Russian Soft Power in the South Caucasus: Conceptual Uncertainty and Issues of Practical Application

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-5-98-111
M. Volkhonskiy,
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., 119454, Moscow, Russian Federation.
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 01.12.2021. Revised 23.02.2022. Accepted 04.03.2022.

Acknowledgements. The paper was prepared with financial support of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) in accordance with the project no. 1921-01-01 “Socio-Cultural Phenomena of Border Regions in the Post-Soviet space: Mass Consciousness, Ethno-Cultural and Sectarian Identities, Social Practices”.

Abstract. In recent decades, Russian diplomats and political experts have been constantly discussing the problem of using “soft power” in the conduct of Russian foreign policy in the post-Soviet space. An analysis of the discussions on the problem shows that the practical application of Russian “soft power” runs up, firstly, on a contradictory theoretical understanding of this concept by Russian politicians and experts, and, secondly, on a number of objective difficulties caused by political, socio-economic and cultural features of the post-Soviet space. This article is devoted to the study of the designated complex of problems of the policy of Russian “soft power” in the post-Soviet space on the example of the states of the South Caucasus.It is characteristic that even the resource-instrumentalist policy of “soft power” that Russia pursued in the post-Soviet space had a number of serious shortcomings – the segmentation of resources that were not united by a single system of political values, and the lack of coordination between the leading institutions conducting it. These shortcomings are exacerbated by the constraints that have created the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the post-Soviet states for Russian “soft power”. In the South Caucasus, the main limitation in relation to Georgia was the lack of any “trust” between the two states and societies. With regard to Azerbaijan, a serious constraint for Russian “soft power” is the tight control of the Azerbaijani authorities over the country’s social and political life. In Armenia one can see a significant economic and military-political presence of Russia, but there is no systematic work on the issues of pairing Russian resources of “attractiveness” with the specific interests of this country.

Keywords: international relations, Russian foreign policy, the concept of “soft power”, J. Nye, Russian “soft power”, the post- Soviet space, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia


