Until the 2000s, perceptions of Russians and Russia in Turkish were often linked to negative factors. These opinions turned more positive in the 2000s for the first time, as the older, less shiny perceptions began to quickly fade away. Some of the factors that helped boost these positive changes, as they began to reflect in the Turkish language, were the multidimensional developments taking place in the relations between Turkey and Russia, the fact that more and more Turks were working in the Russian Federation, increased investments on both sides, mixed marriages between Turks and Russians and the flow of Russian tourists into Turkey.
As the final stages of the Ottoman Empire passed with many lost wars against czarist Russia, as well as invasions and heavy migration into Anatolia, the words “Rusya” (Russia) and “Rus” (Russian), as well as “Moskof” (referring to a Muscovite or a communist), began to possess definitive negative associations. These were associations which were perpetuated throughout the first years of the new Turkish Republic. Turkey and the Soviet Union staked out differing positions at the end of the Cold War years and the break up of the Soviet Union.
Throughout these years, the commonly used term “Moskof” in Turkish was used to refer to Russia, Russians and someone who was an enemy. In fact, there were some popular phrases used at this time that reflect the state of relations between these two countries: “Even a Moskof would not do that,” “Behaving like a Moskof infidel,” “As stubborn as a Moskof” or “Don’t expect a Moskof to have a conscience.” At the same time, there were sayings such as “Heading all the way to Siberia,” or “May your path take you all the way to Siberia,” which reflected Turkish speakers’ perceptions of just how distant in so many ways that part of the world was from Turkey.
Negative associations in Turkish when it came to Russia increased even more during the years of World War II with Ankara’s sympathies with Germany. During the Cold War years, the term “Moskof” became extremely important in Turkey as nationalist and anti-communist movements employed it to express their views, as well as to help paint a negative picture of the left in the eyes of the people of the nation. Turkish leftists, in particular, labeled things such as “seed of Moskof,” “Moskof dog,” “Moskof infidel,” “Moskof tyrant,” “Moskof servants,” “Moskof pigs” and so on. Thus the word was variously employed to mean enemy, communist, leftist, atheist, tyrant and so on. In the 1960s, rightist Turkish politicians used slogans such as “The middle left heads to Moscow” to portray the Republican People’s Party (CHP) axis as siding with the Soviet Union.
During the Cold War years, the salad that had been previously known as “Russian salad” was changed to “American salad” due to opposition to the left and the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people began to slowly use “Russian salad” again to refer to this salad. Interestingly, even nowadays, to say that something is “like a Russian salad” in Turkish is to denote it as confused or chaotic.
In the wake of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkish perceptions of the region and the people of Russia began to take on more positive dimensions. As the Russian Federation became wealthier, and as more Russians began to visit Turkey and the number of mixed marriages between the citizens of these two countries began to increase, perceptions began to take a turn for the better.
In recent years, words relating to Russian cuisine and Russian daily life have even begun to enter the Turkish language. As more Russians come to Turkey and open markets in Turkish cities, the term “Russian bazaar” has even begun to be more popular. Also used regularly these days in Turkish are phrases such as “Russian börek,” “Russian köfte,” “Russian soup,” “Russian vodka” (meaning good vodka), “Black Russian cocktail,” “Russian service” (meaning a type of restaurant with live music and a fixed menu), “Siberian wolf,” “Siberian tiger,” “Siberian coal,” “Siberian cold,” “Moskof duck,” “Baykal duck” and “St. Petersburg paradox” (meaning a contradiction based on the game of heads and tails).