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ON MY MIND

Sergei Lavrov sees Russophobia everywhere.

Allegations that Moscow is supplying arms to the Taliban are Russophobic.

Accusations that Russia is interfering in Western elections are Russophobic.

And claims that the Kremlin is trying to undermine the European Union are, you guessed it, Russophobic.

The term is also regularly used to smear Ukraine and the Baltic states.

And all this Russophobia-mania got me wondering: where did this word come from? What are its origins? When was it first deployed?

And the answer is actually pretty interesting -- and quite revealing.

The term Russophobia first appears in the Russian language in 1867, when Fyodor Tyutchev, a Slavophile poet, diplomat, and agent of the Third Department of the Tsar's Office -- effectively the secret police -- used it to describe opponents and critics of the monarchy.

Tyutchev primarily applied the term to Poles who sought liberation from the Russian Empire. In this context, he referred to "Polish betrayal" and "Polish ingratitude" -- and called the Polish people "the Judas of the Slavs."

So there you have it. The term Russophobia was invented to malign and smear those who did not wish to be dominated by Russia.

In the 19th century, it was those "Russophobic" Poles seeking national liberation. Today, it's those "Russophobic" Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians who are seeking to preserve their independence.

And, of course, anybody else who supports them or dares criticize the Kremlin.

IN THE NEWS

The Senate has voted 94 to 6 to confirm Rod Rosenstein as deputy U.S. attorney general. The longtime prosecutor will oversee the Justice Department's investigation into Russian influence in the U.S. elections.

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn probably broke the law by failing to get permission to be paid for a trip to Russia in 2015, the leaders of a U.S. House of Representatives committee have said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that a U.S. allegation Moscow is supplying arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan is unsubstantiated.

Activists in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk have mounted a petition campaign against plans to build a Russian Orthodox church in the city center on the bank of the Yenisei River.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has launched an internal investigation into a car explosion that killed an OSCE observer in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's state power company says it has cut electricity supplies to the parts of the Luhansk region that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists, citing debts.

The head of Russian natural-gas company Gazprom says a new pipeline across the Baltic Sea to Germany will boost its share of the European market and decrease the amount of gas it pumps westward via Ukraine.

The press rights group Reporters Without Borders is warning that media freedom is increasingly threatened under authoritarian regimes as well as in countries regarded as models of democracy.

WHAT I'M READING

Navalny Strikes Again!

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is at it again. The anticorruption crusader has produced a new video looking at the finances of the "charity" organizations that allegedly pay for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's real-estate empire.

Meanwhile, in GlobalVoices, Kevin Rothrock takes a look at Navalny's political evolution, his toning down of his nationalist rhetoric, and his embrace of liberal positions.

Medvedev Under Fire

According to a new poll from the Levada Center, 45 percent of Russians want Dmitry Medvedev removed as prime minister.

Kremlin Intrigue

Valery Solovei talks to The New Times about jockeying among the Kremlin clans over who will be Russia's next prime minister.

The Warlord And The Tsar

Anna Arutunyan has a piece for the European Council on Foreign Relations on why Vladimir Putin won't get tough with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

Inside The Propaganda Machine

Coda Story has a piece by Ilya Kizirov, Confessions Of A (Former) State TV Reporter,that offers a peek inside the Kremlin's media machine.

Focus On Inequality

OpenDemocracy has a piece looking at a new Russian media organization, Zerkalo, that plans to report on social inequality.

And Shaun Walker has a piece in The Guardian looking at the rise of social inequality in Moscow and its possible political consequences.

Rise Of The Mercenaries

The Atlantic Council has a piece on how Russia is increasingly relying on mercenaries to fight its foreign wars.

The Moscow-Beijing Axis

In The National Interest, Lyle J. Goldstein of the U.S. Naval War College looks at how a China-Russia alliance is viewed from Beijing.

Downgrading Rights

On Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Emily Tamkin comments on the Russian Foreign Ministry's elimination of its human rights commissioner.

Dancing With The Taliban

In Intersection magazine, Petr Bologov looks at Russia's "dangerous flirtation" with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or Follow @PowerVertical

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