So you’re a Russophile, right J.T.?

In the real world, I’ve been getting a lot of questions as of late about about my ideological preference within Russian Studies; something along the lines of “Are you pro-Russian?” or “You’re a Russophile, right?” The assumption is that because I spend so much time trying to address gross misconceptions in modern Western discourse on Russia, I’ll always side with Russia in Russia-West disputes, I like Putin, и т.д. и т.п. Getting these questions isn’t a nuisance, per se – it’s a good opportunity to explain some things.

What am I? To be honest, I’m not even sure I know. I can tell you, however, I’m not one hundred percent pro-Russian. So don’t even try. My blog may seem to lean more “pro-Russian” than other Russia blogs and networks, but I definitely do not love all things about Russia or support everything it does. I’m very good at keeping my more controversial opinions offline. Why start an argument if you don’t have to? Imagine all the things I’m not saying.

I am probably not a russophile either. According to the dictionary, a russophile is ‘a person who is friendly to, admires, or prefers Russia or Russian customs, institutions, etc.’ The word russophile has taken on certain negative connotations over the years, including “pro-Russian Western traitor” or “person who loves the country’s mysticism and the delightful Russian people but hates that oppressive government”. The dictionary definition does not fit me: I may be friendly to Russian customs (or curious if unfamiliar with them), but I neither admire nor prefer that system.

I watch it.

I like to use my own head and do my own research. I hunt for my information rather than take things at face value. I know there’s no such thing as complete objectivity, and I’m aware of my own bias, but I make effort to challenge it. I contradict myself, make various errors, and re-evaluate my position based upon new information as it arrives. And if my conclusions or beliefs appear to align with a particular side in the Russia debate, it’s not because I found it convenient to join that side. I’ll squirm under any attempts to pin me down as a “Russia apologist” or an “arrogant American”. And I’m not afraid to admit when I know absolutely nothing about a subject.

There are a lot of drawbacks to this kind of approach. And because I am young, there may be a little naivete involved as well. But I am who I am.

If I absolutely had to put the est. range of my opinions on some sort of spectrum, it would likely be this:


I am a Russia-watcher who doesn’t mind the gray areas and dances beyond the bounds of stringent ideological thinking. And the best way to get my opinion on any particular Russia-related issue is simply to ask.