"Russia has taken over the chairmanship of the G8 group of nations for the first time. It will provide President Vladimir Putin with an opportunity to emphasize Russia's role in international affairs. But some CRITICS have said Russia is not a fit country to head the group, which brings together the world's leading industrialized democracies. Some US Senators have argued that Russia should not be a member of the club of developed democracies, let alone be allowed to head the organization. They claim that Russia is still not one of the world's leading economic powers. This country has also been criticized for prosecuting government's political opponents, clamping down on the media, and tolerating human rights abuses."
BBC News, Moscow

Students of the Faculty of World Politics of Moscow State University suggest their own solutions to the problem of restoring Russian prestige:

The Image of Russia Today: Is It Positive or Not?

In today’s modern world, “image” is becoming more and more of an issue.

What does the word “image” mean? To put it quite simply, it is the general opinion that most people have on a subject, a concept or an individual. Nowadays everything has its own image, which is usually formed by mass media and advertising: for example, a person, an organization, a company, some product and so on.

Of course, countries and nations are not the exception. Moreover, the style of government, its place in the political arena and the relations with other states depend on its image.

As far as Russia’s image is concerned, it has become one of the problems of the day just as Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting ready to host the G8 for the first time.

If we trace back the history of this problem, we would find out that its roots lie in the Soviet period, when The Iron Curtain isolated us from the rest of the world. During the years of Stagnation lots of prejudice against Russia and Russians appeared. Most Western people thought, and, to our great disappointment, still think these days that Russia is a big tundra, which is the motherland of Lenin, Stalin, Yuri Gagarin, Matreshka and Vodka, a country, where big brown bears walk along the streets. 

It goes without saying, that this cross-cultural diversity and misunderstanding must be dealt with, particularly if we want to enjoy equal rights in modern political world.

As I have already said, Russia is going to hold G8 presidency this year. The very experience is very important. Still there are many critics. They say that, first of all, our country should not be a member of this elite group, which consists of the world’s leading industrialized nations. Secondly, Vladimir Putin has been criticized for tolerating human rights abuses by his military in Chechnya. At this point I would like to disagree. Could the actions in Iraq of the two “flagships” in democracy  -- the USA and the UK, -- be regarded as expedient and humane? I suppose, not.

But is it necessary to pretend to be democratic? …To listen to Western countries, which do not think much of us?  …To promote the policy of rapprochement with other governments?

Ironically, the answer is “Yes”. It is diplomacy: the art of saying and doing those things, which are wanted to be heard and done.

In conclusion I would like to say, that maybe our economy is not as strong as it should be, we are not so democratic as the Western countries are and our life standard is not very high… But I’m absolutely sure, that Russia is a country of great people, among whom are space explorers, distinguished scientists, Nobel prize winners, famous artists, brilliant actors and musicians, successful economists and financial officials, strong politicians and diplomats (to whom, I wish, we will belong in the nearest future) and many other outstanding members of the public.

That is why I am asking you: are they those very people who can improve the image of Russia? Of course they are. It is them who make Russia a superpower.

Moreover, I strongly believe that the future, the great future of our country depends only on us!

Mariam Gelashvili, Faculty of World Politics

The method of dealing with any problem should be chosen in accordance with the reasons forGeorge Boyko doing so. That is why our first step should be throwing the light on the  reasons for hostile attitude towards Russia. Only having examined these reasons we might be able to launch some special drives.

So, as I am convinced that the roots of negative attitude towards Russia go back in history. Of course the main reason of this problem can be the isolation from the rest of the world which for centuries was the characteristic feature of our country’s course of development. We can find lots of examples in history, but the brightest of them are Mongol Subjugation and the Soviet period of Cold War. Isolation was the fact which influenced the image of Russia as a country where bears wander along the streets. Thus the stance on cooperation with West and spreading information about Russian culture and lifestyle should be proclaimed.

On the other hand, the image of Russia as the developing and recipient country can boost some negative attitudes of the West. It is obvious that the only method of coping with this aspect is closely connected with economy and solving national rifts. Only strengthening economy and industry can destroy the image of Russia as a “resource ground of the West”.

In conclusion I would like to say that Russia should display its ability to co-exist with western countries on equal terms without adopting the position of strength.

