Music that Divides: The Case of Russian Musical Diplomacy in the Baltic States

  • Emilija Pundziūtė-Gallois
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


An expanded definition of diplomatic practice to include “citizen diplomacy” allows scholars to analyze musical performances, when they travel across international borders, as acts of diplomacy. Music can perform diplomatic functions, defined as representation and communication. As a social activity, embedded in a specific socio-political context, music is loaded with symbolic meaning which subsequently is interpreted by the receiving society. The case study shows how performers of Russian music on the stages of two Baltic States (Latvia and Lithuania) take on or are assigned the roles of representatives of Russia. Public media and influential opinion makers take on the task of interpreting the meanings of Russian music in the Baltic public spheres and thus shape the opinions of Baltic populations on Russia. Although the State is not a necessary actor in the practice of musical diplomacy, sometimes, especially when the symbolic value of music is made related to the issues of national security, it intervenes in controlling the meaning of private musical initiatives. Paying close attention to the socio-political contexts in which musical diplomacy occurs may help it to become a useful concept to better explain international relations.


  1. Aubin, Lukas. 2013. Le tourisme russe à Jūrmala: L’appropriation territoriale de la périphérie balnéaire de Riga. Regard sur l’Est, December 15, 2013.Google Scholar
  2. Badie, Bertrand, and Marie-Claude Smouts. 1992. Le retournement du monde: sociologie de la scène internationale. Paris: Presses de la fondation nationale des sciences politiques, Dalloz.Google Scholar
  3. Belsat. 2015. Poles seeking cancellation of pro-Putin Alexandrov Ensemble’s concert., October 5, 2015.
  4. BNS. 2015. Most not bothered by departure of ‘New Wave.’, July 22, 2015.
  5. ———. 2016. Rusų repriui Timati neleista rengti koncerto „Compensa“ koncertų salėje [Russian Rapper Timati Is Not Allowed to Give his Concert at the “Compensa” Hall]., July 1, 2016.
  6. Bogdanas, Ramūnas. 2012. Gastroliuojantys muzikantai ir sausio 13-oji [Musicians on Tour and January 13]., January 23, 2012.
  7. Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver, and Jaap de Wilde. 1998. Security. A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  8. Faizullaev, Alisher. 2013. Diplomacy and Symbolism. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy 8: 91–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gienow-Hecht, Jessica. 2009. Sound Diplomacy: Music and Emotions in Transatlantic Relations, 1850–1920. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. ———. 2016. Keynote Address Given at the Conference “Sounds and Voices on the International Stage: Understanding Musical Diplomacies.” Paris, April 21–22, 2016.Google Scholar
  11. Grigas, Agnia. 2016. Beyond Crimea. The New Russian Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jackevičius, Mindaugas. 2011. Rusiškos muzikos populiarumas – okupacijos pasekmė [The Popularity of Russian Music – Consequence of Occupation]., February 20, 2011.
  13. Jermalavičius, Tomas, and Merle Parmak. Towards a Resilient Society or Why Estonia Does Not Need ‘Psychological Defence.’ ICDS Occasional Paper, September 2012.Google Scholar
  14. Jönsson, Christer, and Martin Hall. 2005. Essence of Diplomacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Juberte, Lita. 2014. Soft Power Resource Sport in Latvian-Russian Relations: Case Study of KHL Latvian Club Dinamo Riga. Paper Presented at Yale Baltic-Scandinavian Studies Conference, New Haven, Connecticut, March 13–15, 2014.Google Scholar
  16. Kuus, Merje. 2007. Geopolitics Reframed. Security and Identity in Europe’s Eastern Enlargement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2014. Geopolitics and Expertise. Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Latvian MFA. 2014. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs Makes the Decision to Include Some Russian Citizens on the List of Persons Not Allowed to Travel to Latvia. July 21, 2014, Accessed 15 Apr 2016.
  19. Loshchikhina, Anna. 2015. Where the “New Wave” Crashes., January 19, 2015.
