism, and misanthropy so that they can be used as a shock force of the West against Russia. Contrary to Orthodox Christian morality, mass violence and extreme cruelty are instilled in order to intimidate and suppress the resistance of dissidents. The Western practice of inhumane cruelty toward Russia has been known since the Crusades, when, as noted by Lev Gumilyov, “during the clashes between the Russians and the German crusaders … the Germans were hanging all Russians, including children, without exception. The Germans were waging a war of extermination against the Russians.”6
The West’s hatred of Russia and desire to destroy it are hard to attribute to ideological differences, as was suggested back when the world was bipolar; bipolarity is gone, but the hatred remains. The ideological explanation of its aggressive attitude toward Russia is merely a cover for the true goals of the West. The opinion of British historian Arnold Toynbee seems much more convincing and confirmed by the facts of history and modernity. He claimed that aggression is the only form of communication between the West and the outside world, and the history of diplomacy of the Western powers, entranced by Western democracy, easily reads like a list of sheer follies and misfortunes of mankind.7
In his 1871 book Rossiya i Yevropa [Russia and Europe], Russian geopolitical thinker Nikolay Danilevsky noted that “for this hostility of Europe toward Russia … we will find no reason in … the actions of Russia; we will find no explanation or answer based on facts. The reason for the phenomenon lies … in the unexplored depths of those tribal sympathies and antipathies that constitute, as it were, the historical instinct of peoples, leading them (in addition to, although not against their will and consciousness) to their unknown goal. It is this unconscious feeling, this historical instinct that makes Europe dislike Russia…. In a word, a satisfactory explanation … of this public hostility can only be found in the fact that Europe recognizes Russia … as something alien to itself … and hostile. To an impartial observer, this fact is irrefutable.”8
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Dnevnik pisatelya [Diary of a Writer] contains the passage: “It is difficult to conceive to what extent she [Europe] is afraid of us. And if she is afraid of us, she must be hating us.”9 In another work of his, pondering the question “what have we gained from Europe by being so subservient to her?” he replies, “Only her hatred!”10 In the same place, he talks about the need for Russia “to banish the slavish fear that Europe will call us Asiatic barbarians,” and not to lose spiritual independence, energy, and money trying “to prove to Europe that we were Europeans and not Asiatics.”11 The writer clearly sees that Russia’s self-abnegation only engenders disrespect in the West.
To incite Russophobia and hatred for the Russian state, the West constantly uses the theme of Russian cruelty, victims, and repression in Russia. This issue is mobilized and inflated every time another attempt is made to place our country under Western influence in some way and force it to hew to foreign interests. At the same time, the West’s historical manipulations with figures and facts invariably focus on the statesmen whose names are associated with Russia’s achievements, its rise, expansion of its frontiers, reaching a new geopolitical level, establishing an independent policy, and defending national interests. For example, the great achievements of Ivan the Terrible, who defended and elevated his country, are obscured by the theme of his supposedly pathological cruelty, which for centuries has been persistently and consistently introduced into the Russian consciousness by Western countries and their Russian followers.
At the same time, the deeds of the Western rulers, which far outpaced those of the Russian sovereign in terms of the cruelty of reprisals and number of victims, are not discussed or condemned, as if they never took place. Once again, the West clearly uses double standards, avoiding talking about the historical crimes of its rulers while readily talking about the barbarism and cruelty of the Russians on every possible occasion.
Meanwhile, a contemporary of Ivan the Terrible, the English Queen Mary I Tudor (1553-1558), being a devout Catholic, diligently burned Protestants at the stake and sent possible rivals to the chopping block, earning the nickname Bloody Mary.12 Elizabeth I (1558-1603), who succeeded her on the throne, was a Protestant and turned against Catholics, killing tens of thousands of people.13
Even earlier, King Henry VIII Tudor (1509-1547), the founder of the Anglican Church, launched the most severe repressions to force the English clergy to follow the new rules. According to historians, 376 monasteries were destroyed, and more than 70,000 people were executed and burned at the stake during his reign in Britain. He had two of his wives beheaded. His predecessor, King Henry VII Tudor (1457-1509), created the Star Chamber, through which he carried our sentences and mass executions.15 The leader of the English bourgeois revolution, Oliver Cromwell, who sent King Charles I to the chopping block, also destroyed the Catholics of Ireland and Scotland by the tens of thousands. In Ireland, about 50,000 people were killed or evicted. In the Scottish city of Dundee, during the destruction of the city harbor, 2,000 people were massacred at once.16
It was not just England that was ruled with such cruelty. In France, Queen Marie de Medici (1575-1642) organized the massacre of French Protestants (Huguenots). On St. Bartholomew’s night on August 24, 1572, about 30,000 people were slaughtered in Paris and throughout France. Incidentally, Ivan the Terrible condemned that event.17 Maximilian Robespierre’s “Age of Terror” cost the lives of 40,000 Frenchmen, including himself.
