Events can move a debate quickly. When initially developing the idea for this essay collection in the summer of 2014, it was clear that the role of media and social media activity originating from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the links between lobbyists and regimes from the region were issues of growing importance. However it would have been difficult to predict the extent to which much of this debate would become part of mainstream political discourse. The 2016 US Presidential Election saw allegations of Russian government directed hacking and the use of social media to influence political debate; the now ubiquitous term ‘fake news’ bandied about to encompass everything from state directed propaganda, to poor journalism or just stories that one disagrees with; and the rise of anti-establishment forces across Europe and the United States who are gaining ground both in the political debate and at the ballot box, who find common cause with political forces in Russia, all make now an important time to address these issues.
Countries in the post-Soviet space using soft power tools to influence the agenda beyond their borders is not a new phenomenon, and the flow of ideas and information is very clearly not one-way traffic with Western countries using these tools in the FSU for decades. This publication examines the ways in which the governments of FSU countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them.
In recent years, governments from the region have sought to influence international and Western debate to encourage investment and or tourism, to increase their international standing (or at least create a perception of enhanced prestige they can package back to a domestic audience) or to deflect or rebut criticisms about their own behaviour. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have been particularly active in attempting to promote themselves internationally in a positive light, while Georgia was an enthusiastic early adopter of Western public relations and lobbying as part of developing a distinctive national brand. Other states, particularly some of the more closed states of Central Asia, have focused more narrowly on engaging with economic stakeholders and Parliamentary groups to attempt to manage the debate on their own terms. Armenia has utilised its complicated relationship with its influential diaspora to counter-balance the influence of rivals with deeper pockets.
Russia, however, has significantly more ambitious goals for its international engagement. As a number of contributions in this publication show, it seeks to proactively change the international ideological and political environment through its use of broadcast media, both through an overt and covert online presence and through its support of organisations and institutions in Europe and beyond that share their values. It seeks to build on and subvert the style of Western values promotion practiced both during the Cold War and its aftermath, but instead of promoting liberal democracy Russia prioritises supporting ‘traditional values’ and ‘state sovereignty’ across the globe. Furthermore, this publication shows that the goal is also to discredit Western behaviour and models of political organisation, in order to blunt Western criticism of their actions on the grounds of hypocrisy and muddying the waters of global discourse through saturating the debate on particular issues with a high volume of ‘alternative facts’.
With respect to the use of broadcast media the focus of attention in this publication is understandably on the role of Russia given the small and often poorly developed media institutions across the rest of the region. The Russian influenced media landscape under discussion in this publication falls into three main areas: the level of access to domestic Russian television in the region (including in the Baltic States), the impact of the Russian state news agency Sputnik and the global role of Russia’s internationally focused television channel RT.
The Soviet and Russian imperial legacies have left Russian as a shared language across much of the region particularly for the older generation, as well as for ethnic Russians and minority groups in the rest of the region. All countries in the region except Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan have either active or passive Russian usage at over 50 per cent of their populations. Rasto Kuzel’s contribution to this collection gives an important overview of how Russia’s domestic channels (often through their international counterparts) and local channels that directly rebroadcast content, form the core of Russian language media consumed within Russia’s immediate environs, including the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and its three Baltic member states. Russian television penetration is lower in Azerbaijan and Central Asia through a mix of lower Russian language use and more restrictive media environments. The primary point of access for these channels is through cable and satellite packages, though internet access is growing. Both Russian state and commercial channels have higher production values and more diverse content than the local offerings in the region, making these channels an attractive viewing option, which in turn provides access to Russian news narratives and, often already shared cultural norms.
As addressed in the contribution by Ben Nimmo, the second dimension is the role of the Sputnik news agency – a combined newswire service, radio station, website and multi-media content provider that replaced the international arm of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti in 2013. Sputnik provides 6 newswire services, three in English (one international, one Russia focused and one covering Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States) and one each in Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. It produces its own content in 30 languages directly to 34 countries, with a significant focus on Russia’s immediate neighbourhood.
