Strange patterns, at first glance. Even just a few years ago, this map would have been unrecognizable, with East European countries viewing Russia with relatively greater hostility than Western Europe.
So what changed?
Well, what I suspect happened is a European version of the return of conservative Russophilia in the United States. As crusty Cold Warriors die off and the USSR retreats into deep history, we are seeing the reemergence of 19th century attitudes towards Russia, when it was hated as the “gendarme of Europe” by liberals and – if not exactly liked, then at least approached cool-headedly – by conservatives.
Essentially, the East Europeans who dislike Russia tend to dislike it for tribal, nationalist reasons, not religious (progressivism) ones like Sweden Yes [15%].
As one Twitter user mischievously noted, there is now a minor Hajnal effect to Russophilia (or more precisely, the lack of strongly ideological Russophobia).
Another obvious pattern is that Orthodox countries tend to view Russia positively. This is not too surprising, since as I pointed out in a PEW poll a few months ago, majorities in all major the Orthodox nations except Ukraine look to Russia to protect Orthodox abroad and even to counter the influence of the West (amazingly, this even describes Romania [47%], which has traditionally had very poor relations with Russia – possibly the worst of any country outside the Baltics).
But Orthodoxy per se doesn’t explain everything. There is very considerable Russophilia throughout the entire Balkans, including in Croatia [50%] and Slovenia [49%], and in the Visegrad nations. Moreover, even there, the conservatism/Russophilia associations tend to hold more often than not: For instance, conservative Slovakia [50%] is far more pro-Russian than liberal Czechia [31%]. Poland is slightly less favorable [27%], but still, the fact that it is now ahead of the major European nations like Germany [20%], France [20%], and the UK [24%] is an amazing development, considering that Poland in general, and Polish conservatives in particular, have traditionally had strongly anti-Russian attitudes.
However, I suspect the Baltics are false friends. Since a quarter of Estonia’s [34%] and Latvia’s [46%] population are Russians who largely remain more loyal to Russia, in practice Latvian Latvians’ approval of Russia would probably be around 25%, and Estonia’s at 15%. Since there relatively few Russians in Lithuania [39%], however, Lithuanian Lithuanians’ approval of Russia should be somewhere around 30-35%. Consequently, even in the Baltics, the correlations still hold: Estonia is the most progressive, secular, and SWPL of the Baltic states, while Lithuania is the most religious and conservative.