Monday, November 10, 2014

CPD post on Russian PD -- An Introduction

So, I started blogging for USC's Center on Public Diplomacy. The first topic suggestion was a broad introduction to Russian public diplomacy. That's quite a tough task -- describing everything Russia does in one blog post. That is why I ended up with two (which, if you ask me, isn't enough either). They were published almost a week ago, but I wanted to repost here, too, for those who might have missed them (better late than never, right?). As always, would appreciate feedback, comments, suggestions.

Remainders of a November 7 KPRF (Communist Party) march in a nearby metro station (downtown Moscow).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moscow -- First Impressions

It's been more than a week since I arrived in Russia, finally. For the first time. Yes. Ever. I'd never been to Moscow before (except for agonizing hours in the airport transit area, that is). It is even more exciting and intriguing to be here at such a time, as the region undergoes massive and rapid changes (crashing and burning?) and as the Iron Curtain seems to be coming back down.

I'm here for work -- dissertation research. But given the circumstances, I have decided to undertake an exploration of the city, as well (which, I am told, is so different from the rest of the country that it should be considered an independent republic within the greater Federation). Participant observation, if you will.

St. Basil's Cathedral. Gorgeous at any time of the day. (All photos are my own)

It is funny how familiar Moscow seems sometimes. I don't know if it's all those stories I heard from my grandma's childhood, countless hours spent reading about Russia and Russians, or just the good ol' Soviet movies. But yes, now that my brain has finally switched back to speaking primarily Russian, the place doesn't seem alien at all.


But then, again, first impressions are often simplistic, if not wrong. Here are a few interesting, sad, amusing, and perhaps all too ordinary observations from these past ten days:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#MapFail?

I was talking to a new acquaintance from Ukraine a few days ago, and he mentioned that there seemed to be an interesting discrepancy in the political map of Ukraine on the Russian search website - aspiring Google alternative - Yandex.

I looked it up and turns out he was right: on the maps of the Russian domain - yandex.ru - Crimea is shown as a part of Russia; while on the Ukrainian - yandex.ua - it is still a part of Ukraine.

Ukraine according to maps.yandex.RU.

Ukraine according to maps.yandex.UA.

Then, I decided to check out Google Maps, since we usually expect a little more neutrality -- perhaps -- from global companies. Interestingly enough, the picture seemed as confusing there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Brazilian Cultural Diplomacy in Yerevan

Football is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind in terms of Brazil and public diplomacy these days, but in Yerevan, the Brazilian Embassy had a different treat for the public: an evening of live music.

According to the Brazilian Ambassador Edson Marinho Duarte Monteiro, the event on June 27 was part of a global series of Brazilian music concerts organized by the embassies around the world. The "Journey Through Brazilian Music" provided a quick historical overview of the 20th century, from early samba to bossa nova and carnival tunes.

Along with the program, the Embassy was giving out informational brochures about Brazil. Never lose an opportunity!


The performers were all Armenian, including the singer -- Anoush Badalyan -- who did a wonderful job covering the pieces in what seemed to be great Portuguese. Their performance was accompanied by a brief introduction and background explaining how each genre developed and noting some of the most famous musicians/performers associated with them.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Russian Power - Soft, not Hard - in Ukraine?

Over the weekend, I was talking to an Armenian expert of Russia and Russian foreign policy. As I was explaining my research interests and dissertation topic - international communication, public diplomacy, Russian foreign policy - his initial response was slightly cold.

"Ah, that's the American stuff. Russians are still working on it and are trying to figure out what their own approach should be," he said. "They don't even have one name for it, do they? And they prefer a different term..."

"Myagkaya sila - soft power", I said.

"Yes! Soft power. They're more comfortable with this one." His face suddenly lit up: "By the way, did you see what a success Ukraine has been? I don't think they expected it to work so well."

As unnerving as this might sound, I was actually amused to hear it, because this corresponded to a lot of my analysis on the subject, as well. Yes, there is a strong military -- i.e. "hard power" -- aspect to Russia's involvement in the current conflict in Ukraine. However, had it not been for a solid 'presence' of Russian soft power in the country -- even if we assume that it's been limited to its Eastern regions -- none of this would be possible.

