Russian Orientalism during the Era of Putin/Invasion of Ukraine

The first geographic areas that generally come to mind when a person is asked about Orientalism are the Middle East and northern Africa. However, I believe that some type of Orientalism exists in any place that is truly unknown to the West, yet plays a large role in Western media. One of these places is Russia, which has similar eastern geography in relation to the West. Westerners stereotypically view Russia as exotic and chaotic, as a tundra of mystery. Negative opinions of Russian in American culture regardless of political party began during the later stages of the Cold War, and were amplified when Putin came to power. Americans were already incredibly distrustful of Russia because of the combinations of the stereotypes and negative political views they had caused, and when Ukraine was invaded, most Americans were pushed over the edge.

But maybe this action was to be expected. I am by no means defending Putin; he has been destroying the Russian political system for the past 20 years. But certain actions by the United States may have forced him into a corner.

There have been a series of NATO expansions ever since the fall of the Soviet Union. At the 2008 summit, two countries that border Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, were welcomed into NATO. Russia most likely felt threatened because the US has been putting military assets in these countries ever since they became part of NATO. These expansions had little strategic value for Americans, and instead agitated Russia. For Putin, invading Ukraine is not a personal but an existential issue of protecting the national security of Russia. The West uniting against him has only confirmed his fears. The only way out of global conflict is to get rid of him now.

Maybe these tonedeaf actions by the western world/America could have been avoided. I wonder if the actions of Americans in power were prompted by disregard of Russian agency. I believe that these actions might have been challenged by the American people if Russian orientalism wasn’t so prominent in American culture.

4 thoughts on “Russian Orientalism during the Era of Putin/Invasion of Ukraine


    I think you chose a great topic and have an interesting take in a time when many don’t think this way at all. I think it is important to realize where our bias comes from, and your article helps us do that. I never thought of our potential bias against Russia, or that we agitated them, partially causing them to do this. Your writing seems well thought out, good work Charlie.


  2. Owen W.

    I agree, I think that we do have a bias towards Russia as chaotic and exotic. I think this bias is also perpetuated in media and tv, where Russian people are often shown as violent and alcoholic. In western movies and tv, we really only see Russian people appear if they are in a “Russian mob” and are antagonists in the story.


  3. Katarina O.

    I completely agree with your take and found it really interesting because we don’t often think about our bias against Russia. I think that the media has portrayed Russia to be this violent and chaotic place that has led a lot of people, particularly in western cultures, to view Russians as cold and unfriendly.


  4. TATE S.

    An important thing to consider especially right now. There really is a single narrative that is pursued by all aspects of the Western media. It’s crucial that we don’t allow the actions of those in power to inform our opinion about an entire nation.


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