The Balkan Dialogue – 2019. Day 1

16 April 2019

On April 16, the Balkan Dialogue – one of the most successful and popular research and educational programs of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund – has opened in the capital of Bulgaria.

The participants were welcomed by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Bulgaria Anatoly Makarov. He called the agenda of the forum a key topic for both Moscow and Sofia. According to the diplomat, many issues could be resolved through an open dialogue using experience of each country.

The ambassador mentioned that the bilateral political dialogue between Russia and Bulgaria was actively developing, and cultural and humanitarian cooperation was becoming stronger. The countries were also getting ready to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the diplomatic relations in July.

The participants of the Balkan Dialogue were welcomed by Advisor to the Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund Valery Kantorov. When speaking about the agenda of the conference, he said that he wanted to discuss not only the present processes in the region, but also the situation on the planet in general.

The program of the Balkan Dialogue – 2019 was opened by roundtable “Mass Media as a Tool of Public Opinion Development and Public Worldview Change in the Balkans”. Associate Professor of the Faculty of International Relations at Russian State University for the Humanities, member of the Gorchakov Club Dr. Nikita Bondarev served as a moderator of the discussion.

Correspondent of Channel One Evgeny Baranov provided a detailed description of the Russian media presence in neigbouring Serbia. According to him, during four years after the Balkan Dialogue in Novi Sad almost nothing has changed. In Serbia, presence of the Russian media can hardly be seen. However, people in Russia also do not clearly understand what is exactly going on in Serbia. For us, that country ended in some kind of information vacuum, and event friendly steps made by Belgrade, like the decision not to join NATO or introduce sanctions, have not made Moscow look at the events in that part of the Balkans with more attention.

History of presence of our media in the Balkans was presented by member of the Gorchakov Club, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of multilanguage project “Russia Beyond” Dr. Vyacheslav Charsky.

Anchor of shows “Deconstruction” and “12+3” on National Bulgarian Radio Pyotr Volgin mentioned that in his country majority of materials in mass media about Russia were of negative nature: the authoritarian president, the desire to rule the world and similar statements. On one hand, Moscow could disregard those statements; on the other hand, it could do everything possible to change the situation. And here, according to Mr. Volgin, efforts made by the Russian media are not sufficient: “Where are other tools of the soft power?”

Senior research assistant at the Department of History of Slavic Nations of Southeastern Europe in Modern Age at the Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Editor-in-Chief of Issues of History magazine Pyotr Iskanderov told about the previous models used to influence the public opinion in the Balkan countries. Those models – addressing the generations, which remembered cooperation with the USSR, and addressing young anti-globalists – have failed. That is why now development of new models is required from our country. First of all, we should answer the following question: “In what way can Russian be interesting for the Balkan people?” There is poor understanding in the region about what our country wants not just in the Balkans, but in Europe overall. People do not understand if Moscow supports the European Union or not.

Read more in Russian here