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f_0020493_17254 - 115 6 russia's PuBliC diPlomaCy eFFort...

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R USSIA ' S P UBLIC D IPLOMACY E FFORT : W HAT THE K REMLIN IS D OING AND W HY IT S N OT W ORKING Katherine P. Avgerinos Since 2005, the Kremlin has allocated millions of dollars to various public diplomacy initiatives in an effort to improve Russia’s international image. However, the Western media and mainstream public opinion are still highly unsympathetic toward Russia. After analyzing some basic theories of nation- branding and public diplomacy, this article argues that Russia lacks a clear and consistent public diplomacy strategy, as there is a disconnect between what the Russian government does and says in the domestic arena and the image that the Kremlin is trying to project to international audiences. Russia is still strug- gling to overcome the legacy of the Soviet era, and any efforts to overcome the bipolar climate of the Cold War and cooperate multilaterally have been contradicted by its reluctance to abate an ‘us-vs.-them’ mentality. The Kremlin’s inability to execute effective media campaigns further agitates anti-Russian preju- dices in the West and hinders the country’s efforts to improve its international reputation. I NTRODUCTION A 2003 survey commissioned by the Putin administration asked Ameri- cans to name the top ten items they associated with Russia. The top four 6 Katherine P. Avgerinos is a Masters of Arts in International Relations Candidate, 2009 at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a Masters of Science in Public Relations Candidate, 2009 at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University.
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116 responses were communism, the KGB, snow, and the mafia. Another poll conducted that year on the global awareness of Russian brands even more poignantly showed that Russia’s image was in need of repair: the only “brands” foreigners could think of were Kalashnikov rifles and Molotov cocktails (Evans 2005). Since then, in a drive to improve Russia’s image, the Kremlin has invested millions of dollars into various public diplomacy initiatives. These range from internationally-broadcasted news stations in English and Arabic to promotional events displaying Russia’s rich cultural and athletic triumphs. However, according to recent polling data from Gallup, Russia’s reputation abroad has become increasingly unfavorable since 2004, despite Russia’s increased funding and efforts to improve its image. In February 2005, Gallup reported that 61 percent of non-Russian respondents held a favor- able opinion of Russia and 33 percent held an unfavorable opinion. By February 2009, the percentage of respondents with favorable opinions of Russia dropped to 40 percent, while the percentage of respondents with non-favorable opinions jumped to 53 percent (Saad 2009). This suggests that, in just four years, Russia’s image among foreign observers drastically slid.
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