Original image from Valdai Club.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Flags, Football, & Soft Power

Before you read any further, I should probably highlight the disclaimer: this post - albeit related - is not only about the World Cup or Brazil's public diplomacy. Rather, I just wanted to share some observations on the subject while I was visiting Beirut, Lebanon last month.

It so happened that I had the chance to spend a couple of weeks in Lebanon -- it was supposed to be more of a personal trip, but ended up being very educational (how could it not be?). While there, we stayed in Bourj Hammoud -- the Armenian part of Beirut -- which, much like most of the other old parts of the town, mostly comprises small buildings that don't inspire much structural confidence. But I'll talk more about Bourj Hammoud and the Armenians there in a different post. I'm just noting it here to explain the presence of the Armenian flag in so many of the photos below.

Now, back to football (soccer -- for the stubborn among you). It's important to note that despite the fact that Iran and Algeria are the only countries representing the Middle East in the World Cup this year, the football mania in the region is as high as ever. This is true - if not even truer - for Lebanon, where an entire month before the beginning of the World Cup, the streets were flooded with flags of seemingly random and not-so-random countries.

All photos in this post are my own.

It was truly amusing to see so many Brazilian, Spanish, Italian, and German flags, alongside the proudly displayed Lebanese (and in Bourj Hammoud -- Armenian) flags. (I should say that France, Portugal and Argentina also seemed to have quite a few fans, but the previous four had a clear majority, judging by the number of flags.) They were everywhere: balconies, apartments, cafes and restaurants, vehicles, t-shirts, nails, jewelry... you name it!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Russians dedicate song to Jen Psaki

About a week ago I had a post about the "popularity" of the State Dept's spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, in Russia. A friend notified me about further developments in that regard, so I thought I should have an update here, too: Psaki has become the subject of a satirical song by Murzilki International, a group of morning radio hosts on AvtoRadio, which has now "gone viral" on RuNet.

The song is called "There is no thing more competent than Psaki". I couldn't find a version with the English subtitles, so below you can find my own approximate translation of the lyrics. Please note that there are quite a few impolite (to put it mildly) expressions used throughout the song, to which my translation does not do justice.

If you have better interpretation suggestions, please do share below.


Friday, June 6, 2014

#SavePsaki -- 'Public Diplomacy' Gets Personal

Jen Psaki, the State Department Spokeswoman, is probably a little-known name in the US outside of Washington and the foreign policy circles. Her position, however, plays a key role for the US public diplomacy, as she is the person who usually takes on the international press corps - often single-handedly - serving as a mouthpiece of and representing the US foreign policy establishment.

This establishment is not always coherent or consistent, of course (Are there any in the world that are coherent and consistent? After all, we're talking about foreign policy interests that vary from issue to issue, from time to time, and from place to place...), and the Russian and pro-Russian media have made it their goal to expose the "hypocrisy" of the US foreign policy, embodied by Psaki herself.



Yesterday, after missing the State Department daily briefings for three days in a row (she was replaced by Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf), the RuNet exploded with speculations as to what happened to Psaki. A rumor quickly spread on Twitter, suggesting that she "was fired", which prompted her Russian "fans" to start the "#SavePsaki" hashtag, suggesting that at least she provided some entertainment, if nothing else.


The image reads: "New job: New press secretary of Kiev's new mayor."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Military Ads: Propaganda of Pride

With the situation in Ukraine escalating and May 9 around the corner, it seems quite timely that the Russian Ministry of Defense released a new ad to get everyone pumped about the greatness of the Russian Armed Forces. Military service in Russia is still conscription-based, but the objective here is not recruitment -- rather grandeur, confidence, and pride (the Russian military has rarely been a tolerable place). Take a look:


The first few lines of the voice-over:
"This... is the first day of your NEW life.
What was yesterday, doesn't matter.
Who you were before, doesn't bother anyone anymore.
The only thing that matters now is who will you be TODAY."
You get the gist of it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

InfoWar over Ukraine - from sad to ridiculous

In his much acclaimed book, Munitions of the Mind, the late Philip Taylor wrote:
"Propaganda [is] [...] the deliberate attempt to persuade people to think and behave in a desired way. [...] [It constitutes] conscious, methodical, and planned decisions to employ techniques of persuasion designed to achieve specific goals that are intended to benefit those organizing the process. [...] An essential characteristic of propaganda is that it rarely tells the whole truth."

