At the start of this year, Evgeniy Primakov was appointed the head of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation. Primakov, the grandson of a well-known Russian politician, took over the post from Eleonora Mitrofanova, who is now working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since assuming the office Primakov frequently spoke of the necessity to modernize the agency, which dates back to 1925, when it was known as VOKS - All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. Currently, Rossotrudnichestvo operates in 80 countries via 97 representative offices. The London office was open in 2012 and is rightly considered the official Russian Culture House.
Evgeniy Primakov shared an insight into several meaningful transformations that already took place in the central (executive) office, and emphasized that changes will continue. Primakov noted that new positions were established, specifically offices that will deal with the humanitarian aspect. A special emphasis will be made on humanitarian work with enterprise. Furthermore, the focus will shift to the “immediate perimeter” - to the CIS states. The work in the more remote foreign countries will still continue. Furthermore, in a reply to one of the journalists Primakov noted that the next step will be the reorganization of those offices. They should take on the role of Cultural Embassies, where various services should be also provided alongside in-house events. They should take on the role of open hubs for educational, cultural, and business organizations. The work of these new centers should be carried out in a modern project-focused way, with consideration for regional specifics.
Primakov noted that Rossotrudnichestvo in the world isn’t merely a cultural presence, but also a gatekeeper working with popular opinion, which can be used to build a positive outlook on Russia. Cooperation with Russia is essential, we need to search for common ground and for new ideas to strengthen peaceful ties. Furthermore, we should emphasize that advocating peace is the key mission of Rossotrudnichestvo. “If we do not talk about the Good that we do, skeptics will question whether we really did it?” - shared Primakov about his concern over the position of the agency in the information arena.
The necessity to establish Russian language schools abroad and to foster bonds between international universities received a special mention. Organizations for Russian University Alumni were singled out as an important avenue for international dialogue. The work with Russian compatriots should continue. Offices in European countries should focus on digital, in order to attract young people. That means that digital and interactive events should become commonplace.
A much-anticipated announcement of a new name, in place of the hard to pronounce “Rossotrudnichestvo” did not take place. According to Primakov, it is an important, but not an urgent matter. Furthermore, he emphasized that he wants to welcome public input into the rebranding. Rossotrudnichestvo is likely to launch a competition for a fresh and recognizable name in the near future.