Sputnik’s English service may have 1,091,238 Facebook likes and its content via its public facing outlets and its wire service may resurface on blogs and smaller websites on the alt-right and radical left (depending on the story), however the agency’s real value is in the lower volume news markets in the FSU and Eastern Europe, where easily accessible and usable national language content can be used by local broadcasters, newspapers and websites. So just as wire stories from traditional news agencies disperse across the media landscape, repackaged and rebranded but their core the same story, so now do Sputnik stories proliferate on different sites across the region. Sometimes this is the result of a direct ideological choice. For example in Georgia, a country with low direct penetration of Russian channels due to strategic tensions, Sputnik content has been utilised by a number of emerging domestic outlets such as Obieqtivi TV,  Iberia TV, Asaval-Dasavali newspaper and websites such as News Georgia, Saqinformi and Georgia and World that challenge the country’s Western-focused foreign policy and EU backed social reforms. In others, state channels will adopt Russian narratives and news stories when they dovetail with the approach of their national governments. However such content is also being used by hard-pressed newsrooms and websites to fill time or space in their output.
The third dimension of the media dissemination strategy is one best known in the West – RT (formerly Russia Today). RT describes itself as ‘an autonomous non-profit organization’, with a budget of 19 billion rubles (around £264 million at time of writing) and claims an audience reach of 70 million viewers per week and 50 million unique online users each month. This puts it broadly on a par with the BBC World Service in terms of expenditure (£254 million for the BBC World Service in 2014-15) if not yet in terms of reach (246 million World Service users across all platforms). RT runs three 24hr channels in English (with specific US and UK offerings, the latter being available on free-to-air terrestrial television), Spanish and Arabic, with web content in German, French and Russian. It positions itself to cover ‘stories overlooked by the mainstream media, provides alternative perspectives on current affairs, and acquaints international audiences with a Russian viewpoint on major global events’. Its willingness to provide a platform for more voices perceived as outside the political and social mainstream, from political views on the radical right and left, to controversial academics to outright conspiracy theorists and theories has found a niche in an increasingly fragmented media market place where such views struggle to be heard on the traditional broadcasters.
Both Sputnik (branded as ‘Telling the untold’) and RT (‘Question More‘) do provide an understandably sympathetic approach to the actions of the Russian government amid the mélange of different viewpoints. However there is strong suspicion that at least in part the aim is ‘not to convince people, but to confuse them, not to provide an alternative viewpoint, but to divide public opinions and to ultimately undermine our ability to understand what is going on and therefore take decisions if decisions need to be made’. The ideological approach is as much about muddying the political waters, by focusing allegations of Western hypocrisy to suggest that everyone is the same and sowing confusion, rather than simply building up pro-Russian arguments.
Until very recently Western competition in the post-Soviet space has been in retreat. The worsening media freedom environment has removed the ability to partner with local stations to rebroadcast content within a number of FSU countries. However also with budgets and priorities still being set as if victory in the Cold War had delivered the initially promised freedom, thereby making such services obsolete. Furthermore, the multi-language offerings have tended to remain focused on radio, building on the long-range broadcast networks developed during the Cold War, for a media market place where TV remains the dominant source of news, though all have active online content provision.
The multi-language BBC World Service has seen its budget cut in recent years, particularly since 2010, and as of 2014 responsibility for annually funding this work passed from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to being directly funded from the license fee along with the rest of the BBC’s non-commercial output. The service remains predominantly radio and online focused though it runs two TV channels (BBC Persian and BBC Arabic), with a significant proportion of its provision focused on Commonwealth Countries. The BBC Russian service currently operates only on the internet, having given up transmitting on medium and short wave radio in 2011, though some of its online content and news is rebroadcasted on independent Russian channel Dozhd (Rain) TV. However a recent one-off government grant is facilitating development on an upcoming digital television project. As with the Russia service the BBC’s Ukrainian and Azeri services went online only in 2011. The BBC’s Kyrgyz service however maintains output online, on radio and via television, with the World Service stating that up to 3 million people watch BBC Kyrgyz’s output via Kyrgyzstan’s Public TV and half a million through the Radio Broadcasting Corporation of the Kyrgyz Republic, highlighting opportunities available with willing domestic partners. The BBC’s Uzbek service website and radio output is blocked by the authorities in Uzbekistan but it continues to make its content accessible on a range of platforms.
