Policy Memos

Lost in Translation: Is there a Way to Overcome the Different Political Languages of Russia and the West?

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Between Russia and the West, differences in terminology are perceived to signify irreconcilable differences in values, leading to a mutual lack of trust. Observe the language used by these former foes—violation of human rights or stability, autocracy or sovereign democracy, democracy promotion or pursuit of national interests. After the end of the Cold War, the West tried to make its own official political language universal, being sure that it needed no translation. However, in the case of Russian-Western relations, this has not led to mutual understanding, even if some concepts have freely crossed borders. This is not because certain political concepts are misunderstood or lack precise equivalents in the other’s political culture. It is worth the effort to decipher others’ political concepts rather than reject them outright. [...]

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About the author

Associate Professor of World Politics and Research Fellow at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO)