Russians have come a long-winded way since the Soviet era—and so have their judgments about India if Russia’s largest search engine Yandex is to be believed. In 2019, India has sparked unusual interest among Russians: they are demanding questions about its hygiene, diversity and even its contentious relationship with Pakistan.
The most searched queries on Yandex show that Russians frequently see India for what it is rather than as the land of exoticism it was made out to be until very recently.
This attests to the fact that over the last few years, the language gap between Russians and Indians has been gradually narrowing. Indians, too, no longer see Russia through a Soviet prism, and western stereotypes about Russian criminals are also slowly vanishing from the Indian psyche. That chartered flights ferried Indian football fans to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup also presents that Indians no longer view Russia as unsafe.
Relations among New Delhi and Moscow remain largely good, but polling Russians on how they view India may not certainly reflect ground realities. And that is the gap a search engine like Yandex may fill. Yandex has more than 20 million unique daily viewers.
1. The most searched question about our country is ‘Why is India so dirty?’
Unlike several countries where special efforts are made to keep areas surrounding tourist attractions spotless, India allows such places to be as clean or as dirty as the less-frequented tourist spots.
Although Russians are not known for being individually politically correct, members of the country’s polite society often avoid asking Indians about public hygiene, in order to not sound offensive.
2. Surprisingly enough, the second most searched question is: ‘Why does India hardly use its land borders with Pakistan?’
It’s tough to understand why this question ranks high among Russians’ queries about India.
3. The third most searched question is about ‘meat’: ‘Why isn’t India a leader in meat production?’
Russians are apparently not aware of the fact that India is the world’s eighth largest producer of meat, and that India is the second largest exporter of beef in the world.
4. The fourth most requested query is ‘Why is India a developing country?’
This isn’t an uncommon query. Since the Soviet era, Russia has always seen a lot of potential in India.
5. The fifth most searched query: Why India and China are among the ten largest countries in terms of volume.
Enroll this query into Yandex, and 134 million results pop up—not surprising as this is an incomplete question there are numerous results.
6. The sixth most asked question: Why did India renounce the right to take part in the 1950 football World Cup?
This is something that makes many India sports fans interested. One of the common myths was that the match required participating teams to wear shoes while playing, and so India backed out. The probable reason was that India saw the Summer Olympics in Helsinki as the more significant event, compared to what is considered an upstart competition.
7. Some Russian netizens are also curious about India’s diversity. The seventh most searched question on Yandex was ‘Why India is the most multiethnic country in the world?’
Russia actually is diverse in its own right and boasts of over 180 ethnic groups. Nonetheless, ethnic Russians form around 81% of the country’s over 140 million-strong population.
Russians usually wonder why Indians have such a knack for being multi-lingual.
8. Indians would be happy to know about the next most searched question: ‘Why is India such a wonderland?’
Some television stations in Russia yet show dubbed versions of old Hindi films, and quite a few Russian Instagram users happily post pictures of Rajasthan, Kerala and other beautiful places.
9. The ninth most asked question in Russian on Yandex: ‘Why is India part of the Commonwealth?’
This looks odd given the fact that the British colonization of India is widely-known in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
10. The tenth most asked question is: ‘Why did India attract Europeans?’
Many Russians know that Afanasy Nikitin, a merchant from the city of Tver, managed to set foot in India a few years before Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. The country has been a part of the Russian popular imagination since at least the 15th century.