US international public broadcasting outputs fall under the auspices of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) whose funds are derived from a grant from the US Congress. Voice of America runs a number of English language TV stations globally, as well as a mixture of web TV and radio in a number of different languages including Russian, Ukrainian, Azeri, Armenian, Uzbek and Georgian. However in the post-Soviet space and Eastern Europe, the second BBG organisation is often the central focus. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/ RL) operates 26 language services to 23 countries (FSU countries, minus the Baltic states, but plus the Balkans, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and for a number of minority Russian languages). RFE/RL services are rebroadcast on some domestic stations, where the media environment permits, but its radio content is available via region-wide shortwave transmission, on some satellite services as well as online. RFE/RL and VOA have recently launched a new 24hr news service called Current Time which claims 32 cable affiliates in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Germany and Israel, as well as online and satellite access, expanding on a service that has developed since 2014. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle provides radio content in Russian, Ukrainian and a number of eastern European languages, while Radio France International maintains a Russian service.
The halcyon days when the internet was seen as an almost magical tool to open up access to information in closed societies have long gone. While it continues to provide opportunities for opposition voices to be heard, and indeed for the international media organisations discussed above to provide access to their content, they are very much not alone in this space. Internet penetration in the region is growing. As of 2016 within the members of the CIS the proportion of internet users stood at 66 per cent, with individual country figures from 2015 ranging from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan at 15 and 19 per cent respectively through to Russia and Kazakhstan on 73 per cent with Azerbaijan at 77 per cent. The regions’ authoritarian regimes are learning to utilise the medium to disseminate their own narratives, and are proving increasingly adept at influencing the online debate in their countries, in their diasporas and increasingly in the West.
The Russian Government’s use of paid and organised trolls to criticise opponents, challenge narratives and provide misleading or false alternative information has been well documented. These paid trolls, operating both on Russian and Western comment sites and social media operate with varying degrees of sophistication, some profiles built up to show evidence of a more diverse online life as if they were real, others narrowly focused on the task at hand. In the space beyond the paid-for trolls lie the enthusiastic (and organised) amateurs. In the gap left by the collapse of former nationalist youth movement Nashi, formerly trailblazing trolls, has been the pro-Putin group Set (Network), who have been active online in trying to promote pro-government messages and rebut attempts by others to challenge their narratives online. In addition, beyond the direct endorsement of the Kremlin networks are a range of new domestic nationalist movements that gain notoriety through online activism and real world stunts to create viral content.
Arzu Geybulla’s contribution references the role of the pro-government youth movement, the IRELI Public Union that used to be reasonably sophisticated in its trolling of those who disagreed with the government. However following the loss of key activists, the group’s online activism is now eclipsed by less subtle pro-regime activism from the youth branch of the ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan Party. A key tactic online continues to be challenging any focus on domestic human rights, arguing instead that the focus should be around Nagorno Karabakh and the conditions facing Azerbaijan’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In a contribution for Open Democracy on this theme Arzu documents the way in which her and other activists in exile, particularly those involved with Emin Milli’s Berlin-based Meydan TV, have been targeted by organised twitter mobs with links to the ruling party. Meydan is forced to block around 50 users per day from its Facebook page over trolling and has faced repeated Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks to attempt to shut down their web presence. For years human rights defenders in Azerbaijan have had their emails hacked and social media presence monitored and recent work by Amnesty International has documented some of these instances, including how those now based abroad such as Leyla and Arif Yunus have been targeted. Amnesty have documented the use of ‘Spear Phishing’, targeted email spoofing fraud attempts, as well as customised malware.
Political activists criticising their opponents online, in sometimes abusive language, is far from just the prerogative of post-Soviet regimes. However the degree of official sanction and organisation makes it worth noting as part of the tools available to governments in the region to promote their agendas and attack dissenting voices.
Making their mark on the world
Influencing the media is only one of the ways in which countries of the FSU seek to influence global narratives to their advantage. The first of other ways is through the use of advertising and event hosting to position their nations on the world stage, shape how they are perceived by the casual observer and enable their governments to use international prestige as a mechanism for boosting domestic support.
Azerbaijan has become one of the most prodigious hosts and promoters in the region. It turned its surprise victory in the 2011 Eurovision song contest into an opportunity to showcase itself to the world through the Baku 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The event was surrounded by glossy promotion to show off the results of Azerbaijan’s oil-fuelled economic transformation. This was followed by the 2015 European Games in Baku, a new competition created by the European Olympic Associations to compete with the pre-existing European Championships in athletics and other disciplines. In 2016 Baku hosted the European Grand Prix and plans to host a regular Azerbaijan Grand Prix from 2017 onwards. Group games and a quarter-final at the 2020 European Football Championships will also take place in Baku. Major construction projects were initiated to help facilitate these, including the new Baku National Stadium (built to host the European Games and the upcoming 2020 football matches), Baku Crystal Hall (built in less than a year to host Eurovision) and the Grand Prix circuit on the streets of Baku. These projects have been the catalyst for large investments in infrastructure, often with opaque procurement practices and a somewhat cavalier approach to planning policy, that have helped feed the narrative of Baku as a boom town.
