The renewed rise of anti-American state press coverage in Russia pushed me to recall the history of relations between our countries. Relations between Russia and the United States have been building for more than 200 years. And the two countries began to build images of each other long before the emergence of the USSR and the beginning of the Cold War. These images have evolved and still exist.
The United States perceived the Russian Empire fairly neutrally until the early 19th century. In the middle of the 19th century, against the backdrop of the struggle of elites and ideologies, the image of Russia began to shape – as a barbaric country, an autocratic despotic monarchy, the most distant politically from the United States. The geopolitical component in this rhetoric arose only after the Second World War.
In Russia, on the contrary, America was viewed as the most positive example as the country of freedom and a fair state system. In this opinion, both revolutionaries and conservatives of the 19th century agreed. They tried to use American experience when they considered as an important component in support of their ideas. For example, conservatives used the example of America as an argument for keeping slavery in Russia.
The final design of the countries’ images shaped during the Cold War, in the early 1960s. Both countries – the USSR and the US – continued to be the most distant from each other politically. In the US, the image of Russia remained negative. Dissidents in the USSR saw America as a country of the fair state system, and the Soviet authorities borrowed technology and attracted American specialists.
For almost 200 years, Russia and the United States have been rivals at the level of ideologies, there has never been a direct military conflict between our countries. I think it’s worth remembering today, especially when speaking about current Russia-U.S. relations.