A recent survey of the three main Russian television channels produced some stark analysis of what Russians are hearing about Europe. Researchers examined newscasts and political talk shows from summer 2014 to December 2017. They found that negative news about Europe appeared on the three channels an average 18 times per day. The percentage of negative to positive news about European countries is 85 percent to 15 percent; for some European countries the ratio is even more skewed. France — perhaps because its most recent presidential election featured Marine Le Pen, a clearly pro-Russian candidate who lost to a pro-European one — was depicted negatively most often.

Most of the stories, ranging from big news events to local murders to sheer inventions (“the German government is taking children away from their families and giving them to gay couples”) fit into a particular set of narratives. Daily life in Europe is depicted as frightening and chaotic; Europeans are weak, with declining morality and no common values; terrorism keeps people paralyzed with fear; the refugee crisis is getting worse all the time; sanctions on Russia have backfired and are now undermining the European economy and destroying the welfare state. Russia, in the version of the world depicted here, does not need a welfare state, since its citizens are so much hardier.