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.

What's so amusing about it? Well, firstly, it advertises an Armenian cognac (a product the country is very proud of) named "Kremlin Award" (you can't even see the "Award", so let's just call it "Kremlin"). Perhaps more important, however, is that the line in the bottom reads, in Russian: "Reviving Imperial Traditions". Coming from Armenians themselves, and given the context (whether historical, or the current military-political one), this is all too ironic.

The most interesting fact is that it does not even seem to occur to many that there might be something wrong with this billboard, or such statements. Armenians are, after all, all too proud of their "special relationship" with Russia, even if it's still semi-colonial one. Yet, arguably, there are some very good reasons for that.

For those who are still in the dark about what soft power (or, I would argue, total hegemony) is, this is a case in point. The question is, how long will this billboard be there?

To read more about the "Kremlin Award" cognac itself, see here.

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