A scene from Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. 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Anglo-American popular culture seldom depicts Russians as heroes or even good guys—unless they come from the novels of Leo Tolstoy and Boris Pasternak. The best hope for a Hollywood Russian is to follow the example of Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius, the captain of a Russian submarine in The Hunt for Red October (1990), who rebelled against his national government. Of course, perceptive viewers noticed that the captain’s surname, Ramius, indicated that he was not ethnically Russian but hailed from the captive Baltic republics. He was thus a trusted slave plotting against his masters.

Russians have almost always been cast as the Great Other, as removed from Anglo-American values as East is from West. Russian film characters are feared as cruel and implacable opponents, unless, as if to assuage that fear, they are depicted as bungling court jesters of evil.

Captain Marko Ramius, played by Sean Connery, in the opening scene of The Hunt for Red October.
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  • GLEN JEANSONNE is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. DAVID LUHRSSEN is Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Shepherd Express. They are co-authors of War on the Silver Screen: Shaping America's Perception of History.
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