IAN Johnstone (Letters, December 20) touched on a problem that has deep roots in the British psyche - anti-Russian prejudice goes back at least to Victorian times. Russia was the enemy in Kipling’s “Great Game”, driven by a desire to reach to the Indian Ocean and threaten “our” Indian Empire. Russia was hated by the Right, as rivals in Empire, and reviled by the Left, as being the citadel of autocracy and working class oppression (this in spite of the fact that Tsar Alexander II, (the "Liberator") emancipated the serfs two years before slavery was abolished in America).

During the Russia-Turkish war (1877-78), this was expressed in a music-hall song with the chorus “We don't want to fight, yet by jingo if we do / we've got the ships, we've got the men / we've got the money, too." This is the origin of the term “jingoism”.

After the revolutionary upheaval of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union, this hostility increased in intensity. It was rationalised by Russia being the world’s first avowedly atheistic state, readily presented as the “Evil Empire”, where normal human decencies did not exist. After the Second World War, the fiction of the innocent West threatened by Soviet aggression became the basic hypothesis in the demonology of deterrence. It remains axiomatic.

How many people know that even before the destruction of Hiroshima, the US had selected 20 Soviet cities for obliteration? But they didn’t have 20 atom bombs, only the two destined for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the brilliant success of this “experiment”, full-scale production of nuclear weapons went ahead in the US. The fact Russia didn’t have any nuclear weapons until four years later (1949), is obliterated from our consciousness.

Since the collapse of the USSR, it’s business as usual on the anti-Russian industry. It is a case of “The King is dead, Long live the King”.

One could go deeper into the history of anti-Russian attitudes, tracing them back to the historic rivalry between Greek Orthodoxy and the Latin West. Prior to the Great Schism of 1054, these do not appear to have existed.

Unfortunately space precludes following this path, tempting though it be.

Brian M Quail,

2 Hyndland Avenue, Glasgow.