There is a view in Asian countries that the Western culture is hypocritical, and there is even a special term for this - "Western hypocrisy." Roughly speaking, the view is that whilst the Westerners pretend and appear to be absolutely and unnaturally honest, the reality is that they cheat in situations in which they think they surely won't get caught cheating. One of the recent examples is the Volkswagen emission scandal. A leading car manufacturing company from Germany turned out to have developed and massively used a sophisticated technology to cheat on emission tests. More broadly, the view is that the Westerners strongly pretend to be what they are not, both on the individual and collective levels, whilst the Asians do not pretend to be saints, or at least not to the extent the Westerners do.

The term "Western hypocrisy" is so popular that even a Bond movie has a scene in which an Asian says this phrase.

My question is this: Is there a Russian term for Western hypocrisy, and is there a general Russian idiom about the kind of hypocritical behavior described above? In other words, I want a Russian idiomatic translation of the term "Western hypocrisy" and a Russian idiom about hypocritically maintaining a reputation of a saint, ideally something along the line, "He who says he is a saint is either a fool or a liar."

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    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:12
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6 Answers 6


There's no such well established term dedicated to specifically western hypocrisy - so feel free to use just "западное лицемерие" - in fact, this exactly term is used quite often in Russian political rhetoric.

The very concept of western hypocrisy never played huge role in Russia compared to (from what I can judge - I'm by no means an expert in South-Eastern Asia) China, Japan or, say, Korea.

For at least the last 400 years Russia was huge and military powerful country that quite often was in state of war. That said, there were always political tensions of some kind. Depending on time, British Empire, Ottoman Empire, Sweden, Austrian Empire, France - they all were political rivals. And even among so-called "западники" actually there were no idealization of Western countries - they just wanted to adapt some of political practices they found progressive.

Still you underestimate how much Russia actually perceived itself as Western state as well. You also underestimate the connectedness of Russian Monarchs and European monarchs - the were related.

  • Thanks a lot! Did you watch "Die Another Day" in Russian by chance? The scene I referred to is from that movie. I am curious how the Russians translated "Western hypocrisy." The scene is at 4:50 from the start of the movie.
    – Mitsuko
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 21:59

Whatever they say, Russians are a part of the West, so it's hard to expect the Russian language to have a special expression for a trait some Asians see as typically western. The only Russian expression I can think of in the connection with the Volkswagen incident you mentioned is делать хорошую мину при плохой игре (lit. "to make a good face during a bad game") meaning 'to conceal your feelings (dismay, indignation, irritation) caused by your failure(s) under the mask of outer calm, carelessness, joyfulness'. Still, I'm not quite sure if I acquire your drift and understand what you mean by "Western hypocrisy".

  • Interestingly, I have always seen Russia as an Asian country, primarily because of the Russian collectivist mentality similar to that of Asian countries such as Japan. Historically, Russia can be seen as a continuation of the Golden Horde, especially in terms of the social structure. Linguistically, I guess the largest number of borrowed words in Russian is from Turkic languages.
    – Mitsuko
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 22:14
  • @Mitsuko - Most borrowings in Russian are definitely from European languages: (Old) Church Slavonic, Greek, Latin, English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and also from Polish, and most of the borrowings from the Western European languages came through Polish. Turkic borrowings are few, fewer than Iranian and Arabic borrowings that entered Russian through Turkic languages.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 23:02
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    @Mitsuko - Yes, yes, yes, and yes! A part of the West. Half of the European countries are still monarchies. The USSR was built on the communist ideas of the German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. GULAG-like Konzentrazionslagers were typical of the German Nazis, too. Purges are typical to every country, e.g. the Witch Hunt in the USA in the 1950s. Collective farms are socialist, not Asian, Israeli socialists still have them, called kibbutz. Serfdom in Russia was abolished just the same time as slavery in the USA. But WHAT the hell does this have to do with the Russian language???
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 0:05

Well, I can agree that Russians belong to the Western culture, and there is less misunderstanding between us and other Europeans. For us, Western Europeans have their traits, Germans are different from English, and we have some phrases associated with a particular country characterising it to us.

When the Western do something wrong, we can more or less predict and understand it.

I would say, that craftiness and hypocricy are sooner associated with the Eastern countries, where people seem to us more naive, but have their own thoughts, and behave not from what they say, but from what they think, and we never know which is where.

Where an Eastern person (or sooner a professional) will betray you, we never know.

It doesn't actually mean that one or the other culture is worse, it means that we understand the culture we belong to.


One relatively popular expression from the political lingo is двойные стандарты. But that obviously applies to hypocrisy manifested as different treatment of different groups/countries contrary to public declarations.

A popular Russian charge against Westerners, especially the Americans, is that they are неискренние or фальшивые when being friendly or smiling.

But generally Western society isn't perceived as hypocritical any more than Russian society is.

The locution западное лицемерие occurs over 17K times in Google results so it's not unheard of, but it has very thick political overtones.

This is also how the phrase is translated in the Russian dubbing of "Die Another Day".

  • I would possibly specifically mention голливудская улыбка as a set phrase describing the perceived insincerity of Americans.
    – svavil
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 22:55

No, there is no special word for Western hypocrisy. There is a general word for hypocrisy though, лицемерие.


i think, the idiomatic expression "развесистая клюква" or "клюква" will be near... but it not about hypocrisy (лицемерие) exactly, but about lie and fantastical lie. Often about Russia.


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