  20. Maliukevičius, Nerijus. 2008. Rusijos informacijos geopolitikos potencialas ir sklaida Lietuvoje [The Potential and Spread of Russian Information Geopolitics in Lithuania]. PhD Dissertation, Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University.Google Scholar
  21. Malksoo, Lauri. 2003. Illegal Annexation and State Continuity: The Case of the Incorporation of the Baltic States by the USSR: A Study of the Tension Between Normativity and Power in International Law. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  22. Malksoo, Maria. 2010. The Politics of Becoming European. A Study of Polish and Baltic Post-Cold War Security Imaginaries. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Mole, Richard. 2012. The Baltic States from the Soviet Union to the European Union: Identity, Discourse and Power in the Post-Communist Transition of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. New York: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  24. Navys, Aurimas. 2015. Papuoškime Bilano koncertą nuotraukomis iš Genocido muziejaus [Let’s Decorate the Concert of Bilan with Pictures from the Museum of Genocide]., October 13, 2015.
  25. Nicolson, Harold. 1988. Diplomacy. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.Google Scholar
  26. Panova, Victoria. 2015. Russia’s ‘Soft’ Policies Towards the Baltic States. In The Different Faces of “Soft Power”: The Baltic States and Eastern Neighborhood Between Russia and the EU, ed. Rostoks Toms and Sprūds Andris, 80–99. Riga: Latvian Institute of International Affairs.Google Scholar
  27. Pavlovs, Sergejs. 2015. Hotels in Jūrmala Reduce Prices as New Wave Festival Passes By., July 6, 2015.
  28. Platt, Kevin F.M. 2013. Russian Empire of Pop: Post-Socialist Nostalgia and Soviet Retro at the ‘New Wave’ Competition. The Russian Review 72: 447–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. RFERL. 2015. Latvian FM Says Russian Army Choir Concert ‘Not Wanted’., November 2, 2015.
  30. Rindzevičiūtė, Eglė. 2014. The Geopolitics of Distinction: Negotiating Regional Spaces in the Baltic Museums. In Performing Nordic Heritage. Everyday Practices and Institutional Culture, ed. Aronsson Peter and Lizette Gradén, 221–246. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  31. Schrijvers, Peter. 2002. The GI War Against Japan. American Soldiers in Asia and the Pacific During World War II. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Sending, Ole Jacob, Vincent Pouliot, and Iver B. Neumann, eds. 2015. Diplomacy and the Making of World Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sharp, Paul. 2004. Making Sense of Citizen Diplomats. In Diplomacy, ed. Jönsson Christer and Richard Langhorne, vol. III, 343–361. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Šimanauskienė, Joana. 2012. V. Gergijevas: tikslas – pristatyti elitinį meną platesnei publikai [V. Gergiev: Objective to Introduce Elite Art to Larger Publics]. Kauno diena, December 12, 2012.Google Scholar
  35. Simonsen, Sven Gunnar. 2001. Compatriot Games: Explaining the ‘Diaspora Linkage’ in Russia’s Military Withdrawal from the Baltic States. Europe-Asia Studies 53 (5): 771–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Specialus tyrimas: Kremliaus organizacijos pinigai – į lietuviškas, latviškas ir estiškas kišenes [Special Report: The Money of Kremlin’s Organization Goes to Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Pockets]., June 8, 2015.
  37. Transcript: Putin Says Russia Will Protect the Rights of Russians Abroad. The Washington Post, March 18, 2014.Google Scholar
  38. Yearsley, David. 2016. Bach in Palmyra: Russia’s Surprise Concert in the Ancient Syrian City. Counterpunch, May 20. Accessed 11 Nov 2016.
  39. Zilnys, Ramūnas. 2016. Koncertų rengėjai: rusų atlikėjų vizitų Lietuvoje turėtų mažėti [Concert Organizers: The Visits of Russian Performers Should Become Rarer]., January 26, 2016.
  40. Zverko, Natalia, 2009. A. Pugačiova Lietuvoje koncertuos vasario 16-ąją” [A. Pugacheva Will Give Her Concerts in Lithuania on February 16]., September 25, 2009.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilija Pundziūtė-Gallois
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for International Studies (CERI)Sciences PoParisFrance

Personalised recommendations