Disillusionment and Anti-Americanism in Russia: From Pro-American to Anti-American Attitudes, 1993–2009
In the early 1990s, the Russian public held overwhelmingly favorable attitudes toward the United States; in recent years, attitudes toward the United States have been overwhelmingly unfavorable. Analysts often trace this dramatic change to (1) the emergence of Russian-American conflicts such as those in former Yugoslavia and (2) Russian leaders’ attempts to escape blame for their country’s failures by attributing them to a powerful external enemy. We point to another major factor of Russian anti-Americanism that preceded the international conflicts and the government-led anti-American propaganda: (3) disillusionment, or an emotional and ideological dissatisfaction with the outcome of pro-Western reforms that started among the liberal elites and then spread among the general public. Using data from the New Russian Barometer surveys, we analyze the dynamics of attitudes toward the United States from 1993 to 2009. We find that mass disappointment in the perestroika outcomes preceded the spread of anti-Americanism in Russia and that anti-American sentiment was stronger and occurred earlier among the elite than among the mass public. Furthermore, those (especially better-educated) people who express disappointment with the outcomes of pro-Western reforms prove significantly more anti-American. Our findings illustrate a general ideological phenomenon that may explain the growth of anti-Americanism in unsuccessful democracies worldwide.