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An Unlikely PR Tool

e6c29470ce77.pngThere’s a very interesting article on euobserver.com about Russia’s attempts to re-brand itself as a benign global power in the eyes of Brussels.  The piece reports that news agency Ria-Novosti has apparently engaged the services of low-profile PR consultancy RJI Companies to assist it in softening Russia’s image in Europe, in order to justify it having a large say in global affairs.  Apparently a sub-section of this campaign revolves around Stalin rehabilitation and a Soviet makeover:

Russian news agency Ria Novosti is rolling out a new public relations campaign in the political capital of the European Union which, according to sources in the PR industry, aims to justify Russia’s great power ambitions and improve the image of Joseph Stalin.

The state-owned news agency has teamed up with a little-known Washington, London and Zurich-based consultancy called RJI Companies and is trying to recruit one of the top 10 PR firms in Brussels to put the project in play.

The primary contract involves organising a high-level conference about the Arctic to take place in Moscow in late November. The Arctic event is to portray Russia as a good egg on environmental and energy policy and is likely to be followed up by similar conferences in the Middle East and the Far East next year. An RJI Companies agent in September in Brussels pitched the project to a major PR firm, saying that the aim of the second contract is to help portray Russia as a benign great power entitled to negotiate with the likes of the US, China and the EU on global security and energy issues.

He added that part of the PR effort would be to cast a positive lighton the actions of the Soviet Union before and after World War II inorder to justify the idea that modern Russia should also impose itsinfluence on neighbouring countries for the good of the world.

Asenior executive at the PR firm in question recalled one particularexchange with the RJI Companies envoy: “I asked him ‘Do you want us tosay that Stalin was not such a bad guy?’ And he said ‘Well, I know itwill be difficult.’ I said ‘So, you want history to be rewritten?’ Andhe said ‘Yes, in a way’.”

“Expect to see more articles in European newspapers saying that Stalin had his good points as well,” the PR executive said.

Read the rest here.  Not to say that the Kremlin hasn’t been trying its hardest of late to reinsert the Gulag-master into a warm corner of the public imagination.  Only yesterday did we see outcry resurface over the restored Kurskaya station in Moscow.  In addition to the presentation of Stalin-glorying lines from the Soviet anthem, come two additional lines in praise of Lenin.  So is it authentic restoration in the service of history, as Dmitri Gayev, director of the Moscow Metro and Moscow architect Aleksandr Kuzmin would have it?  Or just creeping Kremlin-sponsored re-Stalinization designed to reach a mass audience?  Or, as Leonid Radzikhovsky has suggested (quoted in the New York Times) the product of a collective psyche neurotically attached to an ambiguous past – an attachment that can be easily exploited for political gain.

“We clearly have an exaggerated interest toward our ‘sacred and accursed’ past,” he wrote. “Something like a societal Oedipus complex: so who was that mustached Father? State propaganda takes pleasure in aggravating these complexes, pushing dreams of the past instead of today’s real, live problems.”