Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Pia Koivunen (University of Tampere, Finland)

Exhibiting Russia. Russian Cultural Diplomacy at World Fairs

What is the role of Russia in between Europe and Asia, what is its image as a state, and what is its relation to the Western civilization? These questions have bothered the minds of tsars, communist leaders, and most recently they have become President Putin's headache. In the modern era, one of the most noticeable arenas, where states promote their images have been mega-events, such as the World's Fairs and the Olympic Games. Since the mid-19th century, mega-events have served as arenas for representing national identity, cultural values, allowing to claim state's place among the 'great powers' and to improve their image in the eyes of foreign publics. In the post-Cold War era, Russia has become more active in engaging with mega-events. It has, for example, joined the 'Eurovision family' and after winning in 2008, it became the host of the Song Contest in 2009. Moreover, Russia has organised Universiade in 2013 as well as the Sochi winter Olympics and the Paralympics last year and will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Russia's recent association with mega-events has not only attracted world media's attention but has also spurred academic research in a number of fields. While these studies give us important information on the current mega-events and Russia, they often miss the broader picture. This presentation focuses on Russia's long history at one of the iconic mega-events, the World Fairs, starting from the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 and ending with the bidding process of Yekaterinburg for the World Expo 2020. The aim of this paper is to examine how Russia has used these exhibitions to promote, improve and foster its image among foreign populations. With a few case studies from the imperial, Soviet and post-Cold War period, the paper analyses continuities and changes in promoting Russia at World Fairs. It concludes with preliminary conclusions on the one hand of the effects, and on the other hand of the goals and purposes of the cultural diplomacy of the imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and the Russian federation.