Boyko George, Faculty of World Politics

Nikholas BalanRussia is the biggest country in the world. It occupies a huge territory from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean (from West to East) and from the Caspian Sea to Franz Josef Land (from South to North). Russian poets, writers and scientists are famous all over the world. But unfortunately we have to admit that the rest of world is not too happy with Russia and Russians. Nowadays the image of our country is far from being perfect. There are a lot of minor conflicts in  which Russia usually takes part. Just remember the story with the Swiss company “Noga” which tried to arrest Russian famous sailing vessel “Kruzenshtern” and its team for failure to pay debts. Most nations don’t think much of our country; it is easy to see and to feel that when you travel abroad.

How can we solve this problem? What should we do to improve the image of Russia? Is it possible or not? These questions come up more and more often. Firstly, I think, we should start to respect ourselves and other nations, we should go out into the world and attempt to meet the needs of those whom we come across, in other words, we should learn how to build bridges. Secondly, we should try to solve our internal problems. We need to strengthen our economy, prevent and resolve national conflicts inside Russia, try to protect our citizens from terrorism, improve our legal system. Doing so, we should expect that it will require a lot of time and spending. However as a result our country will become a really powerful nation, economically and politically advanced and Russia’s role in the international arena will be more influential than these days. We should also reform our educational system, because there is a lack of good experts nowadays. Our companies need to carefully recruit and retain experienced and talented personnel in their industry because young managers and employees are usually rather sensitive to new ideas and tendencies. So, all these changes will make Russian economy more attractive for foreign investments.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I share the point of view that the progress in Russia is becoming more and more obvious, but we are still facing numerous problems which we need to solve as quickly as possible

 Nikolay Balan, Faculty of World Politics

It is common knowledge that western countries don’t think much of Russia. Many politicians in this country wonder why. In my opinion the roots of such tendency lie in the times of the Soviet Union, and the so called “Iron Curtain” which limited the contacts of the USSR with the outer world.

Nowadays Russia is still one of the most powerful countries in the world. However, there are a lot of international issues, in which Russia hasn’t got any influence. In order to change this situation, several measures should be taken.

First of all, economically developed countries are much respected in the world. That’s why economic reforms should be held in order to improve the economic situation in this country.

Then, politicians should try their best to stop all the disagreements and diversities inside the country. It will make Russia stronger and it will be ready to ward off other countries’ invasions.

Moreover, it is very important to break all negative stereotypes concerned with Russia. A lot of people living in the West think that Russian system is very harsh, that Russia isn’t a truly democratic country. Russian politicians and diplomats should change this impression. As one of the measures, more money should be invested in western tourism in Russia. That will help to remove the false image of Russia.

Samvel Minasyan, Faculty of World Politics

Russia has always had a very specific image in the eyes of western world. Unfortunately in the twenty first century the situation has not changed. In the profile of G8, compiled by BBC journalists this international body is defined as “seven of the world's leading industrialized nations, and Russia.” It is obvious from this definition that world's leading countries don't consider us as equal partners. To my mind that's not fair and we can't be indifferent in this situation. We have to improve our position in the international arena. We are worthy of great respect and a positive attitude towards our country.

What can we do to improve the image of Russia? I don't think that there is an exact answer to this question. But I would like to introduce some tips, coming from my heart.

Russia was isolated from the west for a very long time. This is one of the reasons for many cultural differences to exist. Western businesses know that market development in Russia is not as quick as theirs. So we should speed up the progress in this area.

Another problem is that people in Russia are much more ‘closed’ than in the west and there is a lot more proclivity to lie and gain advantages by holding information and hiding essential things. One of the reasons for it is that the legal system in Russia is still developing. I don't think it's a good idea to lie or to hide something. We should become more open towards the outer world; we should be ready to share information and discuss it. It can be one of the useful issues of changing the situation for the better.

The next problem that I would like to point out is our pride. Yes, Russians are a very proud nation. There are many reasons for it: for example, those businessmen who survived during the chaotic period in Russian business development and attracted western investment -- obviously did a great job. But as we all know, pride and boasting can only be quite off putting for others. It's not a good approach to doing business.

The last but the most crucial problem is our laziness. Since the very old times, Russia has been considered to be a country of lazy fellows who are sitting on their hands, not doing a stitch of work. First of all, it’s not true – there are many hardworking Russians, but we should be and look more industrious -- as the Russian proverb says:  “No pains-no gains".