He warned that with all the modern information and communication technology propaganda has become ever more sophisticated, and in an effort to alert the readers, suggested the following questions: "How freely does that information flow? Is anyone controlling it an any way? If so, why? Are we being told everything? Is what we see, hear, and read an unfettered representation of what is really happening? What are we not being told, and why? Is the information on which we base our opinions and perceptions of the world around us free from influence of propaganda?"

The situation in Ukraine is dire, and unfortunately, it is getting worse by the day. It hurts to watch what is going on there, and the concern for family and friends is always on my mind. Following the news, whether in personal capacity or that of an "aspiring academic" is depressing, to say the least. But I have to stay informed (that's what my work is on, after all), and in an earnest effort to keep an open mind, I've been trying to keep up with the information coming from both sides. Honestly, I can't even begin trying to make sense of it all. Below is a somewhat random compilation of masterpieces that, if don't make you cry, will (I hope) at least make you laugh.

If you are sitting in the West, then you are likely to be predisposed to seeing everything coming out of Russia as untrue or distorted. If you're accessing this post from the "non-West", you are very likely to be as skeptical of the information and interpretations presented by the Western leaders and media. Russia is far from being an open or a democratic society. Liberalism, on the other hand, is a sort of a hegemony in its own right, with one established truth which should, absolutely, be accepted, otherwise "you're against us" (this becomes especially visible when foreign crises are involved). In both cases, complexity is sacrificed for political ends, which always prefer the black-and-white binaries. Meanwhile, people's lives, well-being, and their entire future are on the line...


Lack of understanding

I'll start with a very telling example - a perfect "mini"-version of what is going on right now between the "West" and Russia. Complete lack of listening. Total absence of respect. No desire to understand the other. Bias. One-sided, and selective interpretation and presentation of information.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#Happy #Yerevan - ArmComedy Update

A few weeks ago I had a post about the "Happy Yerevan" video, made by the US Embassy in Armenia as a part of its digital public diplomacy effort. The video has been quite a hit: it's received almost 156,000 views in two weeks, and is now the most popular video on the Embassy's YouTube Channel (the second being the video of a 2012 "US-Armenia FlashMob", which has been viewed about 47,000 times since October 2012). Given the size of Armenia's population, the language/interest barrier, and the Internet penetration rates, "Happy Yerevan" is clearly a success for American YouTube diplomacy in the country.

The video was also featured in one the recent episodes of the ArmComedy show (the Armenian equivalent of the Daily Show, if you will), where the hosts of the satirical program wondered whether this happiness is "appropriate" for a nation which is "supposed to be always sad". It's not "truly Armenian", they joked. They "warned" the more traditional and patriotic members of their audience about the "dark forces" of the American Embassy, which is forcibly trying to make Armenians smile (a mock response to some of the reaction the video got on the interwebs from the more 'patriotic' Internet users). As an alternative, they ask the "nation" (represented by the guy in the white T-shirt) to focus instead on the sad tune of the Armenian duduk, which is "truly ours" and comes as a reminder that the purpose of life is to suffer and to be sad (as opposed to being joyful).


Beginning at about 5:02.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Defining "Russian Culture"

Russia's "identity crisis" has been much discussed (and lamented) since the demise of the Soviet Union, and caused confusion not just for public diplomacy and nation branding (What is the "image" that Russia wants foreign publics to have?), but also for its foreign policy strategy and priority-definition. Of course, analysis of the official discourse, as well as that of actual foreign policy could provide pretty reliable indications of where Russia "was coming from" and where it was headed. Yet, the lack of any clear definition of what Russia stands for and consequently, what its long-term objectives are, has been an issue for quite some time now, especially for public diplomacy. Seems like this is finally about to change.

As I discussed in one of my earlier posts, my preliminary research demonstrated an increasing consensus on certain key "values" and aspects which were to become quintessential characteristics of the "Russian culture", particularly as that related to the soft power which Russia wants to wield around the world and, more importantly, in the region. Last week, a piece in Bloomberg View on this very subject caught my attention. The piece suggested that "Putin is planning to put the intellectual and ideological foundations of the new regime into words," and discussed the draft "Foundations of the State Cultural Policy" document initially reported on by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"The Three Bogatyrs" [Knights] - arguably, one of the most "Russian" paintings ever... Image from Vedimir.Ru.

