Having grown up in a newly post cold war world*,
I caught the tail end of some fantastic propaganda about Russia/the USSR.
...most of it propagated some pretty horrible stereotypes.
Eventually, after a few years of language study in college, I was able to visit Russia, which in turn replaced my old impressions of Russia with the following:
*well, that's debatable
**Извините, все мои pycckии друзья , вы знаете, что я вaм люблю. ;)