Thursday, June 28, 2012

Azeri "Public Diplomacy" in DC

You might or might not have heard of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival held annually on the National Mall. I'll be honest, having lived in DC for three years now, it is the first time that I actually made it there, and that was not as much for the festival itself (which is bad, I admit, because it was actually great!), but because I was promised a George Clinton performance.

In short, I was going to spend the evening there and I had heard that there will be some food. It was perhaps due to this initial ignorance that I was absolutely shocked (and honestly, pleasantly surprised - at first) to see "Azerbaijani food" among other concessions (such as barbecue and comfort food). Putting the exclusive "Azerbaijani" label on dishes such as dolma or kebab was a little too politically incorrect, I thought (OK, they even had Efes, which is perhaps the one thing everyone will agree is not Azerbaijani). But if others do it, why can't Azeris do it, too... right?

When I got to the Mall, I was curious to check out their food stand. The lines were pretty big. And yes, I was actually impressed, at first.

Then, I saw the T-shirts.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Russian "soft power" in Armenia

I have written, on multiple occasions, about Russia's "soft power" (and hegemony) in its near abroad. The post I would suggest you go back and read, through, is one from more than two years ago.

Clearly, having lived outside of Armenia for perhaps too long now, and having studied public diplomacy and "soft power" a little, I cannot but read into instances of those, especially in the region. Things that many people would take for granted, look very peculiar (and sometimes amusing) to me.

This billboard is the perfect example of that. It is in downtown Yerevan and I saw it last summer, when I was back, visiting. It was still there this year.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

RT debates "Skeptical Power"

Russia Today's Peter Lavelle hosted an interesting discussion on CrossTalk yesterday: the program fucused on soft power, its various meanings and implications, the weaknesses of the concept, and some of the misunderstandings about it. I was very happy to see my very own professor, Dr. Craig Hayden, among the guests, too.