Good Ol’ Joe

October 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Joseph StalinEUobserver reports Russia is mounting a public relations campaign “to justify [its] great power ambitions and improve the image of Joseph Stalin.” Russian news agency Ria Novosti has enlisted RJI Companies in a first phase with the eventual goal of hiring a large PR firm to conduct an expanded campaign. EUobserver describes RJI as a “little known” consultancy. If nothing else, this gig will put them on the map.

Phase One entails burnishing Russia’s image at a conference on the Arctic being held in Moscow next month. Enviromental and energy stewardship will be Russia’s main message points. This will be a good warmup to reputation management for Stalin given the country’s pollution record, which includes dumping reactor cores and high-level wastes from nuclear tests into the Arctic Ocean.

There is a flurry of official denials about the bigger Phase Two campaign, a program to cast a positive light on Soviet actions before and after World War II as justification for an expanded Russian role on today’s world stage. RJI Companies disavows any plan to spin Stalin. Rio Novosti says that it has no involvement with public relations for Russia, insisting that it is a news organization. The Soviet newspaper Pravda used to insist that its name meant “truth.” (It did, according the English-Russian dictionary.)

Public relations campaigns for nations are nothing new. In an earlier post, I describe simultaneous efforts by Israel, Palestine and the United States to improve their images, explain their actions, and garner support in the Middle East. But a Russian attempt to rehabilitate Joseph Stalin displays overwhelming arrogance and a tin ear for PR. It amounts to playing to the base–Russia’s ruling class, as EUobserver indicates–that blows away any feeble rabble-rousing by the extreme right or left in America.

Despite Krushchev’s 1956 “secret speech” acknowledging Stalin’s crimes, a wistfulness for “the man of steel” has lurked, fanned more recently by the Putin regime. This is sad enough inside Russia’s borders. It won’t play outside them.

POSTSCRIPT 1: The Los Angeles Times reports Russian nostalgia for Stalin and an attempted whitewashing of his image, even while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blogs about millions killed by “terror and false accusations,” warning that “Russia must remember its tragedies.”

POSTSCRIPT 2: Newsweek reports the Putin regime’s “hearts and minds” campaign to de-Westernize Russia’s youth.

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Entry filed under: Leadership, Public Affairs, Public Relations. Tags: , , , , .

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