The international image of Russia in the Balkan countries

Фото ГБУ “Московский дом национальностей”


Relations between Russia and the countries of the Balkan Peninsula are complex and vary depending on many factors, including political, economic and military interests, as well as historical ties and regional dynamics. Here it is necessary to note with gratitude and respect the centuries-old cooperation of Serbia and Montenegro with Russia, based on the religious proximity of these two countries. However, it is historically important to emphasize that the relations between these countries have often influenced international political and economic conditions. The Serbian people feel very strong emotions towards Russia, because in many difficult historical moments our (Serbian) people perceived Russia as a kind of defender. However, the objectivity of the analysis of cooperation between these countries requires their coordination through the prism of their political and geopolitical interests. In this context, the Russian Federation, as one of the leading countries in the world (politically and economically influential), is an important partner of the Balkans in the international arena, while the importance of the Republic of Serbia, Montenegro and other Balkan countries for the Russian Federation is mainly geopolitical in nature.

How does Russia influence the countries of the Balkan Peninsula

Economy. As mentioned above. Russia has always defended its interests in the Balkans more or less successfully. The weak foreign policy of the 1990s led to a significant decrease in Russian influence in the region compared to the previous period. The events of the late 1990s and early 2000s (the bombing of Yugoslavia by the NATO alliance, the political and economic crisis) significantly changed the balance of power in the Balkans.

At the present stage (2000s), in order to strengthen mutually beneficial ties with the countries of the region, Russia is increasingly using economic methods of cooperation. Their effectiveness is reflected in the development of trade and investment growth. The modern scene (from the early 2000s to the present day) It can rightfully be called a period of strengthening and expansion and qualitative improvement of economic ties between Russia and the countries of the Western Balkans. During this period, everything was signed

a number of important agreements: on free trade[1], on mutually beneficial cooperation in the oil and gas industry, on natural gas supplies, on cooperation in the field of railway transport, a Declaration on strategic partnership between

The Russian Federation and the Republic of Serbia. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are included in the list of countries with economies in transition enjoying special treatment and tariff preferences within the framework of the Customs Union of three countries – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. At the present stage, the trade component of mutual cooperation between Russia and the countries of the Western Balkans is characterized by a number of features.

Firstly, in the period (2001-2014), there was an increase in foreign trade exchange by almost five times due to an increase in the value potential of both exports and imports.

Secondly, the commodity structure of trade exchange indicates a fairly diversified export of the region’s countries to Russia, which includes food and agricultural raw materials (29.8%), chemical industry products (19.2%), tools and equipment (18.7%), textile industry (16%), and a low level of diversification of imports from Russia, which consists mainly of goods from the fuel and energy sector[2].

Thirdly, the trade exchange of services between Russia and the countries of the Western Balkans is characterized by a positive trend: exports of services in the countries of the region increased 4.5 times, imports of services exceeded 8 times.

Fourth, trade relations between Russia and the countries of the region are developing unevenly in a bilateral format: Serbia, which accounts for 2/3 of trade, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to which it belongs more than 1/4 of Russia’s trade turnover with the Western Balkans, can be considered basic trading partners.

Therefore, Russia’s investment cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans is considered by the authors as a higher priority and promising vector in relation to foreign trade operations due to the volume of investments in the region exceeding the volume of trade in goods. Russia and the countries of the region should continue to work together to find new forms of mutually beneficial cooperation to implement major projects and create more favorable conditions for new companies to enter into cooperation.

Politics. If we consider Russia in several dimensions, then it occupies a central place. The country of the Eurasian continent has many reasons to build all the necessary capabilities to achieve global power status. From a geostrategic point of view, this country represents the largest in the Eurasian continents of the world and is as such destined to be a defender of cultural, civilizational, linguistic and religious features on the Eurasian continent[3].

Today, Russia’s room for maneuver in the Balkans has significantly narrowed due to the active actions of the United States, which geopolitically constantly pushes Russia to the heart of the continent. Americanization and militarization of Europe and the strengthening of the “Wall of the West”[4].

The Balkans have been the focus of attention of the great powers for centuries, a sphere of interest and a springboard for further breakthroughs in various directions. He attracted with his geopolitical magnetism is and attracts global and regional powers, whose parallel interweaving of interests creates a geopolitical node in the Balkans and in itself is an important geopolitical feature. The word is about strategic movements in different directions.

In the modern balance of power, Serbia is the only Balkan country that meets the conditions for the formation of a vector from Russia to the southwest, and Moscow initially steps to create a Balkan vector should have significance on it and the Republika Srpska. The next, medium-term stage of the creation of the Balkan vector should include gradually establishing a sphere of interest in the post-Yugoslav territory, especially taking into account Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Republika Srpska and most of the Federation of BiH and Serbia. And in the long term, the only stable Russian connection in the Balkans may be “entire Serbian lands with its historical and geographical dimensions and organized into a single Serbian political and territorial state unit”[5]. What, on the other hand, brings Serbia closer to the Russian geopolitical concept is a geopolitical identity, Orthodox civilization, historical and traditional ties and the negative attitude of the majority of the Serbian people towards Atlanticism and the United States, due to the sad experience of the war in the nineties-sanctions, bombing and the destruction of the state.