As well as the higher profile events, Azerbaijan has also been active in hosting small to medium size events where organisers are in need of finding a willing partner to pay for the event. Examples include the 2012 Internet Governance Forum, the 2016 United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the 2016 World Sailing Championships and the 2016 Chess Olympiad; these will be followed by future events such as the 2018 European Trampoline Championships, the 2019 Summer European Youth Olympic Festival and the 2020 European Mens’ Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
When the world is not coming to Baku, Baku has been increasingly coming to the world through sponsorship and advertising. Azerbaijan’s state owned oil company SOCAR became an official sponsor of the 2016 European Championships, to complement its existing sponsorship of the International Judo Federation, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the World Economic Forum (Davos) and regional initiatives such as the Georgian Chess Federation. Understandably, SOCAR was one of the core sponsors of the inaugural 2015 Baku European Games. SOCAR’s strategy can be seen to have at least some commercial dimension given that it is involved in the retail sale of petroleum through filling stations in Georgia, Romania, Ukraine and Switzerland as well as Azerbaijan, though clearly its promotion strategy serves a broader strategic purpose. Azerbaijan’s sponsorship of Atlético Madrid helped to raise its national profile, coming as it did with that team’s rise to European prominence in 2014. Advertising has been combined with soft-focus journalism in glossy magazines and breathless reports about the physical transformation of Baku.
Even Azerbaijan’s grandest efforts however were dwarfed by Russia’s preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, that as well as being an advert for Russian soft power acted as the focal point for a massive investment and stabilisation programme for Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region. A headline figure of around $50 billion was floated as the potential total investment with a tenuous link to the games, including substantial opportunities for corruption. Russian state-owned Gas monopoly Gazprom has become a substantial player in European football as one of the core sponsors of the UEFA Champions League and of Schalke in the German Bundesliga, in addition to its support for Red Star Belgrade and Zenit St Petersburg. Though the company has a range of subsidiaries active in Europe, its approach would seem to be designed to provide reassurance that Gazprom was a firm and reliable fixture in the European landscape rather than a state-owned firm of a potentially hostile power whose dominance of certain European gas markets creates a potential security risk. Its focus on Germany, where it also sponsors Europe’s second biggest theme park Europa-Park, is unsurprising given that country’s strategic importance and its cooperation with the Nordstream gas pipeline project that runs between the two nations.
Kazakhstan has tried to position itself as an honest, reliable broker on the world stage. Its longstanding hosting in Astana of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a conference of its own creation, has helped to set that tone. This project is in part about projecting the narrative that Kazakhstan is a stable, moderate Islamic country, one that is non-aligned in the sectarian conflicts besetting the Middle East, an approach that has helped it play a mediation role over Syria. Its positioning as a mature, stabilising presence was integral to its decision to host the 2010 OSCE Summit. In a broader and more investment-focused dimension, Astana is hosting the 2017 Expo. In terms of national branding it is also worth looking at the Astana Pro Team, bankrolled by Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, that helped put the country’s newish capital on the international map. The top level international cycling team now forms part of the wider ‘Astana Presidential Club’ that brings it together with FC Astana, boxing, motorsports and basketball organisations to deliver what its website describes as the ‘development and promotion of international image of Astana and Kazakhstan based on national multisport brand (sic). The aims of the project are entering the world sports space…’
All of this international work serves a dual purpose; trying to improve national prestige and profile – in part with the aim of encouraging foreign direct investment or tourism, such efforts are also designed to be reflected back to a domestic audience as visible signs of national progress and prestige. It enables the governments in question to argue that if the country is viewed positively from abroad this equates to an implicit endorsement of its practices. Whether such prestige spending can be sustained in the medium to long-term, given the impact of reduced oil prices in recent years, will remain to be seen. Furthermore, particularly since Azerbaijan’s 2012 Eurovision experience, such international ventures are increasingly seen as opportunities for the human rights record of the host country to come under increased scrutiny by NGOs and the media, limiting the opportunities for positive PR, at least in the Western media.
