«Russian Сivilization» vs «Western Racism». Why Russia is Updating and Globalizing its Propaganda

The cartoon illustrates Putin's statement that Russia is a separate civilization. The text on the railway carriage reads: “World civilization.” Putin says: “But we have a separate civilization.” Source: Sergey Yelkin, DW https://www.facebook.com/dw.russian

The Monitoring Group of BlackSeaNews
and the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies


In recent weeks, the rhetoric of Russian top politicians has become notably peppered with the expressions «Russian civilization» and «Western racism». While the process has been obviously accelerated by the autumn defeats of the Russian Army in Ukraine, the expressions themselves have obtained new colors and interpretations.

«Russian civilization» as Putin's Fantasy

According to our monitoring, the term «Russian civilization» is being personally pushed by top officials in the Kremlin and Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was the «unique Russian civilization» that the West supposedly wanted to «cancel» that Putin spoke of on September 21 when announcing partial mobilization. And after addressing the nation and signing the mobilization decree, he later visited Novgorod, where he gave a speech at the celebration «of the 1160th anniversary of the birth of Russian statehood,» defining Russia as a separate civilization.

Putin, September 21, 2022: «The Novgorod land was the cradle of Russia, the source of its civilization and statehood... No one can «cancel» the unique Russian civilization and its richest culture, and destroy or shake Russian values.»

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also mentioned the «Russian civilization» shortly after the attempt to legalize the Russia-occupied Ukrainian territories.

Lavrov, October 4, 2022: «Residents of Donbass and other parts of Ukraine will never agree that the people who have seized power in Kyiv represent their people, because they associate themselves with the Russian civilization.»

This elevation of Russia to the status of a separate civilization little by little began to take shape at least two years ago, when for instance, on September 1, 2020, during the «All-Russian Open Lesson,» Putin said:

«The future of our country and Russian civilization, without any exaggeration, depends on how effectively we can solve these tasks, how competitive we will be.»

However, since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and the ensuing heavy flow of large-scale Western sanctions, the topic has taken on additional hues. Russia has now begun to actively play on the opposition of seemingly two different civilizations — the Western and the Russian, in particular, on the opposition of the West and the US on the one hand, and Russia and... China on the other.

Lavrov, March 16, 2022: «Well, China and Russia, these great civilizations cannot accept a unipolar world. A counterweight will still develop. We will still see a bipolar world with the two camps for many years to come.»

Putin also spoke about the threats to Russia and the intransigence and aggressiveness of the West during his well-known meeting with the leaders of the State Duma and its factions.

Putin, July 7, 2022: «For dozens of years, the so-called collective West, led by the US, has been behaving extremely aggressively towards Russia...because they simply don't need a country like Russia…The collective West is the direct instigator and culprit of what is happening today.

...From the very start of our special military operation, they have already lost because its beginning also means the beginning of a radical breakdown of the American-style world order. This is the start of a transition from the liberal-globalist American egocentrism to a truly multipolar world... based on international law, genuine sovereignty of peoples and civilizations and their will to live their historical destiny, by their values and traditions. The course of history is inexorable, and the demands of the collective West to impose its new world order on the world are doomed to failure.»

At the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security, Putin paid special attention to the «horrific consequences» of the perceived hegemony of the West.

Putin, August 16, 2022: «Their [Western] hegemony means stagnation for the whole world and the whole civilization, obscurantism and abolition of culture, and neoliberal totalitarianism...The US and its vassals rudely interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states: they organize provocations, coup d’états and civil wars. With threats, blackmail and pressure, they are trying to force independent states to submit to their will and live by the rules foreign to them.»

In the article History Lessons and the Image of the Future: Reflections on Russia's Foreign Policy (International Life, August 2022), Alexei Drobinin, the director of the Department of Foreign Policy Planning of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also appeals to the term «civilization,» reflects on the special role and place of the Russian Federation in the modern world and sees the «special military operation» as a method of inter-ethnic ideological unification for Russian citizens.

Drobinin, August 3, 2022: «It's time for Russia to return to itself and realize itself as the historical core of an original civilization, the largest Eurasian and Euro-Pacific state and one of the world’s strongest geopolitical centers.

The special military operation provides ample opportunities for such self-determination. Russians, Chechens, Avars, Tatars, Yakuts, Tuvans and representatives of other indigenous peoples as part of the multinational and multi-confessional Russian army now oppose the formations of the Kiev puppet regime... It appears that the choice is clearly in favor of inter-ethnic unity and traditional values...

History has chosen Russia as a power that, with its persistence and consistency in the pursuit of truth and justice for all, will accelerate the transition to a new world order. Not only Russia's foreign policy positions, but also the stability of the entire system of international relations will depend on our ability to play a unifying role and create an inter-civilizational «network» of priority partners on the horizon of the next decade.»

