I first studied Russian back when the Soviet Union represented an existential threat to the United States. My uni professors were mostly not Russians. Russian academics were scarce commodities in the US in that day. Nonetheless, as I devoured Russian literature, I had to start re-examining stereotypes.
Then I studied more Russian in the military. My instructors were all Russian defectors or their family members. Then stereotypes began to really shatter.
By the time I became an intel officer and Soviet specialist, I was (like practically all my colleagues) an avowed Russophile. I had learned that Russian culture was rich and beautiful, and that Russian people loved their children and had warm hearts just like everybody else I knew.
Irony of ironies. We who were charged with monitoring America’s most feared enemies were people who understood more than most that much of the enmity was overhyped.