Shaping the political debate
As documented in the FPC’s Sharing Worst Practice publication in this Exporting Repression series and elsewhere, in recent years there has been a substantial increase in pressure on independent NGOs and think tanks across the former Soviet Union. This is particularly the case for those who receive funding from Western governments and foundations, which have been targeted under variations of the Russian Foreign Agents Law, that creates onerous specific reporting requirements and forces organisations to announce that they are a ‘foreign agent’ in all written and verbal statements. Despite this trend at home FSU governments are active in attempting to influence the political debate in Europe and the United States through the use of public affairs firms and lobbying organisations, the support of sympathetic politicians, academics, NGOs and think tanks. A number of the contributions here address different dimensions of the challenge with Dr David Lewis and Melissa Hooper focusing on European research and lobbying groups with links to governments in the region, while Ana Dvali and Revaz Koiava look at the way in which the Georgian Government under the leadership of then President Mikheil Saakashvili was used to help reframe how the country was viewed in Western capitals. The earlier Institutionally Blind publication in this series has addressed the issue of Western politicians being involved in pro-regime groups and sympathetic election monitoring missions, though Lewis and Hooper expand on those issues here. 
In addition to the Russian, Kazakhstani and Azerbaijani cases addressed by other authors it is worth noting that US and European lobbying firms have played an active role supporting different factions and oligarchs in Ukrainian politics since the Orange Revolution, with the same firm sometimes representing entirely different viewpoints from one year to the next, with both Trump and Clinton Election Campaign Managers Paul Manafort and John Podesta having previous links to President Yanukovych’s party and groups such as the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Some of the more closed Central Asian regimes have focused on support for small scale friendship groups such as the British Uzbek Society.
FSU governments are not the only voices from the region that try to shape the international narrative about their countries. In a similar fashion, opposition forces from the region have sought to support events and analysis from those with a more critical take on what is going on. For example, a number of groups linked to jailed billionaire Mikael Khodorkovsky and his former company Yukos Oil engaged with think tanks and other organisations that took a more critical line on Putin’s Russia. Since his release Khodorkovsky and his family have developed a number of organisations including the Open Russian Foundation and the affiliated research arm the Institute of Modern Russia to influence the debate on Russia, who partner with other think tanks to host events. Opposition groups and out-of-favour oligarchs work with public affairs firms to protect their personal and legal interests and attempt to influence Western public opinion in a more regime critical direction.
Countries from across the former Soviet Union are making use of Western-style soft power tools to influence public opinion and promote their interests, even when they are restricting the reach of Western organisations within their own borders. This essay collection seeks to give an overview of the developing landscape, assess the key issues and put forward new approaches on how best to respond to the challenge.
What our authors say
Rasťo Kužel looks at the popularity of Russian media in the former Soviet Union countries. He points out the differences in the role and reach of the main Russian channels in Armenia, Belarus and Moldova, compared to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine. He concludes that while it is not easy to estimate the real impact of Russian propaganda in these countries, it is clear that the lack of objective reporting, as well as a lack of diverse views among Russian-speaking audiences, poses a real challenge across the region. Kužel believes that if national media enjoyed high levels of trust and popularity in the Eastern Partnership countries, it would serve as a good tool against Russian media propaganda and criticises the fact that governments in these countries have done very little or nothing to encourage the existence of an independent, vibrant and competitive media landscape, essential for providing a variety of news and views.
Natalya Antelava writes that in Ukraine, the international media was not ready for the disinformation onslaught and was involuntarily aiding the alternative narrative constructed by the Kremlin. The mistakes of Western media outlets in Ukraine offer valuable lessons to all journalists covering the ‘post-fact’, ‘post-truth’ world.
Dr Justin Schlosberg critically reflects on the respective editorial missions of both RT and the BBC, drawing on a comparative case study analysis of coverage during the second Euromaidan conflict in Ukraine. Amid a global news paradigm where truth and reality are becoming ever more contested, he argues for a new approach to global news ethics that avoids some of the problems inherent in both the concepts of ‘impartiality’ and ‘alternative news’.
Ben Nimmo argues that Russia’s disinformation efforts in Sweden and Finland have met with mixed success. The local language variants of the Sputnik internet channel failed to penetrate or win a substantial following, and were perceived as a Kremlin propaganda tool. They closed down after less than a year. In the aftermath, evidence has emerged of a shift in policy towards a more indirect approach, using local voices which endorse official Russian government positions and policies, largely from the political fringes. This approach is still evolving; however, growing public awareness of the concept of information war and the role of political extremes in it means that the Kremlin’s information projects continue to face scepticism.
