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Features of the external cultural policy of the Italian Republic in the countries of the post-Soviet space (on the example of the relations between Italy and Uzbekistan)

Avetisyan Alvina Aleksandrovna

Postgraduate student, Department of Italian Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies, Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1, p. 13

alvinaavetisyan@yandex.ru

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8671.2023.4.69195

EDN:

JLFRDA

Received:

01-12-2023


Published:

31-12-2023


Abstract: The active development of international relations in the conditions of globalization provokes an increase of the interest towards the individual countries. In this context there occurs a shift in the emphasis within the framework of the state's foreign policy towards attracting political interest in the country through the mechanisms of "soft power". The author examines the features of the Italian external cultural policy and observes its resources which are promoted within the framework of creating a positive image of Italy in the Asian countries, in particular, in Uzbekistan as a post-Soviet space country. Novelty of the research consists in the necessity of an overview of activities of Italian official actors promoting a positive image of a country taking into consideration the apparent shift of the vector of international relations and cultural diplomacy towards the Central Asia region accured with the arrival of a new decade of the XXI century. It also leands to the implementing different approaches of the "soft power" policy depending on the country of presence. With the use of general scientific methods such as analysis and interpretation of information and forecasting, it becomes possible to present a detailed consideration of the components of Italian national culture and the official events conducted by official actors of the Italian external cultural policy. The article is also aimed at finding out the approaches of choosing platforms for promoting the identified resources of the Italian "soft power". The study reveals the Italian culture components promoted in Uzbekistan, studies the directions and spheres they are present and evaluate the prospects for work in the furtherance of the Italian "soft power" resources promoted within the external cultural policy of the Italian Republic in the region of Central Asia.


Keywords:

External cultural policy, cultural diplomacy, national culture promotion, international cooperation, Uzbek and Italian relations, Italian culture, Soft power, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, geo-branding

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Foreign cultural policy, often based on cultural diplomacy and part of a set of "soft power" policy measures, is currently one of the leading areas of foreign activity designed to create a positive image of the country abroad and extend its influence to the countries of presence. Italy, as a country with such resources as historical, cultural and enogastronomic heritage, as well as luxury products and technologies for its production and promotion, is an active figure in the field of spreading its culture and has quite diverse "soft power" resources in terms of their origin. It should be noted that the concept of "soft power" in the context of foreign cultural policy is a term that includes the cultural attractiveness of the state, the peculiarities of its traditions, history, and "also specific achievements - from products of mass pop culture and victories on international sports grounds to scientific and technical breakthroughs" [1, p.15]. Therefore, the hypothesis in this research project will be the argument that the set of those very resources of Italy's "soft power", as well as the channels and platforms for their distribution, may differ depending on the country to which Italian foreign cultural policy is directed.

Today, in a fairly rapidly changing world, when the countries of the East and Asia receive a new positioning in the system of international relations and open up prospects for their development, there is an increase in investments, both economic and human resources, in the countries of this region. In this regard, the relevance of research in this area is growing and it becomes possible to consider the activities of official actors of Italian cultural policy on the example of one of the countries of this region. Thus, the purpose of this article is to analyze the activities of Italian actors in foreign cultural policy for cooperation in the international arena, based on the consideration of the peculiarities of Italy's presence in the territory of the Central Asian country of the post–Soviet space - Uzbekistan. As for the research methods used to help achieve this goal, this work mainly uses general scientific methods of information analysis and synthesis, observation, systematization, classification, interpretation and forecasting. The main objectives of this study can be formulated as follows: to identify the main directions of Italian cultural diplomacy in Uzbekistan and analyze how universal the approach of the Italian Republic is in choosing resources and channels for promoting national culture abroad.

In many cases, the main actor in conducting the foreign cultural policy of any state is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, in turn, through embassies, cultural institutions and various subordinate organizations organizes, regulates and controls activities to promote the cultural values of the country [2]. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, which, using the cultural, historical and natural resources of the country, participates in similar activities to create a positive image of the country abroad in order to attract monetary resources, and the Ministry of Culture, which, acting together with embassies, ensures the implementation of joint projects on the exchange of cultural heritage (visiting exhibitions art, for example) with a partner country. In Italian practice, such bodies for the promotion of national culture abroad are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which is responsible for cultural and economic diplomacy, as well as the activities of Italian Cultural Institutions; and the Ministry of Tourism (until 2021 – the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism), under the auspices of which the National Agency for tourism (ENIT), designed to promote a positive image of the country abroad in order to develop tourist attractiveness and thereby raise tourist demand in the direction of Italy [3].

In the context of foreign cultural policy aimed at building a positive image of the country abroad, tourist attractiveness should be considered as a tool for successfully conducting a policy of "soft power" [4, 2006]. As for Italian cultural policy, the field of tourism can be considered one of the channels through which it promotes its image, and tourist attractiveness is already considered as one of the links that make up the image of the country in the eyes of a wide target audience within the framework of national branding – a concept developed by the British specialist in image-making of countries, regions and individual cities S. Anholt. By national branding, they mean practical activities that aim to measure, build and manage in a positive way and attractiveness for cooperation between countries [5, 2013].

The components of Italy's "soft power", which include cultural achievements, historical heritage, know-how and technology, as well as the results of their application, that is, products, are promoted through a brand policy in the field of national geobranding. Thus, within the framework of cultural diplomacy, Italy promotes the brand "Italia" and the brand "Made in Italy" all over the world. It is worth noting that during its development, the megabrend "Made in Italy" became more and more widespread, which may be explained by the fact that Italian products and goods were promoted within the brand [6], while the brand "Italia" initially popularized the Italian lifestyle, cuisine, nature and culture as a unique set of resources (italianit?) [7], with which Italy was ready to share the world, and focused on the branding of Italian territories, which was conducted jointly with the National Tourism Agency (ENIT). Today, when "Made in Italy" already means both Italian production technologies or know-how, and educational projects created by Italians, these two brands, their components and areas of development often overlap, and sometimes merge and are already moving forward together. Due to this feature, it sometimes becomes problematic to draw a line between them. Therefore, in this article, the identified promoted resources of national culture within the framework of the declared brands will be considered in aggregate.

 

Background of the issue

As for the issue of international cooperation between the Italian Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan, Italy's presence in Uzbekistan began after Uzbekistan declared its independence in 1991. In 1992, the country was officially recognized by the Italian Republic as independent and sovereign, and on March 24 of the same year, a Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries was signed. In 1997, another important document for foreign cultural policy was signed – the Agreement on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation between the countries. This marked the beginning of joint work between the two countries on exchange in the field of cultural cooperation, which was established and developed over the following years.

Speaking about the current situation, it should be noted that over the past two years a new round of development has been revealed in diplomatic relations: bilateral cooperation between the countries has expanded and extended to the field of technology development, cultural exchange and educational activities with a greater share of participation from the Italian side [8]. In 2022, when the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries was celebrated, the parties, during the analysis of the results of joint actions, emphasized that during their development a solid foundation of bilateral relations had been formed, the established partnership between the countries was positively assessed and Italy's support was expressed in connection with the signing by Uzbekistan of the Agreement on Expanded Partnership and Cooperation between Uzbekistan and the European Union, which allowed Uzbekistan's foreign partners to consolidate their presence in the country [9]. To mark the anniversary of diplomatic ties, a book in Italian was also released, for the first time fully presenting the history of the development of relations between Uzbekistan and Italy. In it, Uzbekistan was described for the Italian reader as a young republic with millennial cultural roots and historical heritage, marked by UNESCO as the heritage of mankind. And the central location of the country in Asia and being at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road are characterized in the book as factors that make the country a promising platform from a commercial point of view [10]. Such remarks allow us to come to an intermediate conclusion that Italy sees Uzbekistan as a platform for the development and promotion of its "Made in Italy" and "Italy" brands with the prospect of consolidating its position and declaring itself as a country ready to share its components of national culture and technologies in Asia. Already in 2023, the event "Uzbekistan – UE: State of Progress" was held, where the Uzbek side expressed appreciation to Italy for cooperation in the fields of economics and technology and in the field of cultural and educational exchange, announced its intention to continue deepening ties between the regions, emphasized Italy's growing interest in Central Asia today and, in particular, to Uzbekistan. The Italian side confirmed its interest in Uzbekistan as a partner in cultural and economic exchange and as a country ready to change in order to progress and increase its attractiveness for cooperation, and noted its readiness to continue the development of cultural diplomacy between the countries [11].

 

Directions of Italian cultural diplomacy in Uzbekistan

The modern cultural diplomacy of the Italian Republic in Uzbekistan is being implemented simultaneously in several directions. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a representative office in Uzbekistan, has an embassy in Tashkent, which is responsible for foreign cultural policy abroad. There is no Italian Institute of Culture in the country, therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is directly responsible for the implementation of tasks to promote the country's national brands in Uzbekistan. All relevant information on the promotion of Italy in the country can be obtained from the Italiana portal specially created for such purposes. It is worth noting that this platform is common to the whole world and is designed to receive information about Italy, Italian culture and language, as well as upcoming events around the world and about the actors involved in the implementation of cultural diplomacy under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and sees as its mission the promotion of the Italian language, culture and creativity in the world.

Despite the fact that the agreement on cultural and scientific cooperation between the countries was signed back in 1997, active development has been observed over the past 2 years, which was reflected in the drafting of a cooperation program in 2023 during the visit of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Merziyoyev to Rome [12]. The main objectives outlined in the document are:

· dissemination of cultural and historical heritage through the organization of exhibitions, exchange between museums, events to promote the Italian and Uzbek languages;

· Cooperation in the field of preservation, protection and restoration of archaeological and cultural heritage through the exchange of experience and visits by experts.

· development of cooperation in the field of dissemination of Italian technologies and professional development through the opening of educational centers for the transfer of Italian technologies with the subsequent possibility of their practical application on the territory of Uzbekistan under the guidance of Italian specialists.

Thus, as for the Italian side, according to data obtained from the Italiana portal, within the framework of cultural diplomacy, Italy actively participates in cooperation in the fields of science, education, technology and cultural exchange. In this regard, it is possible to study the process of implementing the goals stated by the Italian side in relation to these areas.

As for scientific cooperation, this area is mainly represented by large Italian archaeological missions in Uzbekistan. The first archaeological project called "Samarcanda e il Suo Territorio" was launched back in 2001 in cooperation with the University of Bologna and the Italian Institute of the Near and Far East, operating under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This project consists in a diachronic study of the Samarkand oasis with the help of Italian scientists and archaeologists in order to conduct geoarchaeological studies of the area, in particular, the ancient irrigation system, as well as to study and analyze the materials obtained in laboratory conditions in Italy and transfer the Italian experience to Uzbek scientists in organizing and conducting archaeological examinations [13]. For similar purposes, in 2008, in cooperation with the University of the East (Naples), another archaeological mission "Imperi Irenici e L'Asia Centrale" was opened under the leadership of Italian specialists, where data collection and analysis are also carried out in order to study culture and civilization [14]. Moreover, in 2023, it is planned to launch another archaeological mission in Karakalpakstan, a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan, also under the leadership of the Italian Institute of the Near and Far East.

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Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The subject of the peer-reviewed study is the specifics of the foreign cultural policy pursued by the Italian Republic in post-Soviet countries. The author rightly associates the relevance of his research with the new prospects for the development of the countries of the East and Asia, opening up in connection with the restructuring of the modern system of international relations, as well as the wide opportunities for cooperation with these countries as their economic and political potential grows. In accordance with this, the purpose of the reviewed work is to analyze the activities of key actors of Italian foreign cultural policy in Uzbekistan, and the tasks are to identify the main directions of Italian cultural diplomacy in Uzbekistan and assess the degree of universality of the identified model for promoting national culture abroad. The author's hypothesis is that the specific composition of the set of "soft power" resources used by the state in various areas of foreign policy will vary significantly depending on the characteristics of the object to which this policy is directed. Unfortunately, the author himself did not give himself the proper effort to carefully reflect on the methodology of his own research, limiting himself to general phrases about "general scientific methods of analysis and synthesis ...", but from the context it can be understood that historical and institutional methods were used to test the above hypothesis, as well as some elements of content analysis in the study of Italian brands in Uzbekistan. The correct application of this methodology allowed the author to obtain results with signs of scientific novelty. First of all, we are talking about the specifics of Italy's foreign cultural policy in Central Asia and its main directions revealed in the course of the study. Italy's focus on creating an image of a modern developed country in shaping its image in the foreign policy arena, noted by the author, is also curious. The set of cultural values that Italy promotes in its foreign cultural policy, identified in the process of analysis, is also of scientific interest. Structurally, the work also does not cause serious complaints: its logic is consistent and reflects the main aspects of the research. The following sections are highlighted in the text of the article: - an uncluttered introductory part, where the goals and objectives of the study are formulated, the relevance of the chosen topic is justified, the theoretical and methodological choice is argued, and some key concepts are revealed; - "The history of the issue", which analyzes the history of interstate cooperation between Italy and Uzbekistan, as well as the current state of relations between these two by countries; - "Directions of Italian cultural diplomacy in Uzbekistan", which actually analyzes the main directions of Italy's cultural foreign policy in Uzbekistan, although this text block is disproportionate to other blocks and could be divided into several smaller ones; - an uncomplicated final part, which summarizes the results of the study, summarizes the results, draws conclusions and outlines prospects for further research. From the point of view of style, the reviewed article can also be characterized positively. The text contains some insignificant number of stylistic (for example, repetitions of words in some sentences) and grammatical (for example, a missing comma between two sentences as part of a complex one: "... The relevance of research in this field is growing and it becomes possible to consider the activities of official actors..."; etc.) errors, but in general it is written quite competently, in good Russian, with the correct application of scientific terminology. The bibliography includes 25 titles, including sources in several foreign languages, and adequately represents the state of research on the subject of the article. An appeal to opponents takes place when discussing the conceptual foundations of the conducted research. GENERAL CONCLUSION: the work proposed for review can be qualified as a scientific work that meets all the basic requirements for works of this kind. The results obtained by the author have signs of scientific novelty, are properly presented in the text of the article and will be of interest to political scientists, sociologists, cultural scientists, specialists in the field of public administration, world politics and international relations, as well as students of the listed specialties. The presented material corresponds to the topic of the magazine "World Politics". According to the results of the review, the article is recommended for publication.
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