Regardless of today’s access to information, Russians continue thinking about Ukrainians in terms of templates, popularising old and forming new stereotypes. Journalists have gathered the most outstanding stereotypes about Ukraine that the average Russian frequently uses.
Ukraine does not exist as a state
Russia’s aggressive assimilation policies regarding the Ukrainian people throughout several centuries has been fruitful. Today the majority of Russians is sure that Ukrainians are only a regional group of Russians with certain territorial specifics and that Ukraine cannot exist apart from Russia. Nobody is surprised that similar statements are frequently heard from Russian politicians of the highest level. What is more, the neighbours really do think that the Ukrainian’s struggle for the European choice is nonsense, and such processes are happening because of the intervention of other countries and is generally part of an international geopolitical conspiracy.
The Ukrainian language, just like Ukraine itself, does not exist
The same goes for the Ukrainian language. The constant usage of ideas formed back in the 19th century within the frameworks of the theory about the great “Russian” people led to the fact that the Russian mass conscience does not view the Ukrainian language as an independent, separate language. Because of this the Ukrainian’s refusal of the Russian language elicits a pained faction and is frequently associated with the return to savagery.
The real Ukrainians are Serduchka and Holokhvastov
The stereotypes listed above have formed the general image of a Ukrainian, the way Russians see them. This is a provincial, simple and demonstrative person who uses something in between the Ukrainian and Russian language, has a specific sense of humour and is comical in a villager-type manner. Besides, “a sincere Ukrainian” has to use the principle “it’s none of my business,” not shy away from spirits and salo, dislike Muscovites and calmly regard the possible betrayal of their close ones. These imaginary characters are called khokhly in Russia and have numerous jokes constructed about them. One of the typical examples of modernity is Verka Serduchka. Humour in the style of Andriy Danilko’s stage persona, with caricature language and simple demonstrative savagery, is still very popular in Russia. As a typical Ukrainian, the Russians also frequently name Svirid Holokhvastov, the main character of Mykhailo Starytskiy’s play “Za dvoma zaytsamy” and the film of the same name. The cunning and hypocritical pseudo-intellectual who uses surzhyk accords with almost all the criteria that the Russians have established for “Ukrainians.”
Western Ukraine is the lair of Banderites, and Lviv is their capital
The panic-inducing fear of the mythical “Banderites” is also explained by the century-long propaganda and unwillingness to investigate the issue independently. That being said, the average Russian cannot say anything comprehensive about the Banderites besides the fact that they should be constantly feared and that they hate Russians. Russians consider almost all Ukrainian lands west of Kyiv and north of Odesa their territory, and Lviv is the most “Banderised” city, where Russians are killed and anyone who says a Russian word gets shot.
They drink horilka with borsch and salo
Russians think that Ukrainians drink almost every day, and they always have borsch and salo on their table. It is interesting that articles can be found on the internet wherein the authors are trying to prove that borsch is a Russian dish. Sometimes one can find completely paradoxical theses, that borsch and shchi are the same thing. And this is regardless of the principal differences in the recipes. Ukrainians are not trying to prove the national heritage of borsch and are not creating a cult around it. The same goes for salo, which is a traditional and highly valued dish not only in Ukraine, but in Russia and Belarus as well. Back in the 16th century one of the European historians wrote that it was produced in Russia in big quantities for export outside of the country. According to the scientist, the best salo was produced on the territory of Smolensk, Yaroslavl, Vologda and Tver oblasts of modern Russia.
Maidan is the embodiment of world aggression against Russia
During the mass protests in Ukraine in 2013-2014, Maidan and everything connected with it became the embodiment of all Russian stereotypes about Ukraine. Having spoken to the citizens of the neighbouring country or listened to the local television, one could find out that on Maidan, for the money of Western imperialists, stand Banderites and Right Sector, who are completely different from real Ukrainians, who drink horilka, kill Russians and are preparing a treacherous attack on the brotherly people.
Crimea is Russian land
Even having admitted itself to be the heir of the Soviet Union and openly demonstrating imperial will, Russia continues to surprise with its geopolitical statements. The Russian Empire attached the Crimea to itself only in the 18th century after the war with the Ottoman Empire, however in 1853-1856 the peninsula once more became the arena of military action between Russia and the allied army of the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France and the Sardinian Kingdom. Regardless of the defeat of the Russian Empire, Crimea remained part of it. It should not be forgotten that throughout 1941-1944 the Soviet government evicted big communities of Germans, Italians, as well as Crimean Tatars, Turks, Karaims, gypsies, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians from the peninsula. As a result, in the end of 1944 the population of Crimea constituted 379000 citizens as opposed to 1 million 126 thousand in 1939.
Ukrainian modern culture does not exist
It is not surprising that the majority of Russians still think that the Ukrainian culture is vyshyvankas, national songs, painted jars, “the cherry orchard by the khata,” and nothing more. This phenomenon is easy to explain. First, Russian unofficially took over all the cultural achievements of the Soviet Union. In the nearest future this may be done on the official level by the State Duma. Second, satisfied with Serduchka and Holokhvastov, the Russian layperson does not want to seek anything new in Ukrainian culture. Third, the Ukrainian cultural activists which are going to work in the neighbouring country are so much assimilated with the local stars that they are no longer perceived as non-locals.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina