BASEES Annual Conference 2022

The Read Russia project: A cultural organisation with a soft power mission?

Fri8  Apr04:00pm(20 mins)
Umney Lounge


Angelos Theocharis


Even though the Russian classics are globally known and have symbolic value for world culture, literature was of peripheral importance for Soviet and early post-Soviet Russian cultural diplomacy. Yet, in the last decade, literature has been increasingly employed as part of Russia’s cultural statecraft strategies. The present paper focuses on a significant soft power actor, the Read Russia project, which was established in 2012 to promote Russian literature abroad. More specifically, this Russian cultural organisation aims to reacquaint foreign audiences with Russian literature by publishing translations of contemporary and classical Russian literary works as well as by participating in international books fairs. In this paper, I will explore the Read Russia project and its activities to date drawing material from my ethnographic fieldwork at the London Book Fairs 2018 and 2019 and from interviews with the directors of the organisations contributing to the project. I will argue that Read Russia aims to improve Russia’s world image and reputation through translations of Russian literature and literary events, as well as to mobilise the members of the Russophone diasporic communities around the world.