  1. Nye J.S. Soft power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York, 2004. 206 p.
  2. Nye J. Soft power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Novosibirsk, Moscow, Socio-Prognostic Foundation research “Trends”, 2006. 221 p. (In Russ.)
  3. Parshin P.B. The problem of “soft power” in Russian foreign policy. Moscow, Institute of International Studies MGIMO (U) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Analytical reports, 2013, iss. 1 (36), pp. 9-13. (In Russ.)
  4. Pimenova E.V. Sunset of “Soft Power”? Evolution of theory and practice “Soft Power”. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2017, no. 1 (52), pp. 57-66. (In Russ.) Available at:
  5. Leonova O. Interpretation of the concept of “soft power” in science. Obozrevatel’-Observer, 2015, no. 2, pp. 80-89. (In Russ.)
  6. Parshin P.B. Two Understandings of “Soft Power”: Preconditions, Correlates, and Consequences. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2014, no. 2, pp. 14-21. (In Russ.) Available at:
  7. Panova E.P. The Power of Attractiveness: Using “Soft Power” in World Politics. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2010, no. 4, pp. 91-96. (In Russ.) Available at:
  8. Baikov A.A. European Union “Soft Power” in the Global Power Equilibrium: Euro-Russian Track. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2014, no. 2, pp. 36-46. (In Russ.) Available at:
  9. Davydov Y.P. The concept of “hard” and “soft” power in the theory of international relations. International trends, 2004, vol. 2, no. 1 (4), pp. 69-80. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 26.01.2022).
  10. Korolev V.A., Vladimirova A.V., Trunina A.A. Country Branding and Its Reflection in Global “Soft Power” Rankings. Bulletin of international organizations: education, science, new economy, 2014, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 209-228. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 08.02.2022).
  11. Pestsov S.K., Bobylo A.M. “Soft Power” in World Politics: Problems of Operationalization of the Theoretical Concept. Tomsk State University Bulletin. History, 2015, no. 2 (34), pp. 108-114. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.17223/19988613/34/18
  12. Kharitonova E. Effectiveness of “soft power”: the problem of assessment. World Economy and International Relations, 2015, no. 6, pp. 48-58. (In Russ.) Available at:
  13. Torkunov A.V. Education as an instrument of “soft power” in Russian foreign policy. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2012, no. 4 (25), pp. 85-93. (In Russ.) Available at:
  14. Lebedeva M.M., Phor G. Higher education as the potential of “soft power” in Russia. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2009, no. 6 (9), pp. 200-205. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 08.02.2022).
  15. Panova E.P. Higher education as a potential for soft power of the state. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2011, no. 2 (17), pp. 157-161. (In Russ.) Available at:
  16. Lebedeva M.M. “Soft power”: concept and approaches. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2017, no. 3 (54), pp. 212-223. (In Russ.) Available at:
  17. Nye J. Soft Power and Higher Education. Forum of the Higher Education. 2004. 4 p. Available at:,than%20through%20coercion%20or%20payments.&text=Nye%20suggests%20how%20higher%20education,student%20and%20cultural%20exchange%20programs (accessed 08.02.2022).
  18. Parshin P.B. Soft power in a maze of debate. Moscow, MGIMO, 2020. 285 p. (In Russ.)
  19. Yudin N.V. A hard look at “soft power”. Critical analysis of the monograph by J. Nye “The Future of Power”. Moscow University Bulletin. Series 25. International relations and world politics, 2014, no. 2, pp. 134-163. (In Russ.)
  20. Yudin N.V. A systemic approach to “soft power”. International trends, 2015, vol. 13, no. 2 (41), pp. 96-105. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.17994/IT.2015.
  21. Yudin N.V. Discussion about the images of power in the theory of international relations. Wrong turn? International trends, 2018, vol. 16, no. 3 (54), pp. 84-99. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.17994/IT.2018.
  22. Nye J.S. Soft power, Hard Power and Leadership [Electronic resource]. Available at: (accessed 30.11.2021).
  23. Leonova O.G. Joseph Nye and “soft power”: an attempt at a new reading. Socio-humanitarian knowledge, 2018, no 1, pp. 101-114. (In Russ.) Available at:
  24. Kharkevich M.V. “Soft power”: the political use of a scientific concept. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2014, no. 2 (35), pp. 22-29. (In Russ.) Available at:
  25. Alekseeva T.A. “Soft power” in the theory and practice of international relations. Political space and social time: identity and everyday life in the structure of the life world: theses of the XXX Khara Forum May 26–30, 2016, Yalta. Senyushkina T.A., Baranov A.V., eds. Simferopol, IT “ARIAL”, 2016, pp. 5-21. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 08.05.2020).
  26. Kydd A.H. Trust and Mistrust in International Relations. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2005. 284 p.
  27. Neupokoeva E.Yu. Anglo-American political science on the problem of trust in Interstate Relations. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2010, no. 6 (15), pp. 248-257. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 08.02.2022).
  28. Vorotnikov V.V., Ivanova N.A. “Soft power” of Russia in the Baltic countries and research focus: traditions, opposition, competition. Baltic region, 2019, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 107-124. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.5922/2079-8555-2019-3-6
  29. Soloviev E.G. “Human security” and “soft power” in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. Moscow University Bulletin. Ser. 12. Political sciences, 2010, no. 4, pp. 72-77. (In Russ.)
  30. Nikitina Y.A. Russian approach to promoting “soft power” in foreign policy. MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2014, no. 2 (35), pp. 30-35. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 22.09.2021).
  31. Lukyanov F.A. Paradoxes of Russian “soft power”. Franco-Russian analytical center “Observo”. 14.01.2014. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 22.09.2021).
  32. Silaev N. How to Sell “Russia”? Why doesn’t “soft power” work? Russia in global politics, 2014, no. 1, pp. 176-184. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 22.11.2021).
  33. Kharitonova E., Prokhorenko I. “Soft power” of the former empires: comparative experience of Great Britain and Spain. World Economy and International Relations, 2018, vol. 62, no. 3, pp. 39-49. (In Russ.) Available at:
  34. Johnson M. What China and Russia Don’t Get About Soft Power. Foreign Policy, 29.04.2013. Available at: (accessed 22.11.2020).
  35. Mukhanov V., Skakov A. Political stability the Georgian way (Georgia after the 2016 elections). World Economy and International Relations, 2018, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 53-62. (In Russ.) Available at:
  36. Gulueva Z. Kamal Abdullah: patriotism is not connected with knowledge of the native language. Sputnik Azerbaijan, 09.17.2020. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 20.06.2021).
  37. Kukhtenkova E. Queue for Russian. Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 26.01.2019. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 20.06.2021).
  38. Khruleva T. Interview with Vigen Akopyan. “The policy of soft power is not felt in Armenia”. Rosbalt, 23.07.2015. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 22.08.2021).


  1. The concept of foreign policy of the Russian Federation in 2016. MFA RF, 01.12.2016. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 16.02.2022).
  2. Are there many Russian schools in Georgia. Sputnik Georgia, 28.09.2019. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 20.06.2021).
  3. A monument to Turkish soldiers reminded of the controversial aspects of the Civil War. Caucasian Knot, 23.12.2018. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 22.08.2021).
  4. The House of Russian Book, a center of attraction for Armenian youth, opened in Yerevan. Eurasia daily, 17.09.2021. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 12.10.2021).

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Volkhonskiy M., Mukhanov V. Russian Soft Power in the South Caucasus: Conceptual Uncertainty and Issues of Practical Application. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 5, pp. 98-111.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 7
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • The Supporting Structure of Global Security
  • Institutional Features of the Fourth Energy Transition
  • The Evolution of Modern German Christian Democracy
  • The Monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.