 Mamedova Dina, Faculty of World Politics

Olga Ignatyeva

15 years have passed after the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union and what do we see? What is the image of the Russian Federation nowadays?

Firstly it should be mentioned that we are no longer as powerful as we used to be during the 'Soviet’ times. 15 years ago Russia’s opinion on some particular subjects would be taken as a dominant one. There were no countries -- except for the US -- to try to argue with our diplomats or leaders. And now we’re considered as a third world country, the developing one. After joining the G8 and Putin’s presidential election our prestige raised. However it’s not enough for Russia to be taken seriously as the leading industrialized democratic country.

So I’d like to suggest a number of actions to improve our image in the international arena.

First of all we should try to look more serious and respectable in front of the leading countries. To make it true to life we should improve education our future diplomats, government officials, public servants. In fact it’s one of the most important things to be done. People may not like lots of things in our country but they’ll respect our representatives.   

Secondly we should forget the statement: “We have the biggest territory, we won the Second World War, that’s why we’re stronger”. This doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed; we’re a far cry from most powerful industrialized countries. Now the strongest is the one with the best economic growth. So we should update our concept of Russia’s ‘greatness’.

Thirdly our nation will never be taken into account if we’re about to continue to sell our oil and gas reserves instead of converting them into a ready-made product which can bring much more profit than raw materials. However it’s not enough; we should change the fundamentals of our economics and make it more industrialized.

Fourthly our legal system is in need of serious reformation. It has to become more democratic. Moreover we can’t even say anything about respect towards human rights because we simply don’t have this notion at all. Everything is too burocratic. Possibly this situation can be easily explained by remembering the time when we stepped on the path of democracy. However all the leading countries are not so happy about the fact that we’re scaling on the world stairs of prestige. They’d prefer to see the same collapsed, low-spirited, ruined and helpless Russia. Any weak side shown by us can be the lethal weapon in the ‘nifty hands’ of our ‘friends’.

But let me leave you with a final thought. If we want to be one of the leading countries (which is an absolute necessity to us) we should play by their rules: be harsh, serious, well-developed, secretive, crafty and have our strong views to be taken into account.

Olga Ignatyeva, Faculty of World Politics

Speaking about the problem of Russia’s image, it would be absurd not to pay attention to the mentality, culture, ethics and moral values of Russian people. Russia has always been a big and independent empire and this has been the basis for all its economic and political trends in internal and foreign policy. Yes, Russia is different from the rest of the world, but being and looking like everyone else, doesn't always mean being right. Most European countries and America think differently. We can observe the lack of understanding of a distinguished role of Russian culture and science.

At the same time we do have many faults. To my mind the are: laziness and the absence of any progressive government ideology.

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Russia's image in the West can be improved by changing the structure of Russian economy, introducing a more civilized nature to Russian business and consolidating democracy. These major development guidelines were proclaimed when one of the participants of industrialist’ conference held in the Kremlin pressed the necessity of forming Russia's favorable image in the West.

"There should be a constant public relations campaign but it is not the most important thing. What really matters is the updating of Russian economy, business and democracy," said Putin. "Leopard cannot change his spots," later joked the Russian president.

However in my opinion, major Russia’s objectives are: boosting cooperation over trade and finance, promoting peace and democracy, however, it should be our own (Russian-style) democracy, preventing and resolving conflicts, strengthening the system of control over various government departments.

First thing we should do is to destroy the bad image of Russia which emerged after the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union! The heinous image of a clumsy and slow-witted bear, that discredits this country and undermines international relations.

This can be attained by advertising and advocating Russian culture, establishing creative links between Russia and western countries.

Finally no one should get away with violent attempts to ‘blacken’ the image of Russia, to throw mud at Russian lifestyle.

Ivan Systsov, Faculty of World Politics

Historically, if a domestic policy of a country is unsuccessful, the neighboring countries tend to invade and occupy the territories of this state.  That's why it's very important to have a reputation of a powerful nation.

I wonder whether we shall ever have a final answer to the question: “How to improve the image of Russia?” And could it be that the most urgent problem is the so-called ‘brain drain’. The thing is that a lot of scientists and experts tend to wish to work abroad because of better job opportunities and payments. At the same time it is impossible to develop our country's industry without great experts and keen professionals. Thus, to my mind the issues of appropriate salaries and good career opportunities should be given top priority these days.

