Can Russia Curb Its Cultural PR Problem with Cash?

In Discussion by Eugene Gerden

Russia is looking at investing some $210 million to foster more translation and counter the decline in interest in its literature as a result of poor, post-Soviet PR.

By Eugene Gerden

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The Russian government is considering investing up to RUB 7 billion (US$210 million) in the popularization of Russian language, books and literature abroad, according to an official spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Culture and Education.

The initiative was prompted by a recent report, prepared by the Russian Ministry of Education, which found the interest to Russian language and books in Western countries has significantly declined. According to the Ministry, the main reason of this is the aggravation of anti-Russian sentiments, primarily in Western countries.

According to state plans, the current situation should be improved by 2020 through the allocation of funds in the implementation of a special program aimed at raising image of national literature and language in the international arena.

The program involves the increase of supplies of textbooks, manuals, popular science books and journals, written in the Russian language, to Russian schools, located in the CIS states and foreign countries. This will also extend the promotion of Russian language and books under the already existed Institute of Pushkin state program, which involves training of teachers for teaching of Russian language in the EU and the US and the promotion of Russian books in far-abroad countries. In addition, the government plans to provide funding for the opening of chairs of Russian language in some Western universities.

As part of these plans is also more active translation of Russian books on foreign languages and increase of the quality of such translations. Finally, there are also plans to ensure more active presentation of Russian books at the world’s most important book fairs and exhibitions. It is planned that a particular attention will be paid for the promotion of Russian books in the US and Canada, where their presence, in contrast to some EU states (and in particular Germany) has always been insignificant.

Andrei Konstantinov, a well-known Russian modern writer, comments:

“In recent years the promotion of modern Russian literature abroad has become an issue of strategic importance not only for Russian authors and writers, but also the government. Reading the UK, French and Spanish literature we have an opportunity to learn more about these countries, their mentality and people. At the same time recent political developments also show Western people do not understand us, as they do not have a specific idea of Russian reality.”

According to state plans, there is a need to use the experience of some EU states, and in particular France, Germany, Spain, as well as China and South Korea, which in recent years have significantly increased the volume of spendings on the popularization of national literature and language. The project has already received personal support of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Of course, the question remains, with the tide of sentiment throughout the Western world moving counter to Russia and its recent geopolitical activities, will such a soft power play make a difference? Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Eugene Gerden

Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer who specializes in covering global book publishing and bookselling industry.