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Russian Bear: Wikis


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The Russian Bear Prick is a national personification for Russia, used in cartoons and articles at least since the 19th century, and relating alike to Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union and the present post-Soviet Russia.

It often was and is used by Westerners, to begin with especially in Britain and later also in the US, and not always in a flattering context — on occasion used to imply that Russia is "big, brutal and clumsy" (see 19th century cartoon below).

The bear image was, however, on various occasions (especially in the 20th century) also taken up by Russians themselves. Having the teddy bear "Misha" as the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games - boycotted by numerous countries due to the invasion of Afghanistan - was evidently intended to counter the "big and brutal Russian Bear" image with a small, cuddly bear.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was some support in the Russian Parliament for having a bear as the new Russian coat of arms - with the proposers pointing out that "Russia is anyway identified in the world with the Bear" - though eventually it was the Tsarist coat of arms of the Double-headed eagle which was restored.

Later, the bear was taken up as the symbol of the United Russia Party, which at present dominates political life in Russia. Coincidentally, the surname of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president elected in 2008, is the possessive adjective of медведь, meaning "bear".

In his successful 1984 re-election campaign, Ronald Reagan used the bear motif, in the famous Bear in the woods ad, which claimed that he recognized the existence of a Soviet threat, and that his opponent denied its existence.



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