Monday, June 13, 2022

Americans Study Russia More if Relations are Bad; Russians Study America More when They’re Good, Kurilla Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Americans devote more attention to Russia when relations between the two countries deteriorate because they feel it is necessary to know one’s enemy, while Russians devote more attention to the US when conditions are good because when they’re not, doing so is viewed as unpatriotic, Ivan Kurilla says.

            The reason for this, the historian at St. Petersburg’s European University, lies in the fact that Russians view America above all as a challenge, “not so much militarily” but rather because of the danger that the American model may become popular and lead some to want to apply it in Russia (

            This observation follows from his discussion of the need in both countries for “Another with a capital ‘A’” against which to define themselves, a need that is greater in some countries like Russia where defining itself by its own history is more complicated and less in others like the US where its own is enough, although it is never only enough, Kurilla continues.

            Defining oneself in terms of others is not limited to these countries. Canadians often say in response to questions about what it means to be Canadian that they are “not Americans.” And it is clearly the case that in Ukraine and many other post-Soviet states many people define themselves above all by the fact that they are “not Russians.”

            But in countries that view themselves as major powers like Russia and the US, few are inclined to say they are “not Americans” in the first instance or “not Russians” in the case of the latter. At the same time, however, both in their different ways take the measure of themselves by the ways in which they see the other.

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