On September 6, 2008, at the directive of the President of the Russian Federation and in order to improve Russia’s international image after its war with Georgia as well as increasing Russian influence in near and far abroad, a new structure, Federal Agency for CIS States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Affairs (Россотрудничество), was formed within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replacing Russian Center for International Science and Cultural Cooperation (Росзарубежцентр), which was functioning from 1994 to 2008. Within recent years, the Agency has become one of the most influential soft power tools wielded by Russia.
The Agency is represented in more than 80 countries with scientific and cultural centers, as well as representations functioning within Russian Embassies. The priority area of operation for the agency is the CIS countries, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, where the Agency has scientific and cultural centers. Due to the status of relations between Georgia and Russia, the Agency is not operating in Georgia.
About the Agency’s Activities
The Agency conducts its work through various programs and one of its main goals is to spread the knowledge of Russian language abroad. Other main directions of the Agency’s work include: developing international cooperation; fostering the dissemination of Russian culture in the world; public diplomacy; supporting compatriots abroad; popularization of Russian education and science and so on.
The first head of the Agency was Farit Mukhametshin, who was replaced by a distinguished representative of the Russian political elite, Konstantin Kosachev from March 5, 2012. After March 23, 2015, member of the Federation Council, Liubov Glebova, was appointed to the position of the head of the Agency. She replaced Kosachev, who became the member of the Federation Council and Chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2014.
On December 19, 2017, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, appointed Eleonora Mitrofanova as the head of the Agency. She replaced Liubov Glebova, who left office on September 14, 2017. Glebova became a member of Federation Council from the Udmurt Republic. The position of the Head of the Agency was vacant for several months, which can also be explained by a confrontation between various groups within the Kremlin. According to popular opinion, Mitrofanova’s appointment was being hindered by powerful Deputy Head of Presidential Administration, Sergei Kirienko, whose protégée was considered to be Glebova. Apart from this, Mitrofanova’s brother, who is wanted by the Russian law enforcement structures, was also considered to be a hindrance. On June 9, 2020, Mitrofanova resigned.
On June 25, 2020, as per the Russian presidential decree, Yevgeny Primakov Jr., grandson of Yevgeny Primakov (1929-2015), was appointed as the head of the Agency. Upon the appointment, he accused the previous management of the Agency of inefficient management and announced reforms.
Heads of the Agency
Structure of the Agency
As a result of reforms, the Division of the CIS Affairs, International Development and Integration Support, which oversaw the direction of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, was abolished and a new structure of the Agency was launched on November 16, 2020. Sergey Malenko was the Head of the Division from November 9, 2015 to May 31, 2020. The department of the South Caucasus, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia” was under the abolished division. With the new structure, the Organizational-Analytical Division will work in the direction of the post-Soviet space headed by Valery Platonov. The division comprises the subdivision of the near abroad which is headed by Alexander Pavlov.
Agency New Name – the Russian House
On December 3, 2020, the agency announced a new competition to select an unofficial name for the agency. According to Primakov, the name Rossotrudnichestvo will remain in official papers and a new "public" name, easier to pronounce, will appear. According to information released on March 2, the competition was over in foreign countries, the Agency will be referred to as the Russian House. Rossotrudnichestvo will remain the official name of the Agency directly within the organization and in the state system of the Russian Federation.
Agency’s Representation in Sokhumi
With the Agency’s initiative, its representation in Sokhumi in the form of Russian Science and Culture Center was opened on December 18, 2009. Its first Head was the Advisor of Russian “Embassy” to Abkhazia, Aleksandr Vaulin (2009-2014). The festive opening of the representation was attended by the de facto President of Abkhazia, Sergei Baghapsh, de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Shamba, “Ambassador” of Russia to Abkhazia, Semyon Gregoriev and the head of the Agency, Farit Mukhametshin.
From 2014, the representation of the Agency was headed by the Advisor of the Russian “Embassy” to Abkhazia, Sergei Fedchenko.
Since October of 2018 Agency’s representation is headed by Vadim Chekha.
The main principles of the Agency’s representation are the following:
The representation features constantly functioning library with a reading hall, computer class, Russian language courses and film club .
The Agency pays special attention to strengthening the positions of the Russian language, conducting diverse work for that purpose: marking Pushkin’s remembrance day, holding international competition in Russian language, organizing free Russian language courses, marking the Russian language day and so on.
Also special attention is paid to popularizing Russian education and science, implementing various projects and programs in those fields: free computer classes, accepting students to Russian higher education institutions, marking Russian science day, etc.
The Agency’s work has significant support from the local de facto government as well. De facto President of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba, attended the five year anniversary of the Agency’s representation in Abkhazia.
Apart from some positive assessments towards the Agency’s representation in Abkhazia, there is some dissatisfaction as well. For example, the representation’s work in Abkhazia caused certain discontent in 2017 among senior high school students, who accused it of the lack of transparency. The issue was discussed during the session of the Public Chamber of Abkhazia as well. There were 150 places designated for Abkhazian students in Russian universities in 2017; however, there were many complaints to the Public Chamber due to the pretenses towards the selection procedure. The distribution of places from the Abkhazian side was curated by the de facto Vice President, Vitali Gabnia, who was even invited to the session of the Public Chamber in order to sort out the situation. According to Gabnia’s statement, if the selection process and distribution of places was run by the Abkhazian side for the previous two years, in 2017 the selection procedure was put under the supervision of the Agency’s representation, which was headed by Sergei Fedchenko at the time. It is noteworthy that despite invitation, nobody showed up from the representation to the Public Chamber session. According to Gabnia’s assessment, the information was probably leaked prior to examinations and many students and their parents knew what topics they would have on the Russian language exam.
Agency’s Representation in Tskhinvali
The Agency’s representation in Tskhinvali opened on September 6, 2010, while the Russian Science and Culture Center was opened on September 21, 2012. The first Head of the representation was the Advisor of the Russian “Embassy” to The Tskhinvali Region, Mikhail Stepanov.
In 2017, Stepanov received the Order of Friendship from the de facto President of The Tskhinvali Region, Anatoli Bibilov. Stepanov’s spouse also received an award, as she worked as a senior referent at the representation.
Currently the Agency’s representation is headed by Sergei Skvortsov.
The main tasks of the Agency’s representation include:
The representation features conference hall, library, Russian language cabinet, computer class, choreographic studio and so on.