Dr David Lewis writes that while modern authoritarian states still imprison journalists and close down newspapers, they increasingly rely on more sophisticated ways to suppress criticism and skew narratives in their favour. Post-Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan use slick media and lobbying operations to boost their image at home and abroad. They often hire Western PR companies to promote their views in international media, to lobby European and American politicians, and to discredit political opponents. Authoritarian states create their own think tanks and non-governmental organisations, but use such groups to promote government views. They often rely on pliant or supportive Western academics and politicians to channel official views, or to act as uncritical election monitors. Non-democratic states have also learned to use social media to their advantage, both as an effective method of surveillance and as a new platform for their messaging. Lewis argues that the international activism of Eurasia’s authoritarian states deserves more critical attention.
Melissa Hooper argues that the Russian government’s use of various media and messaging tools to disrupt the application of universal human rights norms in the EU and US, and declare democracy a failed experiment, includes a new front. This is the use of seemingly-independent think tanks and foundations to put forth xenophobic ideas that target migrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, and other minority communities as threats to those who ‘belong’. These think tanks and foundations are not independent, however, they are funded by the Russian government either directly, or by Russian-government-partnered oligarchs who act as agents to spread the Kremlin’s ideologies. Organisations such as the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation or the World Public Forum produce messaging that sacrifices the rights of minorities as they aim to demonstrate that the current EU and US democracies are failing and unsafe, and in need of replacement – which Russia can offer. For all these reasons, the EU and US governments, or at least intelligence agencies and civil society, should work together to document the funding and influence that are the source of these anti-human rights and non-evidence-based proposals.
Ana Dvali and Revaz Koiava examine how the international promotion of Georgia intensified after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new United National Movement Government of Georgia set ambitious goals and remained committed to trying to promote the country’s image as a democratic and reformist state around the world, something its supporters believe had a great impact on the country’s development. However, critics argue that the image the government tried to create was far from reality, and the substantial amount of funds spent on promotion were a waste. The situation changed after 2012; the new Georgian Dream government has focused less on international promotion and spends fewer resources to shape international opinion. They compare the international promotion strategies of the two governments; in particular, how they have interacted with various international actors and which instruments they used to raise international awareness of the Georgian national brand.
Arzu Geybulla explores the ways in which authoritarian regimes from the former Soviet Union use lobbying and nation branding to promote their achievements and blunt criticisms. She focuses on the cases of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, using the idea of the ‘brand state’. The essay also looks at the efforts these governments make online to harass their opponents.
Richard Giragosian writes the Republic of Armenia’s relationship with its global Armenian diaspora has always been complex, and at times, even confrontational. Yet, despite a degree of misunderstanding and a deep cultural divide, this relationship is both symbiotic and significant. While the diaspora was deeply engaged in providing economic support to the Armenian state through the 1990s, the combination of entrenched corruption and a closed economy has ended that period of financial support and investment, though remittances particularly from those temporarily working in Russia still provide a major source of funds. The politically sophisticated Armenian diaspora, well-integrated and politically active in several Western countries, play an important role in support of Armenian foreign policy. Despite occasional differences, especially over attempts to normalise relations with Turkey, the diaspora’s diplomatic leverage gives the Armenian state a distinct advantage, particularly in contrast to their Azerbaijani and Turkish rivals. But Armenia has failed to fully harness the natural advantage of its global diaspora, and the diaspora has never fulfilled expectations of more direct engagement in such critical issues as democratisation and sustainable economic development in Armenia.
 This collection is part of the wider Exporting Repression Series of publications and events first proposed in 2014 and work on the series first began in the early summer of 2015.
 And indeed also update and refine its own Cold War approach to propaganda and soft power.
 Who may be less likely to speak the national language of their home countries, particularly if they went to school in the Soviet-era.
 A Arefjef, Russian Language at the turn of the 20th-21st Century, Centre for social forecasting and marketing-Moscow, 2012, https://www.civisbook.ru/files/File/russkij_yazyk.pdf (information found via the EED). It is worth noting however that active use of Russian is below 25 percent in Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Lithuania.
