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Russia’s Construction of a Post-Soviet National Image at World Fairs, 1992–2022

Author: Anthony Swift

  • Russia’s Construction of a Post-Soviet National Image at World Fairs, 1992–2022

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    Russia’s Construction of a Post-Soviet National Image at World Fairs, 1992–2022

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Abstract

This article examines the evolution of Russia’s use of world expos to reshape its image and construct a non-socialist national identity after the end of the Soviet Union. Between 1992 and 2000, Russia’s exhibitions at Seville’s Expo ’92, Hannover’s Expo 2000, and Aichi’s Expo 2005 echoed earlier Soviet pavilions’ emphasis on material objects and space technology. Since Shanghai’s Expo 2010, however, Russia has been developing an updated, contemporary expo brand that celebrates its historical achievements and status as a leading nation. Imposing pavilions, state-of-the-art multimedia displays, forums on business opportunities and global issues, popular music shows, dance parties, and cute mascots have contributed to forging a friendly, contemporary image of Russia as a desirable trading partner that is open to cooperation with the world. At the most recent world expo, Dubai’s Expo 2020, Russia signalled its leadership of the ‘Russian world’ with a multi-coloured double-domed pavilion that, in the words of its chief architect, reflected the idea that Russia is part of the global community but also ‘an integral and huge world in itself, with a completely unique cultural charge’. The soft-power successes of Russia’s nation-branding efforts at the world expos have been undermined, however, by its government’s use of hard power at home and abroad. The benign image cultivated at world expos contrasts with media coverage of domestic repression and military intervention. Russia’s image suffered a precipitous decline in the West following its 2022 attack on Ukraine, and it subsequently withdrew from Osaka’s Expo 2025. However, given that it continues to be regarded more favourably in many countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, Russia is likely to continue to use world expos in these regions to project a positive image.

Keywords: Public diplomacy, national image, nation branding, Russia, Russian Federation, soft power, world expos, world fairs

How to Cite:

Swift, A., (2024) “Russia’s Construction of a Post-Soviet National Image at World Fairs, 1992–2022”, Studies on National Movements 13(1), 95-134. doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/snm.91454

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Published on
19 Jun 2024
Peer Reviewed