Another major factor is that Russian legal system is still developing and honest and transparent work relations are still non-existent. Under current conditions people tend to work for their own profit only, and not for the benefit of Russia. They become competitors. But it's common knowledge that the results of team work depend on sharing the aims and responsibilities, and the whole thing won’t work if the team is uncoordinated. That's why the development of Russian legal system requires great accomplishment.

Besides, in Russia the human factor is very important, especially in business. The relations between partners can make or break business and other kinds of collaboration. It's a national trait and one of Russia’s cultural differences. Not the best one though!  So, we have to learn to sacrifice the personal factor in favour of the benefit of Russia.

And what about our military? Niccollo Machiavelli wrote: "a state should have its own strong army, not hired troops". Why? Hired troops can take your enemy's side if he pays more. Of course, a state has to have allies, especially in times of wars or international conflicts. But as a catchphrase says: "God helps him who helps himself ".

My final thought is that in spite of all reforms one of the main things is the love for Russia and respect for the whole Russian society.

Irene Sheverdina, Faculty of World Politics

A dog is barking and a caravan is moving
(a popular wisdom)

Russia is a great country with a great history and the greatest future.

Since the earliest records and up to the middle of 18th century we didn’t seem to bother -- how foreigners regarded us. I guess these may be the concerns of the new era, the era of informational competition.

In tribal times if a caveman did not like someone, he had the right to kick or punch the enemy or even to kill him. And nobody could forbid anyone to do so as it seemed to be an individual’s natural right.

What about modern life? We understand that past methods aren’t in issue now. We have become more civilized and the use of force against others is considered to be cruel, harsh and unacceptable. New methods of fight or argument exist these days.

Let’s talk about the recent events in our world. All of you remember the Gas Supplies Scandal in Ukraine, the explosion of pipeline in Georgia and the car crash accident with Russian peacemakers and Georgian military police, the Palestine’s delegation “Hamas” which is thought to be a terrorist organization in other countries, Iran’s nuclear problem, etc.

Why do most European countries argue with Russia? Because they are afraid of us. Nothing else. Russia is getting stronger and other nations surely don’t like this progress because we may stand in their own way and confront their policies. And they don’t want to lose the influence so carefully created in the course of many decades.

Now we are coming closer to the main question: “How to improve the image of Russia as viewed from abroad?” but I want to change the subject slightly: “Do we really need the respect of others?" My answer is ‘NO’. Why do we have to listen and do what other say?

We HAVE our own issues and the aim to make our country greater then even before.

Max Krylov, Faculty of World Politics

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today I would like to speak on the topic which worries me a lot. A few days ago I read an objectionable line in the BBC news-site. It was part of the profile of Great 8. Here is what they wrote: ”The G8 comprises seven of the world’s leading industrialized nations, and Russia“. So my today’s topic is “What should be done to improve the image of Russia”

I would like to suggest several ways to resolve this problem. At first I must admit that Western countries don’t think much of us. Nevertheless it should be taken into account that Russia and Russians are exceptionally good in some areas. For example, Russia is one of the most cultured countries of the world and our educational standards are still very high. A lot of ordinary people in this country frequently visit theatres, read a lot, are cinema fans and are well-travelled. Many families have got large book collections at home. We can’t say the same about Americans. When they see a book in the house of their friend they think that he is a very clever person.

So we, Russians, are not as bad, wild or miserable as some foreign people imagine us. However, there is a need to improve our image. I think we should start with OUR OWN OPINION about our country, Many Russians claim that Russia is a bad country and blame the government for its faults. That is not right! Yes, there are some problems that we have to deal with in today’s world. They are: the war on terror, unstable economy, the war in Chechnya, national hatred, the issues of legal system, etc. But to resolve all these problems we have to work a lot and as a result of such action we will become a more stable country. However we should assume initially that our country “is the best” and thus we can improve the image of Russia!

In conclusion, I want to say that in my opinion the future of Russia belongs to my generation. May be we can improve the image of this country by creating new ideas, establishing new, more democratic order. We should work for the benefit of Russia, and things will straighten out!

Liza Babicheva, Faculty of World Politics



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