Monday, May 9, 2016

Calling ‘Rossiya’ ‘Russia’ Gives West Undeserved Ideological Victory, Sandakov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 9 – Russia has lost “the first round of the information war” by allowing the West to call “Rossiya” “Russia,” according to Dmitry Sandakov who argues that other countries are using this incorrect name to deliver a subliminal message that Russians are aggressive and represent “a constant threat to the peaceful life of Europeans and Americans.

            In an article on the Belarusian portal Obrazovaniye, the social scientist and his colleaguer V.Yu. Laman insist that “the official name of the country is Rossiya,” and that allowing the West to call it “Russia” is “the greatest diversion against Rossiya” (

            Western countries use the name “Russia” for “Rossiya,” a misuse that corresponds to the Russian раша,” and they write the word “русский” as “Russian” and pronounce it like “рашн.” “There are no logical explanations” for this violation of good sense except anti-Russian politics.

            “Some people,” Sandakov continues, claim “to see here an analogy with the word Rus, but the word ‘Rus’ was never the official name of the state at any point in the visible historical past.”  In fact, he argues, the West wants to associate the word and reality of Russia with the word “rush” and all its connotations, including aggressive ones.

            “This complex of associated meanings at the conscious and unconscious level form a corresponding general attitude toward Russians,” one that is “suspicious” and “hostile,” the Belarusian writer continues.  “Every Russian (that is ‘rashn’) for an English speaker is thus a priori         and from the very beginning presented as an aggressor and source of danger.”

            In this way, Sandakov says, “one of the goals of a military information operation – to give one’s opponent the image of aggressor is successfully achieved without any effort and expense.”

            It is unknown exactly which English speaker came up with this idea first, he says, adding that “we only know” that it was far from always the case the English speakers used “Russia” as the name of the country.  At the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912, for instance, the team from Rossiya was led into the stadium under a placard reading “Rossia.”

             “Rossia,” he argues, is closely related to the word rose which has many positive connotations, something that those who promoted the use of “Russia” clearly did not want anyone to pick up on. But the situation is even worse as other languages, including Hebrew, do the same thing.

            But this “linguistic diversion” against Rossia has had even greater success than its authors probably thought possible: in recent times, “the word раша [Russia]” is being actively imported into Russia itself, with Rossians now talking about “Our Russia.” 

            “It is surprising,” Sandakov says, “that among the highest Rossian bureaucrats there is no one who ready to devote attention to this egregious phenomenon and shame.” Many of them have fallen into the trap of using the word “Russia” without thinking about the implications for their country and its people.

            Among the possible reactions to this article, two stand out: On the one hand, it is an example of the extreme paranoia of some Russian speakers. But on the other and given that it author is a Belarusian scholar, it may have a subliminal message of its own, one that among other things explicitly rejects any link between the current country and Rus.

            It will be interesting to see how Moscow as well as Minsk react.

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