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File:PO Soda01--article image.jpg

Soda will make you strong!


"I really don't know from where you guys get the nerve."

"From a long, hard winter, Mr. President."
—President Bartlet and the Russian Ambassador, The West Wing

"The physical and mental attributes of the Russian soldier are such as to make them the best people of all for war. They are long-enduring, tough, and insensitive and they find it easy to withstand the hardships of campaigning. They devour great quanities of raw and uncooked food, and their physical constitution is so hard that they bathe in rivers in the coldest weather."
—Quoted from a contemporary source in The Military Experience in the Age of Reason by Christopher Duffy

Most Russian characters in media, at least since the Cold War started, are depicted as hard fightin', heavy-drinkin', manly, boorish creatures. Even their females border on being The Baroness or the Femme Fatale. So what's a troper to do? Even those times when you do see a soft, sophisticated Russian, they're evil. So much, in fact, that a non-evil, cultured Russian character is a rarity. And before the Cold War it was a Wild Communist, and even before, in XIX century, it was a hard-fighting, heavy drinkin', boorish guy in furs, with a wild beard and a pet bear. So this trope predates the television by some 150 years (it goes all the way back to 1813, in fact). And it would be probably even older if people outside the country itself before 1813 had registered Russia's existence.

One wonders for the reason for this trope - is it the cold winters of Russia, or them being raised on unsophisticated-but-a-lot-food, or something completely different? But that's rarely if ever answered.

Often overlaps with, if not providing an outright Justification for, Husky Russkie.

Examples of Mother Russia Makes You Strong include:


  • One commercial for Halls decongestants features a man popping one of the candies into his mouth and suddenly imagining that he's sitting in a sauna between two huge hairy Russian men, who are slapping him on the back and urging him to "breathe, my pasty friend! Hahahah!"

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • The Recent Assassin's Creed comic reveals the Russian tsars run on Authority Equals Asskicking, as shown wend Alexander III takes down an Assassin unarmed, after walking off his train crashing, and giving his piece of Eden to said Assassin just so the fight would be fair.
  • This is true to an extent in Nikolai Dante, even though most of the characters are Russian. Dante himself was introduced as an aggressive, drunken lout, though he has since matured into a heroic, Badass freedom fighter. Katarina's pirates have a reasonable chance of beating the navy in a sea battle and then celebrating with several bottles of cognac, Vladimir Makarov is closely based on Ivan the Terrible, and most of the Romanov men fit the trope to some extent. And then there's Lulu.
  • Colossus of the X-Men and Omega Red play it straight.
    • As did the Abomination from the Incredible Hulk comics.
    • Also, Mikhail Rasputin (Colossus' evil brother).
  • A one-shot parody of the Superman comics called The Man of Rust has the Lex Luthor expy summon all the Man of Rusts from all the alternate Earths. One of these is from Soviet Earth. When all the Men of Rust start fighting each other, and one of them uses his Freeze Breath on the Soviet Man of Rust, he just shrugs it off and says, "Bah! Your freeze breath is nothing compared to Siberian winters!"



  • Not to mention the "classic" literary work The Most Dangerous Game.
  • The North of A Song of Ice and Fire is not actually based off of Russia, but boasts a similar climate, and similarly strong, hardy people. The best example comes from the perils encountered by Stannis' army in A Dance With Dragons. During the march to Winterfell in blizzard conditions, the Northern troops fare much better than their southern counterparts. They've also heard of things like snowshoes.
  • Barrayaran's in Vorkosigan Saga are in many ways russia Recycled in Space. They are presented as warlike, ferocious, and superstitious, hardbitten folk who live on a planet just entering into civilization.

