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Although cultural diplomacy has a long history worldwide, it was the mass media era which provided it with new tools, thus enabling the live broadcasting of cultural events. Cultural diplomats quickly learned the logic of mass communication and consequently how to use social media as well. Knowledge about media logic was incorporated into the body of cultural diplomacy during the second half of the 20th century. However, the media age requires new ideas regarding the ability to attract people to cultural performances and exhibitions. Governments started to organise series of events abroad, calling them Years or Seasons of Culture, Bilateral Years or Years of Friendship. While capturing the attention of audiences and media, they were supposed to contribute to the development of good and profitable relations between countries, while at the same time promoting national cultures and the countries themselves.

The objective of this paper is to discuss the media event concept as a framework for the analysis of Years and seasons of culture. The first insight into the literature on international relations and media and communication revealed that any conceptualisation of these Years was missing. The direct reason to focus the research on the subject in the current study was the observation of the efforts of a number of EU states to celebrate cultural festivals with the Russian Federation between 2012 and 2016 in the time before, during and after the annexation of Crimea as well as the invasion of eastern Ukraine by the Russian Federation in 2014. The fact that some of the cases chosen for the analysis took place during such a difficult time in international relations complicates the attempts to perceive Bilateral Years and Years of Culture as being aimed at attracting media attention and promotion of the country. The project that this paper is a part of has wider objectives, as it strives to find out the aims and expectations of governments who, while performing cultural events with the Russian Federation, were simultaneously imposing political and economic sanctions on them, as happened in 2014 and afterwards. All the same, for the purposes of this paper I shall put the conflict aside and concentrate on events and media events as a theoretical frame for further studies.

About the author

Beata Ociepka
Prof. Dr. Beata Ociepka currently works at the Instytut Studiów Międzynarodowych/ Institute of International Studies, University of Wroclaw. In 2018, she was ZeMKI Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Bremen. She does research in Political Communication, Public Diplomacy, Foreign Policy and International Communication. Her current project is focused on Years and Seasons of Culture as Media Events and framed by New Public Diplomacy.