King Ferdinand II of Castile and Aragon (1479-1516), who established the court of the Inquisition in 1478, condemned more than 8,800 people to be burned at the stake and imposed other punishments, such as the confiscation of property, on another 90,000 suspected heretics.
King Henrique I of Portugal (1513-1580), a passionate hunter of heretics and Jews, organized an auto-da-fé with the mass burning of Jews in 1540.
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, during the capture of Rome in May 1527, killed more than 8,000 people in one night.19
Later, Belgian King Leopold II (1865-1909) massacred about 3 million people in the Congo, ruthlessly cracking down on the local population and subjecting it to the most severe exploitation.20
The Inquisition, which lasted almost until the mid-19th century, is believed to have claimed 10 million to 12 million lives, according to various estimates.21
Today, however, neither Western sovereigns who ruled with a “firm hand,” nor the Inquisition with its bonfires and torture, nor even pathological sadist rulers like Romanian King Vlad III Tepes (1431-1476), who killed about 100,000 of his subjects,22 or Hungarian ruler Elizabeth Báthory (1590-1610), who killed more than 600 young girls and bathed in their blood to regain her youth,23 evoke calls for repentance; the West and its adherents address such calls only to Russia.
To stir up Russophobia and anti-Russian sentiments, the West actively uses information warfare against Russia, launched almost from the beginning of the mass use of the printing press. Back in 1655, Moscow was outraged by a Western libel against the Russian tsars that popularized the still-used slander against Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich, who was made out to be a pathological tyrant. Moscow identified the “evil dishonor and reproach” against Russia and its representatives found in Polish books as one reason for terminating its peace with Poland. The information war against Russia has been waged for centuries using old myths and new inventions and these days takes the form of a global smear campaign spread across a wide range of countries and organizations. It dangerously undermines international stability and security and is fraught with escalation into real conflict situations.
Russia was forced to fend off the multidimensional political, economic, ideological, informational, and sanctions aggression of the West by launching the special military operation [in Ukraine], intended to push NATO back from Russian borders. This necessary and unavoidable step was used by the West to unleash dehumanizing propaganda against Russia, unprecedented in its wide use of lies and falsifications, and to attempt, quite openly, to destroy Russian statehood. In her insane hatred for our country, Liz Truss, prime minister of Great Britain all of 41 days, directly threatened to destroy Russia using nuclear weapons. The West, probably going for broke, started talking about a third world war through the mouths of its short-witted politicians and military officers. The US and NATO proxy war against Russia from the Ukrainian bridgehead brought to mind the prophecy of Fidel Castro that the next war in Europe would be a war between Russia and fascism, only fascism would be called democracy. [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky, the “face” of the Kiev regime, said about the confrontation with Russia that if Ukraine loses, democracy also loses, and that means that the US loses as well. As Stalin noted back in his day: “I thought that democracy was the power of the people. But Mr. Roosevelt explained to me that democracy is the power of the American people!” It must be acknowledged that the Americans, unfortunately, managed to play Ukraine against Russia and make the Kiev regime so obedient that its leaders today view democracy as the power of the American masters over them.
Russia’s pivot away from following Washington’s lead and toward independent policy was not well-received by the West. The US had assigned Russia the role of a maximally weakened raw-material appendage – a state incapable of taking an independent position on the world stage and that would be best divided into several parts, with Siberia and its natural resources being taken away as a “global asset.” Allegedly, that vision was voiced openly, in particular by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.24
Amid the growing immediate threat to the continued existence of the Russian state, the need to restore its military potential and regain its great power status on the world stage became obvious. It became a factor in reformatting the entire structure of connections and interdependencies in international relations and further increased the West’s hatred of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin began to consistently pursue a course toward reviving Russia’s greatness and power, including military power, eliciting an angry response from the US. In an attempt to bring Russia back under its control, the US has employed almost all means at its disposal except for the direct use of its troops, forcing the European allies to join the anti-Russian sanctions that are extremely detrimental to them.
The Russian card occupied a special place in the deck of Western diplomacy. Like a trump card from a trickster’s sleeve, it emerged every time a need arose to cite the mythical “Russian threat,” or, on the contrary, to declare that a solution to a particular international relations issue was impossible to achieve without Russia and that Russia was the obstacle. In contrast with the West’s essentially genetic resentment and hatred of Russia, the non-Western world shows a completely different attitude – it knows and remembers well that, unlike the Western powers, Russia has always acted as a liberator and never as an enslaver and oppressor. This obvious component of modern international relations is one of Russia’s most important geopolitical resources and should be utilized much more.