According to these sources, the document - which was developed by the Ministry of Culture and is currently under review by the President - can be summed up as "Russia is not Europe, as proved by the entire history of the country and nation". The document also supposedly argues against any official support provided to cultural projects that impose foreign values upon Russians. Nezavisimaya Gazeta then provides the following quote:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cold War 2.0?

Voice of Russia, the one that was scrapped and will be incorporated into the new "Russia Today" news agency, had a mind-blowing piece today, titled: "Orwellian US propaganda tool VOA finished in Russia". It was basically a reflection-rant regarding the news that Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will not see their contracts in Russia renewed after the current ones expire.

Reading the article first time was, indeed, very disturbing. Here's an excerpt:

With headlines from the Orwellian alternate universe that the United States exists in like "Experts Liken Ukraine Crisis to Soviet's Afghanistan Invasion" it can be no wonder that the Russian Government and in fact any truth loving country or citizen of the world might want to ban the voice of the aging recidivist Cold War propaganda machine seeking to stay relevant by creating its own bogeymen and brainwashing the masses to promote knuckle dragging caveman policies of force and subservience.
[...] The BBG should not worry though, last July they were allowed to broadcast their Ministry of Truth vitriol disguised as "democracy radio" into the United States after being previously banned. Useful tool I imagine for Obama's brainwashing of the American populace as they are being trampled upon and oppressed. 
I can say what I want about the BBG and their "product" and will not, unlike the Voice of America, try to convince you I am "fair and balanced", I work for the Voice of Russia and love Russia and President Putin, so I have a certain pro Russia bias. The difference is I am not hiding that fact and you dear reader can therefore adjust appropriately. I will say that we at the Voice of Russia are not trying to change reality unlike the Voice of America, and as for myself I am always trying to inform my readers of the truth.

And it goes on and on... Half-way through the second time, it was plain funny. And sad, of course. Between this and all the other info-warfare going on these days, I was reminded of good ol' Dr. Strangelove. Now, didn't HE know how to handle those Ruskies...







--
P.S. - By the way, I got curious about the author, John Robles -- the self-proclaimed truth absolutist, and Russia/Putin devotee. A quick search revealed that "he is currently the only US citizen granted political asylum in Russia". I guess that clarifies things a little...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#Happy #Yerevan - US Public Diplomacy in Armenia

I've been covering quite grim subjects lately, so decided it's high time I share some smiles and happiness here, too.

Here's a video the US Embassy in Armenia posted on its YouTube page just a few hours ago, produced in collaboration with the US Alumni Association of Armenia:



It is, of course, yet another addition to the whole series of "Happy [fill in the blank]" videos, based on Pharrell Williams' hit. It's an earworm, I admit. Yet, what makes this one special is that it was made by the US Embassy in Yerevan, featuring some prominent local stars, (presumably) the alumni of various US programs, and Ambassador John Heffern himself. Most of it was shot at the US Embassy, the American University in Armenia, the Cascade (Cafesjian Museum), and a few other notable sights around Yerevan.

It's great to see so many bright, funky, and happy people in Yerevan... especially these days. The video's currently going viral on my Facebook homepage (and, four hours later, has gathered close to 28,000 views!). Well done on happy public diplomacy! :-)

"Russification" of "Soft Power" -- Part 2: The Russian Twist & Ukraine

In my post last week, I started discussing the Russian understanding of soft power, particularly its conceptualization as "hegemony" and interference (usually American/Western). Yesterday, as the pro-Russian protesters in the Eastern city of Donetsk took over government buildings, declared independence, and requested that Putin send Russian peacekeepers, I decided to revisit this conversation and finally write the Part 2 of the post.

The region of Donetsk. Map from TV Rain [Dozhd'].

Before moving on, let's remind ourselves of the definition of soft power as suggested by Nye: "the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion." It is, thus, based on persuasion and appeal, rather than military force or any financial payment/sanction. The sources of soft power, according to Nye, lie in a country's culture (its attractiveness), its political values (their attractiveness, and consistent applications at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (their perception as legitimate and moral).

