The policy of the "national years" as a factor of realization of the state interests and preservation of a multipolar world.
Material posted: Publication date: 21-02-2013

"The development of the world must settle on political multipolarity, economic diversification and cultural diversity."

The Ambassador of China in France in 2003 – 2008 Zhao tzintzuni

The twentieth century can rightfully be called the era of a global clash of civilizations. World wars, Cold war, colonial and regional conflicts, has put under question the peaceful coexistence of different cultures. Under these conditions there inevitably arises the question about the possibility of a dialogue of civilizations in the modern society.

The end of the Cold war provided an opportunity for the creation of a multipolar world, ensuring security and stable development. In "the universal Declaration of UNESCO on cultural diversity (2001) States that "respect for diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are the best guarantees of international peace and security"[1].

Building a multipolar world mentioned in the concept of foreign policy of many countries, including Russia, France and China. The implementation of this idea through various factors, including recently through the conduct of cross-national years. The public aspect of international relations is complemented, thus, the holding of the events aimed to promote among wide segments of the population of various foreign cultures and languages, and, consequently, tolerance.

Why the theme for national years relevant for our country? Currently, Russia seeks to find its place on the world stage, create a positive image of the country in the eyes of the world. It is impossible without the knowledge of other countries culture, achievements, way of life and thinking in Russia. For many years the USSR was hidden behind the iron curtain, its perception from abroad was one-sided and associated mainly with military might and totalitarian regime. These stereotypes and lack of knowledge about Russia persist up to the present time, making it difficult to build a trusting relationship. Therefore, the organization of cultural seasons, national years, the activities of the funds, spreading knowledge of Russian culture (such as "Russian world"), are the necessary foundations for the realization of geopolitical interests of Russia in the world.

The topic is relevant also because 2010 has been declared the cross year of Russia and France. Today, when relations between the two countries are on the rise, the intensive exchange of traditional cultural values and modern achievements in a single year will help to refresh your knowledge about each of the partner countries and to open new prospects for cooperation. Thus, the holding of national years can serve as a catalyst for further inter-state relations.

The holding of the national years fits into the tradition of the organization States "cultural seasons abroad" to spread their culture, the formation of an objective image of the country and its people. The purpose of these seasons is to promote cultural pluralism and multipolarity in the world.

In this article it is appropriate to consider the experience of three countries:

  • France as the founder of this cultural tradition;
  • Russia, which has sufficient experience in organizing such events, as in the days of the USSR and after its collapse;
  • China, which had introduced national year only since the beginning of the XXI century, but has made significant progress in this area.

The distribution by States of their national culture in the framework of the events held in other States, goes a long way. However, at first it was mostly a private initiative and not government policy. So, Russian seasons of Diaghilev in the early twentieth century, which lasted about 20 years, presented to the public European and U.S. Opera and ballet art in Russia – both in its classical and modern version. In the beginning of the century, the French joked that the Russian twice took the Paris: for the first time during the Napoleonic wars, and the second time – his ballet the seasons.[2]

France is a member of the world community, which for a long time and most actively spread their culture and holds cultural seasons of other countries. So, "cultural seasons abroad" began to be held in France since 1992 with the support of the Ministry of foreign Affairs, the Ministry of culture and communication and the French Association of Artistic Action. Eventually there is a transformation of the contents of such projects. If at first it's mostly cultural component, that recent economic and political contacts were also important. The holding of the national years promotes, thus, a more complete implementation of cooperation policy in many areas. We have to distinguish between cultural seasons, which can last for several weeks or months, and the holding of national years, more ambitious in scope and diverse in content.

Decisions about the organization of such a project are taken for a few years and officially announced by the heads of the two States.

The organizers of the national cultural years and seasons become the Ministry of foreign Affairs and the Ministry of culture, cultural (French Association for artistic action), as well as other types of organizations. Thus, the company "Festa Tour" conducted on behalf of the Federal departments and ministries of Russia, various international cultural programs, including the cross year of Russia and Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan.

The strategy of holding national years are also different. France since 1992 has organized projects with countries from different parts of the world. Among its partners – Brazil, Algeria, Turkey, Poland, China, etc. Can distinguish the unilateral projects where France acts only as a host, and mutual projects for national years. In the first case (Algeria, Poland), the priority is the cultural component. The second year of Poland in France (2010) will be held under the name of Chopin.

