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Russia takes new steps to improve its image abroad

July 09, 2013, 17:40 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, July 9 (Itar-Tass) - Recently, the Russian authorities have been taking new steps to improve Russia' image abroad. Thus, the Positive Russia Foundation has been established in London with the aim of creating a positive image of Russia in Great Britain, Izvestia daily said in Tuesday's issue, quoting Duma MP Vasily Shestakov-one of the head officials of the new foundation, as saying. This organization was registered in London in the end of June. It was established on the initiative of British public activist Baron Tim Lewin and the owner of a Public Relations consultancy agency, David Burnside.

Their plans to create the foundation were approved by Prince Michael of Kent and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr. Shestakov met the British prime minister at a congress of the Conservative Party which invited Shestakov to attend as a guest of honor in the end of June.

This was the initiative of the British side which believes that recently, the information about Russia has been presented from a one-sided position only, while Britons want an objective information which does not go through the prism of the anti-Russian propaganda, Shestakov said.

Shestakov is an old friend of Vladimir Putin. The two know each other since school years when Shestakov and Vladimir Putin used to go in for sport together. Shestakov and Putin are the co-authors of several books on judo- "Judo History, Theory, Practice", and "Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin."

The authorities have been seriously pondering over the problem how to improve Russia's image abroad. For this purpose the Kremlin has already invited leading PR agencies, created a TV channel, opened several radio stations and offices of printed media orientated at foreign audiences.

Regrettably, all these steps have not been effective enough. In the "Trust Barometer" ratings annually released by one the leading PR agencies - the Edelman company, Russia is invariably lagging behind, being either in the last or one before last positions. The workers of the Edelman company questioned more than 30,000 respondents in 26 world countries, but only around one third of the respondents interviewed said that they have confidence in the Russian organizations, political leaders and Russian-made goods.

In February 2012, when a new concept of Russian foreign politics was adopted, and the notion of a "soft force" was first mentioned in the document in the context of the international image, Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russian president then, instructed the Russian Foreign Ministry to begin the work on creating a positive image of Russia which should conform to the prestige of its culture, education, science, sports, the level of the development of the civic society, create the levers of influencing the vision of Russia abroad and improve the system of the use of the "soft force."

The Federal Agency on the Commonwealth of Independent States and Compatriot Relationship( Rossotrudnichestvo) was instructed to promote foreign investments into Russia, which should improve its "reputation".

As of June 5, 2013 media outlets released reports that for the formation of Russia's positive image this federal agency would be presumably allocated huge funds and have its powers considerably broadened. The volume of financing of this federal agency will continue to grow, the reports said.

The process of the formation of the positive image envisages the employment of public diplomacy as well, including the development of the humanitarian aspects of border cooperation, revival of the Societies of Friendship with foreign countries, development of new forms for promoting Russia's culture and its modern art. All of these steps represent merely a few trends in the formation of Russia's positive image.

The British foundation is not the first organization which deals with the image of Russia. In 2007 the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, which has branch departments in New York and Paris, was created on the initiative of Vladimir Putin. The task of this organization is to study western democratic systems, develop bilateral relations with foreign non- governmental organizations, give support to Russian and foreign mass media which promote an objective coverage of the election process in Russia and abroad.

Since 2006 Russia has been cooperating with the U.S. PR agency Ketchum, which also deals with problems of creating Russia's positive image. In particular, the Ketchum agency organizers meetings of Russian politicians with their counterparts from abroad and interviews for the world mass media.

But, despite all that the image of Russia remains negative.

Russia's image in the United States, for instance, is pretty bad. Partly it is connected with the realistic problems which exist now, but most often these problems are presented in an excessively exaggerated form, which does not conform to the reality.

Regrettably, there are influential forces in the West which for different reasons gain certain advantage by presenting Russia in the most disadvantageous form, said President of the American University in Moscow Eduard Lozansky.

In May 2013 the Globe Scan/PIPA company conducted a public opinion poll in 22 countries in which around 24,000 were interviewed. According to the poll, the attitude to Russia of the majority of the respondents remained negative, One- third of the respondents interviewed (31 percent) said they have a positive attitude to Russia, but their number was three points down the number of the respondents with a positive attitude to Russia last year. A negative attitude to Russia was expressed by 36 percent of the respondents like in the previous poll.

In France, Germany and South Korea more than half of the respondents interviewed expressed a negative attitude to Russia. Canadians and Britons either demonstrated an attitude to Russia which proved negative to nearly 50 percent.

Despite the aspirations cherished by Russian officials to see Russia associated in the minds of foreigners with a high- quality education, high technologies, attractive terms for investments and doing business in Russia, their aspirations to change the situation do not work yet, "Polit. Ru on-line" said on its website.

Head of the Rossotrudnichestvo Agency Konstantin Kosachev has declared that "Russia's image in the mass media is worse than the real situation in Russia; this country does not deserve such a reputation even despite the Pussy Riot, Magnitsky, Politkovskaya, Khodorkovsky," Kosachev said.