One of the most important foreign policy objectives of the Russian Federation consists in the development of cultural and humanitarian cooperation with the peoples of foreign countries. For decades, friendship societies with foreign countries have played a significant role in this area, strengthening Russia's international prestige.
In our country, the movement for friendship and cooperation with the peoples of foreign countries originated in 1925, by the creation of the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. Outstanding state and public figures, world-famous representatives of the country's science and culture stood at its source: V. Mayakovski, S. Prokofiev, M. Sholokhov, D. Shostakovich, S. Eisenstein, I. Ehrenburg, S. Vavilov.
The Union of Soviet Friendship Societies (USFS), uniting friendship societies with foreign countries, acquired a universal significance. And despite the fact that in some countries with authorities hostile to us the USFS was attributed to dangerous “subversive organizations” during the “cold war”, the general public was actively cooperating with it. And this cooperation continued even during the most unfavorable periods of interstate relations.
Unfortunately, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, friendship societies found themselves in a difficult situation. Many societies were reorganized, which allowed them to survive in that difficult time. In 2004, Russian societies lost the Friendship House at Vozdvizhenka, 16, where they had been working and holding most of the activities. More and more people started to leave the friendship societies, including prominent public figures having influence on international processes. Many societies faced the need to close down their activities. However, part of the potential was retained thanks to the enthusiasm, unselfishness and dedication of the outstanding people who have been supporting the societies in these difficult conditions.
Today prominent figures of science, art and culture, public and religious figures take part in the work of friendship societies. Such people as writer Yuri Polyakov, hockey player Vladislav Tretyak, TV presenter Nikolai Drozdov, space pilots Alexander Kaleri, Victor Savinykh, Peter Klimuk and many others are members of friendship societies.
Friendship Societies have accumulated extensive experience in conducting events aimed at familiarization with the history, culture and science of Russia and foreign countries, such as:
- Conferences, round tables, forums
- Evenings of friendship with the peoples of foreign countries
- Evenings dedicated to anniversaries and significant dates
- Evenings of foreign science, technology, literature and art
- Meetings of scientists and cultural figures of foreign countries and the Russian Federation
- Lectures, reports and conversations of Russian and foreign scientists and culture workers
- Exhibitions, etc.
A special role in the activities of friendship societies is attached to the Russian Association for International Cooperation, a public organization established in 1992, in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation. The Association became the legal successor of the Union of Soviet Friendship Societies (USFS). Today it unites more than 90 friendship societies and other public international organizations.
The long-term positive experience of the societies of friendship with the peoples of foreign countries indicates their efficiency as a tool of public diplomacy influencing the minds and consciousness of the foreign public. They help promote positive perception of Russia in the world and represent an important channel for developing international cooperation.