Live Action TV

  • Mikhail on Lost: stoic, evil, gives Sayid a run for his money in combat, and nigh unkillable. He also has Dharma vodka at the Flame (a sentence that allegedly means something).
  • Susan Ivanova in Series/ Babylon 5; a stoic, no-nonsense soldier who even goes down in legend as Ivanova the Strong.
  • The Hogan's Heroes episode "A Russian Is Coming" featured Igor Piotkin, a downed Russian pilot who was strong but not very intelligent.
  • Invoked in The Sopranos: A one-legged very stong-minded Svetlana remarks that Americans don't know what a real problem is, they live an easy existence compared to the average miserable life in Russia/USSR and yet they are wimpy complainers. And then there is ¡VALERY!, a Russian Rambo who outfights two mob soldiers in a frozen forest when he was suppressed and about to be executed. In the meantime he proudly shouts that harsh weather is nothing to him; he "washes his balls with snow".
  • 'Boris' from The Wire points out that American prisons are not real prisons as he has being a 'guest' to the actually harsh Ukranian/Soviet ones.


Professional Wrestling

  • A running gag in some MMA studios is that any technique can be made to sound more badass by prepending a nationality, usually Russian (but sometimes Brazilian) to it. So a boring old armbar and triangle choke become an awesome Russian armbar and Brazilian triangle choke.
  • WWE's Vladimir Kozlov (technically, he's Ukranian, but still.)

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the counterpart culture to Russia is made up of hard-fighting, heavy drinkin', boorish guys in furs, with wild beards and pet bears.
  • 7th Sea has equivalents of European nations of roughly 17th age. It also has each nation prioritize one of game's basic stats. Guess what is preferred in Ussura - counterpart to Russia?
  • The people of Khador (the local Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Russia) in War Machine tend to be tough-as-nails hard-fighting bearded men in fur pelts and carrying big axes.


Video Games

  • Dimitri Rascalov of Grand Theft Auto IV seems quite amiable at first. Then, he bitch-slaps you and starts betraying and backstabbing every single person he comes across.
    • If his name is Rascalov, you REALLY should have seen that coming.
    • Also, Rascalov's apparent calm and impassivity even in the worst circumstances might be interpreted as typical Russian toughness. It is revealed he's actually a huge thorazine addict.
  • Vladimir Lem in the Finnish 3rd person shooter Max Payne is an example of the "cultured but evil" variety.
  • Rank 3 in No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle is a Soviet cosmonaut who got stuck in space until well after the Soviet Union's fall. He's notable for being the first boss in the game with a One-Hit Kill.
  • Page picture: Soda Popinski (originally Vodka Drunkenski) from Punch Out.
  • Zangief, Street Fighter.
    • Arguably subverted because Zangief isn't a bad guy in the games, just in the movie. Even then, he's more stupid than threatening.
    • Before him, Zangief of WCW.
  • The Heavy from Team Fortress 2. His fists do the same amount of damage as a sword in game.
    • He also carries a gun about as large as himself.
    • Well to be more exact, "Sandvich make me stronk!"
    • The Heavy has twice the health of the other tiny baby classes, without wearing any armor.
  • If Fridge Logic comes into play, this is averted in the Command & Conquer Red Alert series, in that Soviet Conscripts are twice portrayed as inferior to Allied soldiers (GI's and Peacekeepers). The Apocalypse Tanks, however...
    • This was only true from the second game on. In the first, the Soviet infantry was vastly superior to the Allied forces in terms of sheer strength, with only the Allies' ability to field more units at a cheaper rate allowing them to keep up. They also had much stronger tanks, could defend their bases with Tesla Coils, and had a number of advantages in the air as well. Their only weak spot was in the navy, as their only ship (Submarines) is only useful against ships and sinks after only a few hits.
  • One of the voice options for a female Boss in Saints Row: The Third is a Russian accent.


  • Collar 6: Stella, Claire, and through them Ginger. It's also stated that even Russian subs tend to have a dominant streak.

Web Original

  • The basis of FPS Russia, a youtube show about trying out various guns and ordnance.