«Racism» as a New Scarecrow for Intimidating Russians and Demonizing the West

In Russian rhetoric, the term «Russian civilization» is promoted simultaneously with «racism» when referring to the actions of the West against Russia in general and Russians in particular.

Mr. Lavrov most often has been using the word in the context of Western pressure on Russia for violating the norms of international law and invading Ukraine.

Lavrov, April 11, 2022: «The speed and immediacy of the Russophobic «wave» launched indicates, as one of the American researchers put it, that «latent racism» has not gone anywhere from Europe.»

Nevertheless, Lavrov considers the US to be the main source of Russophobia.

Lavrov, April 25, 2022: «Russophobia and real racism towards everything Russian is cultivated [in the US] at the highest level.»

Lavrov, May 6, 2022: «A propaganda war has been unleashed against the Russian Federation and our people, against any Russian who happens to be in one or another European, Western or other country. In the manifestation of overt racism this is yet another form of discrimination that has now been raised to the level of absurdity where they begin to cultivate hatred for everything related to the Russian Federation on a personal level.» (Speech at the wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial plaque to the MFA veterans on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War).

At the UN Security Council meeting, Lavrov called the desire to defeat Russia on the battlefield «a manifestation of racism.»

Lavrov, September 22, 2022: «Today, the armed forces of Russia and the DPR and LNR militias are opposed not only by the neo-Nazi formations of the Kyiv regime, but also by the military machine of the collective West. And in real time, with the use of planes, ships, and satellites, NATO provides intelligence to the armed forces of Ukraine and eggs them on to defeat Russia on the battlefield and deprive it of any sovereignty as a punishment. This is no longer latent racism, but the most obvious one.»

And recently, on the air of the Rossiya-1 TV channel, Lavrov directly announced the presence of racists in the Western elites.

Lavrov, October 2, 2022: «Racism in the West has never disappeared, so Russia will just develop in such a way that it does not depend on racists in the Western elites.»

Recently, during the Kremlin’s Ukrainian territories annexation ceremony, Putin proclaimed the centuries-old Europe’s «Russophobia» and directly equated it with «racism,» the term he uses to call the international pressure on Russia for the armed colonization of Ukrainian lands.

Putin, September 30, 2022: «The Western elites remain what they have always been — the colonizers. They discriminate and divide people into the first and second classes. We have never accepted and will never accept such political nationalism and racism. And what, if not racism, is Russophobia, which is spreading now all over the world?»


Any turn in Russia’s rhetoric often precedes escalation in the new directions or expansion of the current aggression into a more global process. The globalization of goals usually requires an update of the narratives, and in recent months, without a doubt, this process has significantly accelerated.

The term «Russian civilization» now replaces the discredited and already worn out «Russian world» that no longer meets the expansionist needs. Therefore, Russia’s totalitarian regime has recently begun constructing new ideological foundations — now, for a global confrontation with the world.

It is for their sake that the Russian information space is now consistently circulating the message that the RF is at war not with Ukraine, but with the NATO/US/collective West.

For the purposes of justifying the occupation of Ukraine’s southeastern regions and the start of the «Special Military Operation,» the «fight against Nazism» and «defense of the Russian world» were sufficient Russian propaganda tools. But over the course of the year, the need to intensify and update the propaganda rhetoric has been growing in sync with the needs of the global confrontation and new conquests.

The propaganda template of the «Russian civilization» now being threatened by the world’s «racism,» and the image of a Russian soldier as the last defender of this civilization, no less, is supposed to inspire Russians to fight, while justifying their motives to the rest of the world.

Besides, as the Russian government needs to explain to its citizens the negative attitude of the West towards them, their isolation under sanctions and feeling ostracized in the civilized countries since the start of the large-scale invasion, it has found nothing better than inventing new terms.

Meanwhile, the Russian authorities dream of starting building a new «community», the de-facto «Russian сivilization» in practice, on the lands that include Ukraine’s occupied territories. The Russian-populated areas of Belarus and Kazakhstan are also likely under the threat.

According to the idea, the slogan of «protecting Russian civilization from the Western racism» should resonate in the souls of Russians, encouraging them to be more loyal to the government both in peaceful areas — by humbly enduring the totalitarian pressures and the sanctions-caused hardships — and on the battlefield — by actively mobilizing and dying for someone else's imperial/«civilizational» interests.

The current Russian Federation’s rhetoric of «Russian civilization» vs «racism»clearly sets a strategic aim at a principled confrontation. And this obviously means that the current pool of the Russian leaders does not plan to return within the boundaries of international law.

Therefore, the appeal to a separate «Russian civilization» is an attempt to form a new foundation for Russia's self-preservation in the conditions of external isolation and internal totalitarian pressure, as well as to provide new meanings and justifications for its external aggression and internal repression.

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This article has been prepared with the support of the European Union in Ukraine. The content of the article is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the position of the EU