Anti-Americanism of Russian elites by Prof. Eduard Ponarin

On 18 May 2015 the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted an open lecture by Eduard Ponarin on "Anti-Americanism of Russian elites"

This research focuses on the case of Russian anti-Americanism and demonstrates that public opinion on international relations depends on ideological factors that go beyond both the realpolitik, understood as the national elite's rational interests, and the cultural distance between the two countries. Based on the data from a series of Russian surveys conducted by Richard Rose (New Russia Barometer 2010), the research group headed by Eduard Ponarin and William Zimmerman investigated the dynamics of attitudes toward the US and showed that there is an important ideological component of anti-Americanism in Russia, which refers to ressentiment, or frustration of the Russian population by the outcomes of political and economic reform of the early 1990s. The researchers integrated the findings from their own and previous research (William Zimmerman, 1993-2012) to propose a general three-stage model of anti-Americanism development in Russia. The model includes occasional crises in the US-Russian relations and elite propaganda as two other major factors.

In a nutshell, Prof. Ponarin claims that recently anti-Americanism grows among the elites and the masses. This phenomenon correlates with the increasing amount of support of authoritarianism and the tendency to observe enemies everywhere, not only in the USA. The lecture noted that the effect of ressentiment on anti-Americanism depends upon the level of education and increases the higher the level of education is. This interactive effect had already been clear in 1993.

The discussion that followed the seminar raised the issue of an uneven distribution of anti-Americanism among the various population groups, the nature of "high-brow" anti-American sentiment among elites and the "laymen” version of the masses. The discussion touched upon two images of America in Russia: as the desired socio-economic future or "package" of the good future, and as something that carries the threat and is of a destructive nature.