Western Animation

  • "Iron Joe" (read, Stalin) from a Histeria! sketch with the WWII allies as superheroes. He was modeled after The Hulk and his favourite tactic was "Wipe out my opposition with famine and secret police!"
  • Even robots are not immune. In Transformers Animated The Russian-accented Decepticon Strika is built like a titanium outhouse and turns into a futuristic tank, making her one of the largest fighters in her faction. On Soviet Charr, tank drives you.
  • In an episode of American Dad, Steve befriends an ex-soviet spy who helps him build a rocket for a competition. To toughen him up, he teaches him to eat Russian turnips, which are so tough Steve's mouth begins to bleed upon biting into one.

Real Life

  • Of course, Russians are fully aware of this trope and are quite happy using it to refer to themselves (see Russian self-image in Russian Humour). However, there are two specific subvarieties to mention:
    • Siberians aka "Tough/Rough Siberian guys". They are frequent characters of jokes, in which they receive a new and sophisticated device, submit it to an improbable stress test (like testing a Japanese chainsaw in succession on tough Siberian pine, tough Siberian cedar and tough Siberian rail from a nearest railroad), say their characteristic "Ah-ha!" and revert to using something much simpler, but robust. Of course, this trope relates to real Siberians as much as topic trope relates to Russians in general.
      • Adult Russians (i.e.: born before 1980) are mildly annoyed by this reputation. Younger generations, however, figured out that it is possible to capitalize on the image of tough Russian. Cue endless sequence of Chuck Norris jokes associated with a city of Chelyabinsk: Chelyabinsk inhabitants are so tough they give tickets to traffic cops, they are so tough they spread knives over bread with butter; they suck vampires' blood and steal Gypsy children; they shave with a chainsaw; their porn is downloaded via telegraph and is still forbidden in Germany; they flood their upstairs neighbors; military draft office hides from them; and they must buy tickets to leave the circus.
      • Compare and contrast: high stress environment and questionable health care led to an average of 10 chronic medical conditions per 7 children born in 1990-2010. A typical Russian high school student, university student or military recruit has pale-green complexion and cannot pass fitness tests. With the exception of obesity issues, an average American is likely to be in better shape than an average Russian.
      • 1990-2003/2005, to be precise. Overall health of the nation markedly improved in the mid-Oughts, as the economy boomed and the demographic sump passed. You see, the World War II, where Russia took more than 60% of all Allied casualties[1] had such impact on the Russian population, that even now, some 70 years later, its effects are still felt — in the corresponding generations (1965-1970, 1990-1995, etc) birthrate is much lower and overall health notably worse than in other, not war-afflicted generations.
    • Nekrasovian women. Named so after a passage describing such a type of women in poem "Grandfather Frost-the Red Nose" by Nikolai Nekrasov. The two-liner that codified a trope goes approximately as follows: "... will stop a charging horse/ And enter a burning house". Repeat: qualifying for this trope requires physical and moral strength to perform aforementioned feats. Gentle Giant? Of course. Hot Amazon? You bet, though these types prefer not to go to action unless really pressed.
  • The "evil Russian" stereotype goes back at least as far as Tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich, Grand Prince of Moscow (1530-1584), better known as Ivan the Terrible.
    • Terrible is actually a bad translation, unfortunately. It means "inspiring terror/awe/etc.," not "evil." Ivan the Formidable or Ivan the Awesome (not the slang sense) would be better. So, it plays the original trope straight, but not the Evil Russian trope.
      • More like Harsh, Wrathful, and Merciless, all bundled into one. And he did fulfill the trope perfectly, bludgeoning his (adult) son to death with his Phallic Symbol Royal staff when the poor sod made the mistake of getting Old Pa in a bad mood.
        • Ivan the Dreaded?
    • It's possible that part of the stereotype stems from Peter the Great's visit to Europe (incognito, but there aren't that many people who are six feet seven inches tall even today). Peter the Great was the epitome of this trope: he loved to get completely shitfaced and once completely trashed his English host's house. He was incredibly strong and incredibly ruthless, in part because he had to be (seeing all your friends and family murdered has a certain effect on a child) and in part, it seems, because he was just like that. For example, he tortured his son and heir Alexei to death.
