Swiss public diplomacy in Russia

Local news, 18.07.2019

The opening of the new Embassy of Switzerland in Moscow was a great opportunity to increase Switzerland’s visibility in Russia. In the weeks before and after the opening, we intensified our efforts in communication and public diplomacy with the aim to promote a multifaceted image of Switzerland and to offer some insights into the work of an embassy. Although many of these efforts were concentrated in Moscow, we tried to reach out to the regions and developed some new formats. Increasing interaction with a young audience is one of the priorities of our Embassy.

Twitter account launch at the Social Media Event
Twitter account launch at the Social Media Event © FDFA

Various of our events in the first half of 2019 found a positive echo in Russian and Swiss media: Besides the inauguration of the new embassy in Moscow, the opening of honorary consulates in Samara and Novosibirsk and the St. Petersburg Economic Forum were among the highlights. Ambassador Yves Rossier gave several interviews in recent months, both in classical and in social media, e.g. on the Youtube channel of the well-known Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov.

On 6 June, the Embassy launched its Twitter account with a public diplomacy event involving more than 60 young people. A panel with Mr. Varlamov, Swiss TV journalist Luzia Tschirky and Sergey Vereykin, Lecturer at the MGIMO-University, discussed the relevance of social media in both the Swiss and the Russian society. Their lively discussion was followed by a reception and a set of music by DJ Karmanovsky.

Since 2013, the Embassy is already active on Facebook with a focus on various events and activities organized or co-sponsored by the Embassy and the General Consulate in St. Petersburg as well as facts and figures about Switzerland.

Another important public diplomacy forum is called “Carte blanche”: Every year the Embassy organizes between 4 and 6 semi-public in-house discussions on a variety of subjects. The basic idea is to enable a discussion between one (or several) Russian and Swiss experts on national experiences and attitudes in a particular area. In March, we had an insightful “Carte blanche” discussion on food security. In May, a few weeks before the inauguration, we invited the architects of the new embassy, Ms. Doris Wälchli and Mr. Ueli Brauen, to discuss the new building and the challenges of innovative architecture with the leading Russian architects Prof. Evgenii Asse and Maria Nikolaeva. Evgenii Asse, founder of the famous Moscow Architecture School (MARSH), had previously published on Swiss architecture and called the new embassy “a great example of Swiss simplicity” during this conversation. We are now planning to hold “Carte blanche” discussions on the attitude of Russians and Swiss towards money and other subjects such as migration.

However, Swiss public diplomacy doesn’t have to be limited to Moscow: Since many years, we are organizing “Swiss Days” in various regions of Russia. During the Swiss days in Kazan in early June, for example, we were able to combine a high-ranking official visit by Ms. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, the Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs, with a business fair organized by the Swiss Business Hub, a festival of Swiss films and a lecture on the creation of modern Switzerland. The “Swiss days” will remain a key platform for our interactions in the regions.