During the Cold War, a deficit of objective information between the West and the Soviet Union led both sides to view each other in a distorted and negative light. But today, more than 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of the West’s old perceptions about Russia still remain. Why have negative attitudes persisted despite the free flow of information, and how has Russia tried to change this trend? Comparative public diplomacy scholar Yelena Osipova addressed this topic in her August 15 presentation, “Seeing Beyond the Bear: Selective Processing and Russian Public Diplomacy in the West.”
Osipova, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at American University, noted that Russia’s use of public diplomacy has become an increasingly prominent topic in Russian foreign policy as the importance of soft power has gained traction there. Having realized that negative public opinion hampers its pursuit of foreign policy objectives, the Kremlin has invested billions of dollars into a large-scale public diplomacy campaign that uses educational outreach and media—including the television network RT and Voice of Russia radio—to project a more positive image abroad.