Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#6 - JRL 7239
June 24, 2003
What we think of each other

Russians and Britons know very little about one another, according to a double opinion poll commissioned to mark the Russian president's state visit to the UK.

Nearly four out of 10 Russians had nothing to say when asked for the first thing that came into their mind about the UK.

And five out of 10 British people said they didn't know who was the president of Russia.

The Russian best known to Britons was Stalin (who was actually a Georgian...) while another strong leader - Margaret Thatcher - was the Briton most often named by Russians.

In general, both nations seem prone to think in stereotypes.

Britons thought of snow and fur hats (25%) Communism (21%) and deprivation (13%) when asked for the first thing to come into their mind when Russia is mentioned.

Russians were less united when asked what Britain meant for them, but 16% mentioned the weather - which is renowned in Russia for being wet and foggy - and 9% thought of members of the Royal family or politicians.

Martial arts

Apart from Mrs Thatcher, the Britons Russians were best able to remember were the Royal family (16%), Winston Churchill (9%), The Beatles (6%) and Tony Blair (6%).

American author Jack London and former US President Theodore Roosevelt also crept on to the list.

Apart from Stalin, Britons thought first of Mikhail Gorbachev (29%), Lenin (25%) and Vladimir Putin (15%), with tennis player Anna Kournikova (2%) and Ivan the Terrible (1%) lower down the list.

Some 45% of respondents were able to name Mr Putin as Russia's current leader. A small number - 2% in each case - named Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991) or Boris Yeltsin (1991-2000).

A third said they didn't know how well or badly Mr Putin did his job, while 13% said he was a good leader, and 8% said he was good for Russia.

Another 8% noted that he was KGB-trained, and a small number mentioned his skill at martial arts.

Nearly 60% of Russians knew nothing about Queen Elizabeth II, while 51% had no idea what the typical Briton was like.

British 'gentlemen'

However, more than twice as many Russians associated Britons with positive qualities (13%) rather than negative qualities (6%).

Eight per cent said Britons were just "ordinary people" like any other nationality, while 7% said they were "gentlemen".

British people said they thought of Russians as poor (24%), hardworking (11%) and warm and friendly (10%).

Both sets of respondents ranked their own country higher than the other in terms of their place in world culture.

But both countries put culture top of the list of things they wanted to know more about each other.

Nearly a third of Britons also said they wanted more information about how to travel to Russia, and take a holiday there.

The surveys were carried out in Russia by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) and in the UK by Mori at the end of May and the beginning of June.

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