Serbian-Russian relations have a long tradition and are often identified with friendship and the inviolability of fraternal relations. The core of these relations is Orthodoxy as a spiritual vertical and cultural-traditional connection. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Serbian people, as the westernmost core of Orthodoxy in Europe, are designated in the geopolitical stereotypes of the West as the scarlet Orthodox Russians in the Balkans.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the opportunity to influence certain political events in the Balkans and Serbia, especially when it comes to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. This was stated by American diplomat Richard Holbrooke in 2007 that “Kosovo is the most important international test for Vladimir Putin” (Holbrooke, 2007). Russia has expressed a clear position from the very beginning, criticizing the behavior of the West and pointing to violations of the principles of international law (Antonenko 2007) and it adheres to this approach even today. On June 10, 2021, Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Arkadyevich Bochan Kharchenko said that no decision in connection with Kosovo and Metohija could take place without the support of the UN Security Council. The Serbs think that this is an important aspect of Serbian-Russian relations, since it is a mutual interest, for the reasons mentioned above, in preserving Serbian territorial integrity and state sovereignty. In addition, preparing to confront a united West by this and other issues reflect the rise of Russia at the beginning of the 21st century.

Culture and education. “Soft power” existed in ancient times, but not as a concept of thinking, but as a practice (Melisen 2005, 3). So far, this is an “intra-cultural dialogue”, more precisely, its rudimentary attempt, existed in the Serbian-Russian case from the very beginning in the second half of the XIX century in the form of the Slavophile movement in Russia.[6] The activity of the Slovenophile movement of that period served us as a model for modeling our concept of “intra-cultural dialogue”.

As already mentioned, Russia and Serbia are connected by history and culture, religion and related languages, economy and traditionally friendly relations. According to the data presented in Russian-Serbian at the Valdai International Discussion Club conference, organized in partnership with the Rossotrudnichestvo office in the Republic of Serbia and the House of Russia (June 24, 2021, Belgrade), 86% of Serbian citizens have a positive attitude towards Russia and only 3% are negative; if an alliance with Russia is possible, 67% of the population would support it (for comparison: less than 5% of citizens support joining Serbia[7] (Valdai Discussion Club 2021).

Without detracting from the importance of general education, which forms the necessary educational and cultural level of young people, we nevertheless believe that the field of higher education is of paramount importance for the implementation of national priorities. And in this regard, it should be noted the importance of concluding an agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Governments of the Balkan countries on mutual recognition and equivalence of documents on education and academic degrees.

It is very important that the diploma of Candidate of Sciences issued in the Russian Federation and the diploma of conferring the title of scientific degree of Doctor of Sciences or Doctor of Arts (“Doctor of Sciences or Doctor of Arts”) issued in the Balkan countries are recognized as equivalent, thus ensuring the attractiveness of bilateral cooperation in the scientific field and the educational sphere. Modern instruments of internationalization of higher education can be represented in the form of a hierarchical pyramid consisting of three levels: 1. academic mobility of students and teachers, guest lectures by professors; 2. double degree and joint degree programs; 3. Joint universities, branches of national universities. The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) has partnerships with the University of Belgrade and the University Academy of Business in Novi Sad. Without the creation of a modern education system that meets new challenges and international standards, it is impossible to form competitive advantages of the state. The subject of the study is the tools for the implementation of international educational projects and programs, which are considered as factors for improving the effectiveness of the higher education system.

Russian Russian Cultural cooperation and the large number of scientific conferences that the Russian House holds in the Balkans (mainly in Belgrade) are really a good example of how to get acquainted with the wonderful Russian culture and traditions. Because the greatest number of problems arise when people do not know each other and do not allow themselves to be open, because every meeting with another person is a meeting with themselves.


It is believed that the third decade of the 21st century will be a period of tectonic changes in international relations, which Russia will certainly use to strengthen its position in the Balkans, in particular, to build strong relations with Serbia. It should be noted that Serbia, apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the only country that has not imposed sanctions on Russia during recent events. Such as we have come to the conclusion that Serbia is the only country that fulfills the geopolitical conditions for Russia’s advance into the Balkans. For the past ten years, cooperation between the two countries has been continuously developing, which can be read in the economic, business and military sectors. Special emphasis was placed on Russia’s diplomatic role when Serbia’s territorial integrity and the status of the southern province of Kosovo and Metohija are at stake. In this sense, Serbia is obliged to respect its national interests and strengthen bilateral relations with Russia, which guarantees its national sovereignty, military security and the alliance and develop an appropriate national security strategy.

As we have seen from the analysis of various influences and trends, the ties between the Balkans and Russia are historical, cultural and religious, now the task of Russia and the Balkans is to strengthen and develop these ties in the best possible direction.

How important Russia is to us is shown by the long-quoted statement of St. Nicholas. Peter Cetinsky on his deathbed to his successor Peter the Second Petrovich Negosh: “Pray to God and stick to Russia.”

[1](Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Federal Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on Free trade between the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from August 28.2000 [Electronic resource] // Privredno-Trgovinskakomorarusskaya Federation. – Resource,available at: : /)

.[2]adres: http: RazvivStrani.aspx/.

[3]See details: Leonid Reshetnikov. 2016. Return to Russia. Belgrade: Euro Book.

Leonid Reshetnikov. 2016a. “Russia is a spiritual civilization.” Orthodoxy., 29. November 2016. Nikolay Danilevsky. 1994. Russia and Europe. Belgrade: Official Bulletin of the FRY. Trubetskaya, Nikolai. 2004. Europe and humanity. : Logo. Lamansky, Vladimir. in 2010, the Geopolitics of Pan-Slavism. Moscow: Institute of Russian Civilization. Dugin, Alexander. in 2004. Fundamentals of Geopolitics I. Zrenyanin: Express. Kostrikova, Elena. 2020. Geopolitical interests of Russia and the Slavic question. Novi Sad: Balkania.

[4] (Zhiven 2019; Despotovich, Glyshin 2020).

[5] (Stepich 2019, 137, 139).

[6] (Blazic-Peic 2021, 11-13, 29-30, 102).

[7] (Valdai Discussion Club 2021).

Zelka Korach

Postgraduate student of the Department of International Relations

 Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

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