Envy, jealousy, fear, intolerance toward Christian Orthodoxy and Russian spirituality, and the perception of the vast country as an alien and hostile force are the historic components of the West’s hatred of Russia. But this may not be sufficient to explain why the West not only feels resentment toward Russia but constantly seeks to destroy it by attacking Russian statehood. The main reason lies, apparently, in Russia’s rich natural resources, the consumption of which in the world (and, accordingly, their importance for humankind) is steadily growing. The sharp aggravation of the international situation as a result of the West’s multi-pronged aggression against Russia produced an unexpected consequence. A very unpleasant fact for the West has become obvious – it depends on Russia much more than it expected. The sanctions meant to destroy Russia have boomeranged against those who implemented them. Supplies of cheap Russian gas, which for decades had been boosting the economies of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, France, Ukraine, and other European countries, were curtailed by the West to its own detriment. The US, which has managed to practically deprive its European allies of their sovereignty and subordinate them to its interests, also has impressive resources at its disposal.
But as for the European countries, their dependence on Russia goes far beyond energy resources. It will not be long before drinking water will become an even more important vital resource, and its main reserves in Europe are concentrated in Russia. As soon as the West prevented the supply of grain from Russia, the world came to the brink of a food disaster. Despite all its calls to abandon energy dependence on Russia at the cost of lowering the standard of living of its own population, the ruling class of the West is starting to see clearly that Russian resources, markets, and territories are indispensable – only, it seems that in this case, they draw erroneous conclusions fraught with a global catastrophe, including the possible extinction of humanity. Instead of returning to cooperation with Russia, the West is relying on escalating hatred and pooling efforts to destroy Russian statehood. The destruction of the USSR fostered illusions tempting the West to attempt a similar scenario for Russia.
The West, with its inexhaustible colonial plunder instinct and centuries-long habit of living comfortably at the expense of others, counted on the disintegration and dismemberment of Russia from within (as happened with the Soviet Union) in order to seize the much-coveted Russian wealth.
However, when it became clear that Russian statehood cannot be destroyed through ideological and informational warfare, the West switched to multi-pronged aggression in which Ukraine was assigned the role of a US and NATO bridgehead pumped up with Western weapons for a war against Russia to destroy Russian statehood. In fact, accomplishing this task has been the true goal of NATO eastward expansion, the hostile encirclement of Russia, and attempts to strangle it with sanctions – a goal hidden for the time being by false statements of Western officials. The proxy war of the West against Russia is seen as its “last and decisive battle” to keep and preserve all the abominations that it has planted in the world for centuries – wars, conflicts, enslavement, inequality, robbery, and exploitation, to give only a partial list of its crimes. It seems important to understand that the West of colonialism and oppression, having realized that the world is becoming different and will no longer be the way the West wants, might be ready for the most dangerous and reckless schemes in the name of maintaining its former dominant position. The collective will and determination of the peoples have the power to curb its aggressive aspirations, so the world community must unite for global action.
1 Marx K. Secret diplomatic history of the 18th century. London, 1899, p. 76.
2 Ibid., p. 81.
3 Ilyin I.A. Chto sulit miru raschleneniye Rossii (1950), https://pereklichka.livejournal.com/725489.html (retrieved on July 26, 2022).
5 Khomyakov A.S. Mneniye inostrantsev o Rossii. Complete works in eight volumes. Volume 1, https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/Aleksej_Homyakov/polnoe-sobranie-sochinenij-tom-1/1 (retrieved on July 26, 2022).
6 Nash Sovremennik, No. 1 (1991).
7 Toynbee A. Tsivilizatsiya pered sudom istorii [Civilization on Trial]. Moscow, 1996, pp. 106-107.
8 Zapad – Rossiya: otkuda yest poshlo protivostoyaniye? October 31, 2020, https://ss69100.livejournal.com/5372390.html (retrieved on July 26, 2022).
9 Dostoevsky F.M. Dnevnik pisatelya (1896).
10 Dostoevsky F.M. “Geok-Tepe. Chto takoye dlya nas Aziya,” Collected Works in 15 volumes. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1995, Vol. 14, p. 505.
12 Eriksson K. Mariya Krovavaya. Moscow: AST, 2007.
13 Somerset A. Elizabeth I.London, 1991.
14 Weir Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. Ballantine Books, 2002.
15 Tyudory, E-reading.by>bookreader.php/1038419/Tyudory.html
16 Coward, Barry. Oliver Cromwell (translated from English by O.A. Gunkova). Rostov-on-Don: Phoenix, 1997.
17 Leoni, Frida. Yekaterina Medichi. Italyanskaya volchitsa na frantsuzskom trone. Moscow: AST, Astrel, Harvest, 2012, 580 pp.
18 See: yaplakal.com›forum2/topic606388.html (retrieved on November 18, 2015).
20 Agamov A.M. Dinastii Yevropy 400-2016: Polnaya genealogiya vladetelnykh domov, Moscow, 2017, p. 51.
21 Grigulevich I.R. Istoriya inkvizitsii. Moscow, 1970.
22 Artamonova E. “Legenda o ‘velikom izverge,’ ” Nauka i zhizn, No. 2 (2005).
23 Kimberly L. Craft. Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2009.
24 See for example: https://www.pravda.ru/world/289810-albright (retrieved on July 29, 2022).