 These international versions primarily rebroadcast domestic content with major outlets including Channel One Russia Worldwide (Pervyi Kanal) including its specific Baltic service (Pervyi Baltiyskiy Kanal), RTR Planet (RTR Planeta), NTV World (NTV Mir).
 Examples include in Moldova Prime (Pervyi Kanal), RTR Moldova (Rossiya 1) and TV7 (NTV) among others. In Belarus they include ONT (Pervyi Kanal), STV (Ren TV), Belarus RTR (RTR), NTV Belarus (NTV). In Kyrgyzstan NTV Kyrgyzstan, in Lithuania REN Lietuva (REN).
 Other Russian language wire service content is available from Russian domestic services such as TASS, the domestic RIA Novosti (ria.ru) from which Sputnik was hived off, and business focused service Interfax.
 Co-founded by Irma Inashvili the Secretary General of the anti-Western and pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG) party, with other party activists on its board Media Meter, see Obieqtivi, http://mediameter.ge/en/media-profiles/obieqtivi and also http://www.obieqtivi.net/
 Nata Dzvelishvili and Tazo Kupreishvili, Russian Influence of Georgian NGOs and Media, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, June 2015, https://idfi.ge/public/upload/IDFI/media.and.NGO.pdf and Tamar Kinturashvili, Anti-Western Propaganda: Media Monitoring Report 2014-15, Media Diversity Institute, http://www.media-diversity.org/en/additional-files/documents/Anti-Western_Propaganda_Media_Monitoring_Report.pdf
 RT’s own about us management page states RT’s 2016 funding to be 19 billion rubles, while on its own myth busting section it challenges Newsweek for using a dollar version of this figure, instead claiming that the 2016 budget is 17 billion rubles https://www.rt.com/facts-vs-fiction/. Its broadcast reach figures are sourced from research it commissioned from French Survey firm IPSOS.
 UK National Audit Office, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General presented to the BBC Trust Value for Money Committee, June 2016, https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BBC-World-Service-1.pdf Note this does not include the budget or viewing figures for BBC World News or many of the BBC’s other international entertainment focused TV offerings that operate on a commercial basis.
 Including Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia as well as much of Central Asia.
 The license fee is a mandatory payment for using a television or watching live broadcasts online in the UK that is collected directly by the BBC. The English language BBC World News channel, with a 75million global reach is commercially funded and organised separately from the World Service.
 The beleaguered Dozhd TV has had its broadcast access in Russia reduced in recent years. During the 2000s the BBC’s Russia service’s ability to be rebroadcast via domestic radio partners dwindled due to the increasingly restricted media environment.
 Tara Conlan,BBC World Service to receive £289m from government, November 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/23/bbc-world-service-receive-289m-from-government This funding, £289 million over 5 years, will cover services across the world including ‘new radio services in North Korea, Ethiopia and Eritrea; a better TV service in Africa; additional language broadcasts via digital and television in India and Nigeria; better regional content for the BBC Arabic Service, improved digital and TV services in Russia and for Russian speakers; and improved video across its output.’
 BBC, BBC Kyrgyz marks 20 years on air with special content – and 3 million weekly reach on TV, June 2016,
 Broadcasting Board of Governors, Current Time, February 2017, https://www.bbg.gov/2017/02/07/current-time-independent-russian-language-news-network/
 ITU, ICT STATISTICS Home Page, http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/default.aspx Some of these higher figures need to be treated with caution given concerns about the standards of statistical collection in these restrictive countries.
 Max Seddon, Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America, June 2014, https://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/documents-show-how-russias-troll-army-hit-america?utm_term=.jlBoWJdZ#.ep4zYXNM Shaun Walker, Salutin’ Putin: inside a Russian troll house, Guardian, April 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/02/putin-kremlin-inside-russian-troll-house See also NATO Stratcom, Internet Trolling as a hybrid warfare tool: the case of Latvia, http://www.stratcomcoe.org/internet-trolling-hybrid-warfare-tool-case-latvia-0
 Anna Nemtsova, Vladimir Putin’s biggest fan club: Media-savvy youth group Set is churning out propaganda and clothing to promote Russia’s leader, December 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putins-biggest-fan-club-media-savvy-youth-group-set-is-churning-out-propaganda-and-clothing-9901715.html
 Tom Balmforth, ‘We fight for democracy’ – Russia’s pro-Kremlin youth respond to propaganda warning, February 2015, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/03/russia-ukraine-pro-kremlin-youth-respond-propaganda-warning
 An example would include Maria Katasonova and the People’s Liberation Front whose sympathies are linked to the international ‘alt-right’ and who have been active in challenging independent NGOs and participating in pro-Trump trolling around the 2016 US Election. See https://www.ft.com/content/d53f326e-54db-11e6-befd-2fc0c26b3c60 and https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-01-20/youth-movement-will-be-partying-friday-make-america-great-again-russia
 It should be noted of course that Armenia has an active nationalist presence on social media, both from within the country and in the diaspora with a similar focus on Nagorno Karabakh (albeit from the opposite perspective) and Genocide Recognition.