Despite the fact that France declares no commercial purposes the holding of national years[3], the choice of countries in which France itself organizes such projects, is not accidental – it is a strategically important economic and political partners. So, Brazil is the first partner of France in South America. Turkey in trade exchanges with France since 2006 and is in 12th place worldwide and 5th place among the countries outside the European Union.

This strategy demonstrates that the conduct of a bilateral year of Russia and France in 2010 an important indicator of the degree of relations between the two countries.

Russia began carrying out such projects with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States – Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Armenia. Organization national years contributed to the maintenance of mutual interest in connection with the weakening of the ties after the Soviet collapse. Some experts believe that the years of former Soviet republics in Russia continues the Soviet tradition for decades and cultural months, but to this was added the political aspect. So, performance in 2002 the year of Ukraine in Russia Moscow rendered political support to President L. Kuchma in his struggle with local opposition, funded from overseas. A similar situation can be seen in the organization of the year of Kazakhstan in Russia.

The next tier of countries with which Russia is pursuing a national year – Turkey (2008), China (2007-2008), Bulgaria (2009) and in the near future France (2010) and Italy (2011). Here also observed the principle of choice of a politically and economically important for Russia as a partner.

In the context of this topic is definitely interesting is the experience of China. The country's ancient cultural traditions and rapidly developing in recent years economy, has long remained closed to prying eyes. In this sense, China is similar to Russia, inheriting the Soviet Union. However, the Middle Kingdom has chosen a different strategy of cultural exchanges in the framework of the national years: it purpose be the not long-term partners, which fall within its sphere of influence, and powerful European state, having a status in the world. A successful campaign would, therefore, raise confidence in China and to give him good publicity.

To date, China has implemented projects of cross-national years with France (2003-2005) and Russia (2006-2007), and both campaigns have had an impressive success.

The national year of China in France, which began in 2003, was the first experience of China on such a scale. However, in 1999 and 2000 in Paris was held the week of culture of China, and seasons of Chinese culture, signifying the increased interest in the Middle Empire.

The aim of the project was, first and foremost, the development of cooperation between the two countries, as well as upgrading often antiquated and biased image of China and France in the eyes of each other. The aim of the project was not only familiarity with traditional culture and values of the partner country, but also the presentation of the latest achievements in various fields of art, science, economy and So on, for example, the year of China in France was organized around three main themes: Eternal China, "" China traditional and diverse" and "modern China"[4]. The French side put an emphasis on its cultural heritage and tourist attraction at the same time not forgetting to note the intensive development of innovative technologies.

Cross years, China and France had different scale in every sense: the number of activities, geographical coverage, population of interest, the illumination in the press, the results of the campaign. For example, during the year of China in France was organized about 400 events that attracted over a million visitors.

The cultural sphere has been marked with the Chinese side of the largest exhibitions in Paris, the concerts of the State orchestra of China, performances of Chinese Opera and folklore, from the French side – various exhibitions of painting and sculpture, film festivals, holiday, Music, "picnic" on the great wall of China, etc.

In the cultural cooperation the organizers of the national years have tried to include as many cities and regions: not only the "privileged" cities (Paris, Beijing, Shanghai) were covered cultural events, but also smaller - Chengdu, Shenzhen, Wuhan and many others. Forty-seven sister cities (Beijing-Paris, Shanghai-Marseille, Chongqing - Toulouse) actively collaborated during the national years, as well as many regions of France and China. For example, the Chinese province Guizhou and the French Department of Lozère announced the joint work in the field of tourism.[5]

Significant progress and increasing activity can be noted in the field of education – as in learning the language of the partner country and interuniversity cooperation: creation of Technological Franco-Chinese Institute and the Pasteur Institute in Shanghai and the Franco-Chinese Research Centre, the numerous linkages established between universities in France and China. The opening of the French cultural center and many new items the Alliance française in China provide support in educational cooperation. At the same time the result of active cooperation in this sphere within the framework of national years has been the discovery of numerous Confucius Institutes in France (12 to date). France was also the third country (after Japan and South Korea) which started to organise the qualification exam in Chinese language (HSK).[6]

During the national years of China and France more than 95 % of the French press spoke positively about the joint projects.[7] the Year of China and France contributed, therefore, diplomatic success and China. After the cross-years France, China received proposals for cultural exchanges from many countries.

The following partner China became Russia. Mutual holding of national years is an innovation in the history of relations between the two countries.

Unlike France, Russia did not focus on the development of a cultural co-operation, continuing a line that began with the CIS. In addition, as China and Russia are neighboring States, the practical side of cooperation and its active implementation is more relevant than in the case of more distant and less interested by France. Thus, the national years of Russia and China have more diverse content. The campaign was conducted more than 500 events that have affected the political, economic, cultural, military, educational, science and technology and health and tourism.

Activity has occurred at all levels. Great importance to deepening political trust between China and Russia continued the exchange of visits of heads of two States, regular meetings at the level of Prime Ministers, as well as the active cooperation of the parliaments and political parties. In just one year of Russia in China last visited the leaders of the seven Federal districts of Russia and more than sixty Russian governors. This close cooperation creates an atmosphere of political stability, allowing, in turn, the development of economic and cultural ties.

In the economic sphere between the two countries, agreements were signed and implemented dozens of projects of trade-economic cooperation in energy, investment, Finance, communications, transportation, and interregional cooperation. The signing of such agreements is a practical result of carrying out various forums and exhibitions - Chinese-Russian economic forum of business circles of the presentation of the Federal districts of Russia, Sino-Russian investment forum, the National exhibitions of Russia and China, etc. According to statistics for the year of Russia in China, the trade turnover amounted to more than $ 33 billion, next year this figure amounted to about 35 billion.[8]

Despite the great importance given the economic and political cooperation in the framework of the national years, the humanitarian field has also been widely covered events (the Festival of Chinese culture, friendship motor rally "Beijing-Moscow", various exhibitions and concerts). Special achievements should be noted in the field of educational cooperation. In Russia it was established several Confucius Institutes to promote Chinese language and experience Chinese culture. Was organized a nationwide contest on the knowledge of the Chinese language. Special attention was paid to cooperation of higher education institutions and secondary schools. Thematic exhibition of Chinese universities in Russia, the exhibition "Russian universities in the third Millennium" aroused among the Russian and the Chinese public's keen interest. Success in the field of educational cooperation continued in the framework of the 2009 – 2010 year of Russian language in China and Year of Chinese language in Russia. The two sides also carried out consultations regarding the conduct of other projects implemented in the framework of the national years.

The cross year of Russia and China, as can be seen, gave a powerful impetus to the development of relations between the two countries in all spheres – political, economic, cultural.

Thus, the tradition of holding cultural seasons has gone from local events on a small scale, involving a limited number of actors, projects to the state level, contributing to further cultural, economic and political cooperation of the countries. In the words of Olivier Guyonvarch, press the Chancellor of the Embassy of France in China, it is a deep understanding of the other one people promotes any continuing relationship.[9] Such events as the holding of national years, strengthen social foundations of strategic partnership, provide the intercultural dialogue and international solidarity, which is especially important now, in the era of globalization.

[1] See: The universal Declaration on cultural diversity, UNESCO, Paris, 2 November 2001 //

[2] See: Russian world //

[3]"In fact, we have no commercial purposes. We have organized the cross year not for the development of economic relationships," admits the press the Chancellor of the French Embassy in China Olivier Guyonvarch (Cm.:Années croisées France-Chine : énorme succès d'un événement qui s'est voulu avant tout culturel// France Chine Année //

[4] See: "L'année de la France en Chine : présentation et objectifs"// France Chine Année //

[5] See: "'une province chinoise et un département français développent une coopération sur le tourisme "// France Chine Année //

[6] See: The website of the Chinese Embassy in France

[7] See: "Les années Chine-France approfondissent les connaissances mutuelles des deux peuples" France Chine Année //

[8] Cm. : The mutual holding of the national years of China and Russia, gave fruitful results (according to the materials of the Xinhua news Agency) // Newspaper "people's daily online" //


Ekaterina Filimonova