Europe

'Well done Putin': How Russians view the new 'Cold War'

War memorial statue 40 km from Tchaikovskovo
Image caption Residents of Tchaikovskovo say they don't want to see Russia embroiled in another war

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg visits the Russian village of Tchaikovskovo - once home of the famous composer - where residents share their thoughts on war and Russia's annexation of Crimea.

There is something magical about snow. It can turn the greyest, dankest place into a stunning landscape.

As I arrive in the village of Tchaikovskovo, an unseasonal blizzard is covering up pot-holed roads and muddy paths.

Under this fresh blanket of spring snow this village could be the setting for a Russian fairy tale. Perhaps it is not surprising that it was in a house near here that Tchaikovsky wrote his score for The Nutcracker.

Songs of war

Tchaikovskovo does not see many foreigners. My unannounced visit arouses some suspicion.

"Due to the current international situation, we ask you, please, to prove your identity," requests Svetlana at the village culture palace.

Svetlana is a member of the local collective farm veterans' choir, which I discover is holding a rehearsal.

I produce my passport, my official correspondent's accreditation and a BBC business card. The documents get passed along the line of singers and closely inspected.

"So, will you allow me to sit in?" I ask.

"If you sing along!" replies Svetlana with a cheeky smile. Her icy demeanour is starting to melt.

Image caption The local collective farm veterans' choir in Tchaikovskovo sing of wars gone by, love and the future

Their first song is about the horrors of war, about bullets whistling into the distance, a Cossack hero gunned down in battle.

The Russian psyche has been scarred by a century of conflict: civil war, world war and cold war.

When the song is over, I tell the seven singers that after Russia's annexation of the Crimea, there are some people in Europe and America who see Russia as the aggressor and a threat to world peace.

"Well, I say, well done Putin," Svetlana replies.

"We're pleased to have such a leader. With what he did in Crimea, Putin showed that Russia isn't a country that you can push around, pressure or scare."

Across the road is the collective farm's dairy factory. The farm is not nearly as big as it was in communist times but it still has cows - they are milked three times a day.

The result is in front of me: large vats of cottage cheese and butter and ryazhenka - thick creamy Russian yoghurt.

Image caption The owner of the village dairy factory says he is distrustful of the West's next moves

The farm's deputy director, Vladimir, agrees to give me a tour, though he admits he is wary of the West.

"I think America is like a dog with rabies," Vladimir tells me. "In Russia, we're not sure if it's going to bite us or not. We'll keep our distance. And make sure we've got a gun ready, just in case."

Media portrayal

Next I visit the village beauty salon, where stylist Olga is mixing up some hair colouring for her next customer.

I ask her how worried she is by Western sanctions against Russia.

"I'm not worried at all," Olga says.

"Even if the rest of the world were to close their borders to us, Russia is so big we'll always find places where we can go on holiday, places where we can live and prosper."

Surveys show that 88% of Russians share Olga's view: that Crimea joining Russia is a positive development.

According to another recent poll, 88% of Russians - the same figure - get their news primarily from television. That reflects the degree to which TV in Russia forms public opinion.

And since TV here is almost completely under the control or influence of the state, viewers get very much the Kremlin's view of events: that Russia has acted properly, that the authorities in Kiev are illegitimate and that Russian speakers in Ukraine are suffering persecution.

Image caption People in Tchaikovskovo dismiss claims Russia acted aggressively in Crimea

The Ukrainian government dismisses that as propaganda.

Outside a block of flats in Tchaikovskovo, I ask a pensioner called Galina whether she thinks that everything Russian TV reports about Ukraine is true. Galina seems taken aback by the question.

"What? Are they distorting things?" she asks. There is a long pause. "No, that can't be. We believe it all. Are you saying it's not all true?" Another pause. "No, I believe our TV."

Galina becomes suspicious of my questions.

"Why are you asking these things? Is England planning to attack us?"

Back at their rehearsal, the veterans' choir is singing about love and the eternal question to which there is no answer: what will the future bring? Singer Tatyana hopes it brings peace.

"The West needn't worry, Russia will never start a war," Tatyana says. "My father spent the whole of World War 2 in the trenches. He was wet, he was cold, he was starving. There isn't a single Russian who would want a return to that."