Integration Without Incorporation

Yekaterina Tesemnikova. Exclusively to VK

On 17 September, 20 young representatives of the Circassian diaspora will come to Russia from Jordan, Turkey, and Syria. Rossotrudnichestvo organizes a two-week journey for them within implementation of the presidential order “On organization of short-term information visits to Russia for young representatives of political, social, scientific, and business circles from foreign countries.”

Young promising Circassians will be introduced to politicians, writers, journalists, scientific and cultural activists. They will visit the Kremlin, the Tretyakov Gallery and other Moscow sights. Then they will arrive in Kabardino-Balkaria. In Nalchik they will meet the authorities of the republic and the central bureau of the International Circassian Association. After the trip across Kabardino-Balkaria they will return to Moscow and tell journalists about their impressions.

The program of such short-term journeys has been working since 2011. Young people from the US, Germany, and Bulgaria have already visited Russia within the program. Rossotrudnichestvo believes that such trips will improve social, business, and scientific international links, and will contribute to independent interpretations of processes happening in Russian society. The main target is extending the circle of active young foreign citizens who view Russia positively.

The Kremlin considers the program might be an element of a ‘soft force’ policy. “Traditional methods of international work are used by our diplomacy effectively. But as for new technologies, for example, the so-called ‘soft force’, we have a lot to think over,” Vladimir Putin said. “A policy of ‘soft force’ requires promotion of our interests and approaches by convincing and attracting support for our country, relying on its achievements, not only in material, but also in spiritual culture and the intellectual sphere…At the moment the image of Russia is not formed by us. It is disfigured and doesn’t reflect the real situation in the country; the position of our country in international affairs is covered lopsidedly.”

At the same time, according to the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Konstantin Kosachyov, “we fall behind other countries in using ‘soft force’, and we have unjustified image losses… Today “soft force” is often perceived as a derivative of the “development” of the country in implementing liberal norms and principles. This provokes the question: what can Russia set against proper Western values – freedom, democracy, justice? Corruption, ineffective courts, the mass media, parties, the police?.. ‘Soft force’ is much wider than ideological cliché or internal practices. The example of Georgia is very interesting in this case, as the whole Georgian project was developed as an advertisement implemented within the classic patterns of American home shopping TV programs: “I have bought this wonderful gadget and my life has changed!” – “we have chosen freedom and a miracle happened!” The Georgian authorities see their ‘soft force’ in spreading Western values, but Georgia is not the source of the signal, it is a transfer station. Actually, Georgia shows that independence in foreign policy is secondary to geopolitical orientation. Georgia’s national uniqueness dissolves into universal faceless statements.”

This position will probably be voiced at a meeting with representatives of Circassian diaspora. A year ago Georgia became the first country in the world which recognized the “genocide of the Circassians” by the Russian Empire. Whether Georgia will be the only country which recognizes the “genocide of the Circassians” will depend on Russian foreign policy, including the policy of ‘soft force’.

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