“I consider our movement as a separate front that shows that there are forces in the world that, through public diplomacy, will fight against Russophobia, which bans Russian cats from racing, which cancels Pushkin, which bans Russian speech. They are simply fascists.”
“Russophilia is our definitive answer to modern fascism, Russophobia.”
With these words, the chairman of the Bulgarian national movement “Russophiles” Nikolay Malinov opened the founding forum of the international movement of the same name in March 2023. Later, Malinov was unanimously elected as the first chairman of the Russophile International Movement.
The Crimea-based propaganda publication “News Front” covered the event with a pathetic text and huge images with the most prominent participants: businessman-propagandist Konstantin Malofeev (according to the publication – with a key role in the creation of the movement), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, the philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, Anna Kuznetsova, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, MPs, priests, and even the American actor Steven Seagal.
About Malofeev and his connection with the espionage affair in which Nikolay Malinov is accused in Bulgaria, “Free Europe” tells in detail. “Mediapool” reminds us that Malinov is sanctioned by the US under the Global Magnitsky Act and recently traveled to Moscow to discuss this issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In the parliamentary elections on April 2, Malinov led the list of the Burgas coalition “Neutral Bulgaria” (“Attack”, Russophiles, Communists).
In a greeting to the participants, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin congratulated them for their determination to counter “the Russophobic campaigns”: “many countries are purposefully fomenting anti-Russian hysteria, harassing our compatriots, introducing bans and restrictions even on the creativity of our great Russians, belonging to the world cultural treasury classics”.
In August last year, the Russian Ministry of Defense organized an International Anti-Fascist Congress. The event is being held “within the special military operation (SMO) of the Russian Armed Forces for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” the Strategic Culture Fund notes in a publication. A literal translation of the text, together with the title and the same photo, was published in the Bulgarian edition “Pogled.info”.
From the rostrum of the congress, Irina Yarovaya, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of Russia, says:
“The ideology of the unipolar world and the negation of the multipolar world – this is the new form of global fascism … Today the United States is the entity financing Nazism around the world.”
And more: “turning Ukraine into a Nazi state is a US project.”
Europe uses Russophobia as a political technology to fight Russia and as a means of social mobilization of Europeans, explained one of the participants in a meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights of the Russian Federation (RF) in December 2022. It is “strongly reminiscent of technologies used by Nazi Germany, an anti-Semitism that was also used to rally Germans in Hitler’s Germany.”
The words are those of Kirill Vyshinsky – born in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, journalist, and executive director of the Russia Today media group (including RIA Novosti, Sputnik, Inosmi, etc.). Vladimir Putin himself, in his speech to the Valdai Discussion Club last October (Russia’s attempt at an alternative Davos), also compared Russophobia to anti-Semitism and defined them as forms of racism.
If you are confused, the problem isn’t yours – that’s the goal. Whether it’s talking about “fascism,” “Nazism,” “genocide,” or “racism,” the Kremlin is referring to Russophobia.
What Russophobia is, however, is not easy to say.
It is necessary to find a “legislative definition” of Russophobia, as it is not an ethnic, but a cultural and political concept, according to the Russian rulers. And it is necessary for the definition to be included in the Penal Code and for Russophobic manifestations to be properly punished.
Russophobia was formulated as an idea in the middle of the 19th century but came into active propaganda use during Stalin’s time. The concept expresses the understanding of two radically different worlds, cultural models, and value systems – that of the East and that of the West. Russia imagines itself as the empire of the East, the new Byzantium, the unifier of the glorious and destined to protect them, the guardian of Orthodoxy and traditional values. Russophobia serves to separate the hostile foreign world (the “collective West”) from the “Russian World”—another concept enforced by Kremlin propaganda.
Essential to making sense of the Russian understanding of Russophobia is the aggressiveness embedded in it – for Russian propaganda, disliking Russia and Russian means attacking them, which invariably means that Russia must defend itself. Thus, all her actions are presented as self-defense, not aggression. Read more about this in Timothy Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom.
Externally, Russophobia is understood as intolerance towards ethnic Russians, Russian-speaking ethnic groups, Russian culture, and the Russian state, as well as a means of destabilizing the post-Soviet space – Moscow observes the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet republics as a Russophobic act organized by the West.
Inside Russia, “Russophobes” are the enemies of the regime, the adherents of liberal ideology who sympathize with the West. In this way, they are stigmatized and isolated, and public support for the Kremlin hardens.
A key element in the modern concept of Russophobia is the comparison with anti-Semitism and the understanding that it is incited deliberately and organized by the enemies of Russia, just as Nazi Germany did against the Jews. Hence the accusations of “Nazism” and “fascism” and the designation of actions against Russians and Russian as “genocide”.
Russia used these accusations as a motive to annex Crimea and support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. And as an excuse to enter Ukrainian territory in 2022 in the so-called “special military operation”.
Although the main target of the Kremlin’s propaganda attack is Ukraine, on the “Western Front” the information space is saturated with fabricated “examples” of Russophobic practices inspired by Nazism – for example, book burning.
To better understand what Russophobia is, we need to know what the antidote is – of course, Russophilia. Contrary to popular opinion on Bulgarian Facebook, Russophilia does not mean liking Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky. According to the chairman of the International Russophile Movement Nikolay Malinov, Russophilia means “traditional values, the idea of a strong state and a multipolar world”.
“The liberal dictatorship contradicts our ideas: a unipolar world, weak states are not sovereign, and, of course, the rejection of traditional values. The world is satanic.”
In this way, the circle is closed – all the great strategies of the Kremlin are united in one concept, which means everything at the same time. And nothing concrete at the same time, like Russophobia (all the big fears), which also means “Nazism”, “fascism”, “liberalism”, “genocide”, “discrimination”, “unipolar world” and whatever else is necessary for a specific context.
This is an emblematic sign of propaganda, as Prof. Dimitar Vatsov has established: propaganda superimposes disparate meanings on top of each other, creating the appearance that in all cases one is talking about “the same thing”, while “it is called the Truth”.
A final example: Historically, Russophobia has been portrayed as a Zionist conspiracy, and today Putin compares Russophobia to anti-Semitism. This does not prevent Dmitry Medvedev (former president and prime minister of Russia, chairman of the ruling United Russia party) from continuing to call Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky a “Nazi”, despite his Jewish origins.
Remember the cats – victims of Russophobia, mentioned at the beginning? The International Feline Federation has indeed banned the participation of Russian cats in its exhibitions for one year (until the end of May 2023). However, the reason is not some abstract hatred against Russia – the measure is a response to Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The issue of culture is far more complex. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has indeed provoked sharp reactions and calls to ban Russian plays, concerts, and, books around the world. But unlike Moscow’s suggestions, it was not about an organized campaign or government decisions.
Reports in international media and stories of Bulgarian reporters covering the events in Ukraine over the past year testify that the war has indeed turned Ukrainians against everything Russian. But not on the scale announced by the Kremlin and its mouthpieces: “There will be concentration camps, re-education and sterilization of those who are against the letter ‘Z’,” director Karen Shahnazarov claimed on television in May 2022. Again, the Qatari television “Al Jazeera” (which the last thing you can say is that it is “Western”) reports on the rejection of Russian culture in Ukraine. Here is part of it:
“While destroying Ukrainian cities and killing civilians, the invaders are also destroying landmarks of Russian and Soviet culture.
Russia’s most beloved poet, Aleksandr Pushkin, visited the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in 1820 after Tsar Nicholas I exiled him for dissent.
A bronze statue of the curly-haired poet of Ethiopian descent stood next to the Russian Drama Theater – until bombing destroyed both in April.”
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova