#16 - JRL 7187
May 19, 2003
$6 MILLION ON PROMOTION
The Russian authorities are concerned about the nation's image abroad
Author: Svetlana Ofitova
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
A WORKING GROUP CONVENED BY THE FEDERATION COUNCIL WILL DEVELOP DRAFT PROPOSALS FOR REVISING THE CONCEPT OF RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD. THE NEW WORKING GROUP WILL ENDEAVOR TO DEVELOP SOME NEW TACTICS FOR IMPROVING RUSSIA'S IMAGE.
On Friday evening, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov approved an initiative of the Federation Council commission for information policy to set up a working group to "develop draft proposals for revising the concept of Russia's image abroad".
Members of the Federation Council stress that the initiative will focus on assembling "promoters of Russia" from agencies directly responsible for Russia's image abroad, i.e. the Foreign Ministry, Media Ministry, Presidential Administration, and big business. According to participants of the closed meeting on this topic in the Federation Council? Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov, Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinsky, and the authorities of the state-owned news agencies, Russia's image abroad has not acquired the desired contours. Independent media were not invited to this meeting in order to have a chance to speak frankly. However, we have managed to learn some details about the meeting.
First, Russia does not say much about its achievements. The potential of "friendship homes" abroad is not sufficiently employed, and sites of diplomatic representations are not popular.
The second worst problem is said to be insufficient funding for Russia's foreign policy image. Participants in the meeting mentioned the example of the US, which spends $1 billion a year on "self- promotion" abroad. Representatives of the Federation Council refused to disclose the corresponding figure for Russia. We only managed to find out from government sources that every year about 170-180 million rubles (approximately $6 million) is spent on improving Russia's image abroad.
The latest blow to Russia's image has been the Iraqi crisis. Russia's peacekeeping intentions were not noticed; but its political maneuvering and its unsuccessful mediation between the US and the divided Europe drew much commentary.
Meanwhile, as head of the Federation Council information commission Dmitry Mezentsev has stressed, the key task of the working group will be "not propaganda, but correlation of positive results with changing realities". The blatant sales techniques which in Russia are used to promote chewing gum and political parties alike do not go down well in the rest of the world. Therefore, the Federation Council intends to "match expectations and realities, and find a way of telling the world about Russia successfully".
However, as senators said, the rest of the world will not have any respect for Russia until Russians themselves begin to love their motherland. State authorities might show the people an example of this by demonstrating their knowledge of the lyrics to the new Russian national anthem. However, television coverage of the presidential address suggests otherwise. Speaker Sergei Mironov, who is so concerned about Russia's image, seemed to have learned the lyrics, judging from his clear lip movements. As for Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, he was not noted for confidence while singing the anthem.
(Translated by Kirill Frolov)