The List: Top 10 Russians

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From the February 20, 2014 edition

The Sochi Olympics have perhaps turned our national attention to Russian culture more than any time since the Cold War. It’s not all good, from their anti-LGBT laws to Putin’s anti-democratic tendencies, so we wanted to look at some Russians we like.

10. Zangief

The Russian pro-wrestler in the skimpy red tights is a favorite brawler from the “Street Fighter” video games — and a less-offensive stereotype than “Punch-Out’s” Soda Popinski, who was originally named Vodka Drunkenski. (We are not making that up.)

9. Garry Kasparov

Considered by many to be the greatest chess player ever, Kasparov also was the first champion chess player to eventually be defeated by a computer (IBM’s Deep Blue), reminding us of our own futility in the robot uprising. He’s also been a vocal opponent of Putin in recent years.

8. Boris and Natasha

As inept villains to Rocky and Bullwinkle, these two may have never accomplished any of their fiendish plans, but they had great disguises and were always amusingly fun.

7. White Russian

There aren’t many great cocktails that incorporate dairy products, but this is the greatest, as evidenced by it being the signature drink of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski.”

6. Pussy Riot

You think you’re punk rock? Members of this feminist protest punk group served time in a Russian prison for their guerrilla performance in a Moscow cathedral. That’s punk rock.

5. Mikhail Gorbachev

As the leader of the Soviet Union during the Reagan Era, Gorbachev’s policies and leadership may have done as much to end the Cold War as Reagan’s rhetoric. Gorby received a Nobel Peace Prize and the gold record from Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” for his efforts.

4. Leo Tolstoy

As author of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina,” Tolstoy is recognized as Russia’s greatest writer. More impressive is that he was the father of 13 children.

3. Ivan Drago

Rocky Balboa’s most fearsome boxing foe may have been too much of a negative stereotype — it was the Cold War, remember — but he was pretty awesome as a villain. “I must break you” is the line to intimidate someone before you punch them in the face.

2. Fievel Mousekewitz

The beloved main character from director Don Bluth’s “An American Tale” was a Russian-Jewish mouse who was separated from his family during their immigration to America. And if you don’t get a little misty when you hear “Somewhere Out There,” you have no heart.

1. Nikolai Luzhin

Viggo Mortensen’s Nikolai in “Eastern Promises” is one of his best performances, a truly terrifying Russian mobster with a secret soul in one of the most authentic organized crime films of all time. Plus, Nikolai has the best tattoos of anyone on this list. Sorry, Zangief.