 Arzu Geybulla, In the crosshairs of Azerbaijan’s patriotic trolls, November 2016, https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/azerbaijan-patriotic-trolls
 Claudio Guarnieri, Joshua Franco and Collin Anderson, False Friends: How Fake Accounts and Crude Malware Targeted Dissidents in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International, March 2017, https://medium.com/amnesty-insights/false-friends-how-fake-accounts-and-crude-malware-targeted-dissidents-in-azerbaijan-9b6594cafe60#.bw6r2ievd
 See for example Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Illegal Evictions Ahead of Eurovision, February 2012,
 Trend News Agency, Baku to host European Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Championship, February 2017,
 Dan Palmer, Baku to host 2019 Summer European Youth Olympic Festival, January 2017, http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1045735/baku-to-host-2019-summer-european-youth-olympic-festival
 Owen Gibson, Azerbaijan’s sponsorship of Atlético Madrid proves spectacular success
 As well as puff pieces in Western lifestyle magazines, Azerbaijan’s first daughter Leyla Aliyeva was even able to persuade Conde Nast to set up its own Azerbaijan focused glossy, Baku Magazine, http://www.baku-magazine.com/magazine/
 Paul Farhi, Did the Winter Olympics in Sochi really cost $50 billion? A closer look at that figure, Washington Post, February 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/did-the-winter-olympics-in-sochi-really-cost-50-billion-a-closer-look-at-that-figure/2014/02/10/a29e37b4-9260-11e3-b46a-5a3d0d2130da_story.html?utm_term=.aa33a3c30ac4
 It’s we light up football adverts are an integral part of the match television coverage https://www.gazprom-football.com/en/Home.htm. See also Jack Pitt Brook, Chelsea vs Schalke: Controversial Gazprom deals cast cloud ahead of Champions League game, Independent, September 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/chelsea-vs-schalke-controversial-gazprom-deals-cast-cloud-ahead-of-champions-league-game-9736801.html
 Though again it is worth being clear that Gazprom has a number of subsidiaries active in the German market.
 Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, http://www.religions-congress.org/index.php?lang=english
 Akmola became Kazakhstan’s Capital in December 1997 with its name changed to Astana in May 1998. The Astana cycling team was founded in 2007
 Astana President’s Professional Sports Club
 Heaping on the Caviar Democracy, 1843 Magazine (The Economist), https://www.1843magazine.com/features/heaping-on-the-caviar-diplomacy
 Adam Hug (ed.), Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, May 2016, http://fpc.org.uk/publications/sharingworstpractice
 Adam Hug (ed.), Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, February 2016, http://fpc.org.uk/publications/institutionallyblind
 Andrew Rettman, Ukraine chief seeks friends in EU capital, EU Observer, October 2010, https://euobserver.com/foreign/31161 APCO Worldwide for example has provided support to the Presidential Administrations of both President Yushchenko and President Yanukovych as well as to the Premiership during the term of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, http://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/4873/2015-06-29/apco-gives-pr-support-embattled-ukraine.html and http://www.smi-online.co.uk/documentportal/speakerprofile/148501.pdf
 See Luke Harding, How Trump’s campaign chief got a strongman elected president of Ukraine, August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/16/donald-trump-campaign-paul-manafort-ukraine-yanukovich and Eli Lake,Ukraine’s D.C. Lobbyists in Disarray as Dictator Flees,
 Corporate Europe Observatory, Spin doctors to the autocrats: How European PR firms whitewash repressive regimes, January 2015, https://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/20150120_spindoctors_mr.pdf
 This engagement during this period included with the Foreign Policy Centre.
 See for example: Henry Jackson Society, Event: ’25 Years On: Russia Since the Fall of the Soviet Union’, December 2016, http://henryjacksonsociety.org/2016/12/07/event-25-years-on-russia-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union/