Based on this formula, a preliminary analysis of the Russian discourse on soft power and public diplomacy demonstrates that the overall understanding of Russian soft power resources are as follows:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Russification" of "Soft Power" -- Part 1: Russia's view of Soft Power as Hegemony


Reading the coverage of Russia and Ukraine over the past few months, one would think that whatever happened was a disaster for Russia's image and Russian "soft power" around the world. Yet, we need to get beyond that Western-centric view and look at public diplomacy writ large. Not only has Putin's popularity increased domestically and abroad (including in the West), but Russia can now claim the entire episode with Crimea as the cherry on top of its soft power success story. To understand this we need to look at the context, and more specifically, at Russian policy-makers' perspectives and worldviews. Twisted, I know. But bear with me, please.

As I had mentioned earlier on this blog, my paper for the Annual Convention of International Studies Association this year was on the Russian interpretation and conceptualization of "soft power". As it turned out, the subject could not have been more timely, and was - for better or worse - a topic of much discussion during the conference last week. There will be a separate post about observations, impressions, and thoughts on the conference itself (forthcoming soon -- I promise!), but today I wanted to share the basic points from my analysis and some conclusions from this preliminary piece of research that will, eventually, be part of my dissertation project.



Presentation slides: a very brief and watered-down version of the paper itself, but gives you an idea.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

RT's Margarita Simonyan responds...

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, RT -- and particularly RT America -- is facing tough times now, with reporters expressing their disagreement with their employer's editorial policies (and one even quitting) on air. Today, RT's Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan published an op-ed clarifying her stance and bashing the "mainstream media" for not asking the right questions and engaging in an "information war".

Here's what she writes:
Yesterday I spent quite some time explaining to a New York Times correspondent why I consider Russia’s position to be right. I’m Russian. I support my country and I will fight for the truth for as long as it takes. Neither Abby, nor Liz, nor many other employees are Russian nationals, but foreign. And now their country is likening my country to Nazi Germany. For many years they have worked for RT in good faith, proving every day that a voice that stands out from the mainstream media can be beautiful and strong, attract an audience that grows daily. These are the people who were the first to tell their country about the Occupy movement, who were detained at protest rallies, handcuffed for hours and then tried in court for doing their job. These are the people who were outraged by US hypocrisy in Syria, Libya – you can finish the list yourself – and reminded the world who used chemical weapons most often, even resorting to nuclear bombs. These are the people who did things the Western mainstream media would have never done. But those were peaceful times. And now we’ve got a genuine war going on – no, thank God, it’s not in Crimea. It’s a media war. Every single day, every single hour the guys who work for us are told, “You are liars, you are no journalists, you are the Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece, you’ve sold yourselves to the Russians, it’s time you quit your job, and everybody is laughing at you, so change your mind before it’s too late.”
Read the whole thing here.

So, she might be right. RT might be bringing up points and issues and perspectives that are often overlooked in the American/Western mainstream media. However, success in information war -- a war over hearts and minds -- is not measured in terms of domination or the number of articles/reports put out, reflecting your viewpoint. Instead, success comes in form of gradual acceptance of, even if not agreement with, your viewpoint as a legitimate one. Achieving that through aggressive and imposing coverage -- like the one on RT -- is almost impossible, especially among Western audiences (remember the informational spheres I was referring to yesterday?).

More than anything, RT needs credibility and legitimacy with its target public, and if it means straying from the message a little to be more neutral in their coverage, especially in times of conflict, then so be it. Otherwise, I'm afraid, Ms. Simonyan's frustration is here to stay.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

RT is bleeding... anchors

A couple of days ago, RT America's "Breaking the Set" host, Abby Martin, made a big splash by openly criticizing Russia (and her own employer) for what's happening in Ukraine:


Martin took a wise risk, and putting RT's management on the spot, essentially prevented her immediate dismissal. Instead, RT's Editor in Chief said, the network suggested that she be sent to Crimea, to see the situation on the ground for herself. Martin has since declined the request, and it is yet unclear whether (or how long) she will stay with the network.

Today, Liz Wahl followed suit. She went a step further, however, stating that she would resign upon the end of the program. See it for yourself:


According to her interviews with The Daily Beast and the CNN, Wahl had been disappointed with RT for a long time, now. But, apparently inspired by Martin's daring step, she decided to jump in, too, and make use of the opportunity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New paper on the Dolma, Gastrodiplomacy, & Conflict Resolution between Armenia & Azerbaijan

Last April, the Public and Cultural Diplomacy Forum at AU hosted an event on "Gastrodiplomacy", featuring an impressive panel of speakers on this intriguing subject. I was live-tweeting the event, when I started getting responses from some Armenian tweeps suggesting that I write something about the culinary question of the South Caucasus -- the dolma. Soon after, a friend pointed out that USC's Public Diplomacy Magazine is planning a special issue on the topic of gastrodiplomacy. That's when I decided to dive in.