      • Presumably while yelling at him to man up and quit screaming like a sissy. Honestly, if you can't handle a little brutal torture, how are you going to handle being tsar?
  • Truth in Television: Vladimir Putin is a KGB Colonel who holds a 6th dan in judo and runs the St. Petersburg dojo. Though much of this talk about his judo skills and so forth does actually result from massive Memetic Mutation, given a boost by the fact that Russian pop culture is very susceptible to said Memetic Mutation.
    • It's interesting to note at the time when he was elected he looked like a complete subversion — a young, short, soft-spoken, teetotal guy from St Petersburg (a city most strongly associated with the intelligentsia at the time) whose speeches sounded like he had a bad case of stage fright. Compared to his predecessor, a politically-experienced, imposing, loud, hard-drinking man from the Urals, Putin looked like a nobody. Of course, he did become more assertive as the time passed.
  • This video depicts a group of Russian guys casually driving through a forest fire. What's even more mind bendingly insane is that they encounter other vehicles during their death-defying commute. Yes, that's right, only in Russia can you get stuck in traffic in the middle of a Goddamn forest fire. What's even better is that not only do they not seem at all scared, they seem bored or even mildly annoyed.
  • In a word? Spetznaz.
  • There were times when Soviet cosmonauts had a collapsible shotgun included in their equipment, due to the risk of being attacked by wolves upon landing.
    • They still do. This is because the Soyuz capsules do not land on water. They return to Earth in Siberia. If they go off course it can sometimes take a day or two to find them and one early crew was forced to spend the entire time stuck in their capsule due to the aforementioned hungry wolves.
      • They generally land in Kazakhstan (which in Tsarist times was considered Southern Siberia, but still), but any malfunction can easily lead to the capsule landing wherever it would feel like, so all contingencies must be accounted for.
  • On one occasion a few years ago, several Russian soldiers froze to death on maneuvers. The general when he heard of it went into a rage at this; because he was an Old Soldier and knew that true Russian soldiers can sleep in their greatcoats. So he called all the commanders together to a meeting. This sublime array of brassiness expected some momentous message. Instead he demonstrated to them how to sleep in a Red Army greatcoat and told them very strongly to make absolutely sure that this bit of Russian Old Soldier lore was passed on to the men. This would be played straight for the general, subverted by the others. It would also be a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • Sounds rather like a tall tale, as Soviet/Russian Army hasn't used the greatcoats for some forty years already. Fur coats (and felt boots) for that matter are pretty much Truth in Television, though for the worst freezes only, generally taken out when it's below -30°C. Until then it's just the normal modern winter gear.
  • Rather creepily, Adolf Hitler became a firm believer in this by the end of the war. Because the Soviets had defeated the Germans in the Great Patriotic War his racist and Social Darwinian attitudes led him to conclude that the "eastern races" were obviously more deserving of survival, and thought they would ultimately complete world conquest after destroying the "decadent democracies of the west". It's one of the reasons he came to denounce the entire German nation, and deemed them unfit to even survive as a people – trying to effect this by ordering the destruction of all German infrastructure and even the bare means of survival.
  • Very much a Truth in Television.
  • Some Russian cultural attitudes have inadvertently reinforced this trope. As noted in the the Stepford Smiler page, Russians smile mostly around people they know as doing otherwise is seen as insincere. As such, to foreigners visiting Russia, Russians seem to be grim, dour people.
  • It's not exactly the same kind of badassery, but the literature on what Russians imprisoned in The Gulag suffered through suggests strongly that at least some Russians would survive twelve hours of logging at -60 degrees Fahrenheit, naked, fed entirely on dishwater salted with plutonium chloride.
  • The book Fighting in Hell compiled by the US Army after World War II from interviews of German Generals who had served on the Eastern Front repeats this theme: 8&qid=1335758548&sr=8-2
  1. China is the distant second, with 23%. US and UK, just to compare, contributed only 2% each.