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Debunker: The myth of 'Russophobia'


Accusations of ‘Russophobia’ have come to characterise pro-Kremlin media outlets’ communications in recent years. ‘Russophobia’ refers to an apparent deep-seated dislike or hatred of Russia and its people. The term represents a versatile deflection to almost any policy decision or action which the Kremlin disagrees with, and an emotionally-charged dog-whistle to signal the apparent ‘threat’ that the West poses to Russia’s values and culture.

tass Russian news agency headline

However, far from representing a simple attack line when facing criticism, Kremlin propagandists argue that Russophobia is an ideology or worldview, adopted by politicians across the West.[1]

Sputnik International headline

They claim that Western politicians are blinded by this ‘anti-Russia’ ideology and pursue policies merely to damage Russia, even if those policies are not in the best interest of their citizens.[2]

RT news headline

Such language serves to dismiss the rationale behind policies such as the economic sanctions imposed on Russia, absolve responsibility for the disintegration of diplomatic relations and remove the need for Putin’s administration to acknowledge or respond to international criticism.[3]



In the majority of cases where the term is employed, Russia utilises this disinformation narrative as a means to criticise policy decisions which it disagrees with or dismiss any criticism facing Putin’s regime. The disinformation narrative constitutes an ad hominem attack, whereby the focus is shifted to the speaker, rather than the substance of their critique.[4] In this context, the label is used to portray the target as emotional or irrational aiming to undermine their credibility and dismiss their criticism.

  • Promoting alleged Western Russophobia, Russia’s political leadership is trying to justify Russia’s chauvinism, an ideology of Russian national supremacy over other peoples that seeks to justify its desire to dominate other nations and use them for its own geopolitical purposes. This explains one of the justifications for Russia’s war against Ukraine as the rescue of the “younger brother”, who, according to the “older brother”, must determine its domestic and foreign policy solely on his (i.e. Russian) instructions and with his consent.[5]

  • While Russia has used this term to craft a false perception of the historical persecution of their culture, the reality is that this narrative only rose to prominence in 2014. Following the annexation of regions in Eastern Ukraine, including Crimea, Russia faced strong condemnation on the international stage as a result of its illegal occupation.[6][7] By characterising the resulting sanctions against Russia as ‘Russophobia’, Kremlin propagandists attempt to reject any criticism of their actions.[8]

  • The notion of ‘Russophobia’ is also designed to instil a domestic distrust of the West, by creating the perception that the world is hostile towards Russia and its people.[9] The narrative has been described as a form of nationalism. However, in very recent history, Russia and the EU shared far warmer relations, with both sides striving towards a more collaborative and open dialogue.[10] For many years, Russia grew closer to the EU, with the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement laying the groundwork for the development of political, economic and cultural relations between Russia and the EU.[11]

Graph showing mentions of the words “Russophobia” and “Russophobe” by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sputnik and RT, 2001–17. (Source: DFRLab)
Graph showing mentions of the words “Russophobia” and “Russophobe” by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sputnik and RT, 2001–17. (Source: DFRLab)

The disintegration of diplomatic relations and economic trade between Russia and the West cannot be considered without acknowledging Putin’s repeated disregard for international law. The sanctions which Kremlin propagandists portray as ‘Russophobic’ are simply the result of Putin’s actions.[12]



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Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at

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