Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainians have referred to the Russian army as orcs. The comparison seems new to many, but it actually dates back to the Soviet era.
It is no secret that Russia wants to oppose the West. To them, the West is an evil entity that spreads propaganda and manipulates the world, while Russia and its allies are a force of good seeking to defend itself. Another ” secret ” is Russia’s talent for conspiracy theories and Russia-centrism. That is, they believe that actions are be directed against Russia. There is some truth in this as evidenced by foreign companies’ reactions to the current war, but this mentality was not prompted by today’s state of affairs.
Eliot Borenstein addressed this topic in his book Plots against Russia. He discusses the “paranoid interpretations” of Russians, which he explains as their feelings of inferiority. For Russians, Russia is a big country, but it mostly exists in a vacuum. When it comes to the international media, Russians feel like a minority pitted against many others.
Obviously, this extends to literature as well. Interpretations have been made that Tolkien’s books are in fact an example of how the West tries to demonize Russia (formerly, the Soviet Union).
In this sense, Mordor is the USSR, elves are the Western countries, and orcs are then the Russians. It is of no consequence at all whether Tolkien would agree with such an interpretation.
There is an entire genre dedicated to the interpretation of Tolkien’s books, and Russian writers make significant contributions to its development. One of the most popular books on the subject is Russian writer and publicist Kirill Yeskov’s The Last Ringsman. In this, he claims that The Lord of the Rings is Western propaganda written to justify the orc genocide, and Mordor is, in fact, a tolerant state with advanced science forced to defend itself from barbaric neighbors. The West, i.e. elves, treats Russians, i.e. orcs, as an inferior race, illustrating their contempt for them.
However, not all interpretations are clear cut. Not everyone shares Eliot Borenstein’s view of the inferiority of Russians. Some believe that the Russians recognize themselves in orcs because they are strong and militant and not because they are despised. In their opinion, orcs stand out against the background of the declining West.
However, in today’s reality, Russians are not calling themselves orcs, regardless of past interpretations. The Ukrainians are now referring to the Russians as orcs.
It is unlikely that Ukrainians are interpreting the current confrontation between Russia and the West as a clash between good and evil. Nor are they praising the courage and militancy of the Russians. Ukrainians call Russians orcs because they are making an association with, the disorganization, minimal intelligence, and overwhelming bitterness of orcs. Furthermore, they also arrive in great numbers.
Not to mention, orcs do not exist exclusively in Tolkien’s world. They exist elsewhere as mythical creatures portrayed as bloodthirsty warriors who thrive on war.
The word ” orcs ” is now on a par with the Ukrainian word katsaps, a negative term meaning goat but referencing Russians, or Muscovites. – These standard, non-politically correct words are used by Ukrainians at various levels for any Russians, from civilians and journalists to the military-political leadership. But there are other variants of terms for Russians throughout the world. For example, if the Russians started a war with the Koreans, they would most likely be called mauche (bearded). In Estonia, they would be referred to as tibla or tiblena (words with offensive origins).
If, after this war, Ukrainians were to update their dictionary, “orcs” would likely be included as well as many interesting phrases that have already turned into common. Some examples are:
- Русский военный корабль, иди ***** [ Russian war machines, piss off] is the most popular phrase among Ukrainians today. This phrase has been added to the list of national slogans. It makes a strong statement for the indomitability of Ukrainians and their desire to fight to the last as exemplified by the heroes of Snake Island;
- Доброго вечора, ми з України [Good evening, we are from Ukraine] is a phrase uttered by Vitaliy Kim, the head of the Mykolayiv Regional State Administration. It symbolizes the optimism of Ukrainians even during the war. Kim, even in these difficult times, records videos for Ukrainians with a smile and jokes from the city of Mykolayiv;
- ” Українська Мрія не вмирає“ [The Ukrainian Dream (Mriya] does not Die] is a phrase that speaks of resilience and faith at its best. When the world’s largest airplane, the Dream (Mriya), was destroyed, Ukrainians said their dream would not die, despite Russia’s best efforts;
- «Бандера смузі» [Bandera smoothie] is the Ukrainian version of Molotov cocktails. They are prepared by ordinary Ukrainians in almost every city and then used against the Russian troops. Ordinary people, students, women, retirees, gather in yards or basements to contribute to the national struggle in preparing this cocktail. This phrase demonstrates the unity of Ukrainians in resistance.
Any list will not be complete at this moment because newly coined expressions appear almost every day.