The long-awaited Winter 2014 issue is now out, and you can get the electronic copy of the entire issue here. My paper, titled "From Gastronationalism to Gastrodiplomacy: Reversing the Securitization of the Dolma in the South Caucasus", deals with the culinary controversy surrounding the origins of dolma that has been keeping quite a few people and organizations very busy over the past few years (in both Armenia and Azerbaijan). I tried to provide a short, yet a more-or-less comprehensive perspective on what the issue entails, and how, instead of fueling the conflict between the two countries further, dolma can become a tool for public diplomacy -- gastrodiplomacy -- to bring the nations closer and begin a process of conflict resolution and reconciliation.

I won't give more of it away. Also, white you're reading that, don't forget to look at the rest of the articles and interviews, as well. There's a lot of interesting and exciting stuff in there!

Special thanks to the editors of the Public Diplomacy Magazine for all their feedback and help!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If you missed the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony...

... it is truly a shame, because despite everything that has been, is, and will be wrong with the games [or Russia, in general], the celebration of the actual opening was certainly mesmerizing. No, I cannot even begin trying to unpack everything that took place, all the symbolism, the beauty and the creativity... you'll have to see the whole thing to truly appreciate it. But here's a sneak-peak.

Tribute to Russia's pagan and Orthodox past. Tell me that's not pretty..?! (Image from The Independent)

The organizers did a wonderful job blending some of the greatest examples of Russia's culture and (selective) moments from its history with amazing choreography, lots of color, and what seemed to be absolute lack of reservations about the role their country has played and will keep playing on the world stage. Russia had set out to charm the world and - with billions of people watching on - they did quite an impressive job, despite all the negative reporting and commentary by the outraged (and probably bored) Western reporters in the preceding days.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Russia's female athletes bring the "REAL" show to Sochi

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following piece by Russia Beyond The Headlines on Facebook voicing concern about the sexual connotations that could be read into it: "Olympic beauty: Sochi girls to meet world famous athletes." A Russian (female) friend was outraged at my direct and immediate association of something seemingly so innocuous with sex/prostitution. The issue however, is not just that it feeds directly into the image of an oversexualized Russian/Slavic/Eastern European woman, but that it actually promotes it - even if indirectly - as yet another attraction in Sochi specifically, and Russia more broadly [yet another example of wonderful public diplomacy put on by the Russian authorities, eh?].

That said, a piece on Huffington Post today just blew my mind. It was basically a collection of samples from various photo-shoots featuring scantily-clad Russian female athletes who will be representing the country in what is perhaps the most scandalous Winter Olympics in the past few decades. (The photos can be found here and here.) After a little more research, it became apparent that the story is not THAT new and that the UK's Daily Mail had put together an even more impressive feature on the matter, already. I'll let you enjoy these collections later, but here's a basic preview:

Anna Prugova, hockey. Image from Evophoto.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sochi 2014 Video Series: Part II

Who said public diplomacy and charm offensives during the Olympic period are limited to the host? This time the update comes from the U.S. State Department itself. Uplifting music and diversity are yet again set to inspire wonder and awe


Courtesy of Mr. McFaul.

Very curious if the other MFAs will be following suit...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter is Coming...

...and by "winter", I mean the Winter Olympics in Sochi. There are less than three weeks left. [I hear the fans of the "Game of Thrones" might have to wait a little longer.]

And although every nation, small and big -- but especially big -- is gearing up to demonstrate to the world how much wonder and awe their very own athletes can inspire, the real charm offensive is expected to be put up by Russia. As the host of the 22nd Winter Olympics, the public diplomacy stage is all Russia's to take. How successful it all is or will be, I'll try and address at some other point. At the moment, though, I just wanted to highlight *some* of the media hype [there's more; much more...].

I'm not into sports, especially the winter ones. The only bit I'd care to watch is, perhaps, the figure skating. Yet, I've been having a blast observing some of the ways various countries -- and media -- are trying to present their super-human athletes, along with the amazing work they'll be doing, covering Sochi and the Olympics.