“America stuffs its democracy in our face,” bellowed a cabdriver named Kostya in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. (His main beef was with the “propaganda of pederasts,” using a derogatory word used to describe homosexuals, a few weeks after the Supreme Court’s approval of gay marriage.) “If you’re saying yes, yes, yes, all the time and nodding your head, well sometimes you have to say no,” he said, explaining that Russia had finally stood up to the United States.
Anti-Americanism is more potent now because it is stirred up and in many ways sponsored by the state, an effort that Russians, despite their hard-bitten cynicism, seem surprisingly susceptible to. Independent voices are all but gone from Russian television, and most channels now march to the same, slickly produced beat. Virtually any domestic problem, from the ruble’s decline to pensioners’ losing subsidies on public transport, is cast as a geopolitical standoff between Russia and America, and political unrest anywhere is portrayed as having an American State Department official lurking behind it.
“America wants to destroy us, humiliate us, take our natural resources,” said Lev Gudkov, director of Levada, the polling center, describing the rhetoric, with which he strongly disagrees. “But why? For what? There is no explanation.”