by Iulian Fruntașu

“Cultural diplomacy” is a term very frequently used by political scientists and communication experts; although used so often, some important nuances escape because of the   continuously evolving phenomenon, closely related to both diplomacy and policies in the field of culture, creative industries, and tourism. The idea of public and cultural diplomacy is closely related to the concept of country brand. Its development finds itself among the preoccupations of several countries, aiming at promoting an image of subtle power (soft power), opposed to military power (hard power). 

The Republic of Moldova, had no structured approach to cultural diplomacy, at legislative and executive level; the political class inherited the outdated idea that culture can’t represent a priority for the state budget; this did not prevent many of the high officials from appreciating the achievements of Moldovan artists abroad, from decorating them, from using that inherent transfer of positive image of officials and politicians.

Furthermore, the current achievements of the Republic of Moldova in the field of cultural diplomacy are largely determined by private initiatives of artists and by the support provided by external donors, such as USAID (through the programs managed by CEED/Chemonics) and the foreign missions in Chișinău, such as the Embassies of Sweden and Switzerland. Artists such as Geta Burlacu or Trigon traveled abroad to be present at our country’s promotion events, their projects benefited of the support of the authorities, including the Embassies of the Republic of Moldova to the host-countries, but the financial support was granted by donors. These activities had the full support of diaspora communities, they were often accompanied by Moldovan wine tastings; the impact on the local population was reduced. 

In the context of support policies for culture, there have been and there are, at present, activities that are aimed at creating an artistic and cultural environment that would make manifestation possible. For example, there is a certain dimension of funding of cultural projects from the state budget, there is a program to support the publishing of Moldovan authors, etc. But they address the local cultural consumption, this being also the case of the national festivals and concerts are attracted world renowned Moldovan- born artists, such as soprano Valentina Naforniță or violinist Iulian Gârneț. 

To what extent the indigenous cultural environment generates talents that could be the ambassador of culture abroad is a difficult discussion because, despite an obvious connection, objectives differ. The Republic of Moldova does not have an own Cultural Institute and the necessity of such an institute is still disputed.

Moldovan officials seem unable to understand the potential impact of a campaign or a of the promotion of an artist and this blocks any attempt of institutionalized promotion. The worldwide scene decides on who are the valuable artists, issued from genuine competition, and only aposteriori, authorities would decide to grant support and promotion. The test of international competitiveness is perhaps the only benchmark when financial means are insufficient. Music groups like Ozon (their successors), Zdob și Zdub, Alternosfera, Carla’s Dreams, the soprano Valentina Naforniță, violinists Alexandra Conunova, Ilian Gârneț, as well as  Moldovan graduates of the “Whitgift” school in London, and other artists from various fields, not only musically, could have been nominated ambassadors of culture, could have even be offered diplomatic passports. They could have been involved in concrete projects outside the country, their CDs, their recordings, reproductions of their works, etc., could be used as presents offered by Moldovan diplomats to their to counterparts, etc. Most of the artists who have obtained international recognition would be generous and would accept to contribute to the cultural promotion of the Republic of Moldova. 

From an institutional point of view, however, the most natural action would be to use the Romanian Cultural Institute’s expertise in terms of cultural diplomacy, contributing financially to the RCI budget and designating a vice-president on behalf of the Republic of Moldova. Romanian culture on both banks of the Prut River would only benefit from the unification of cultural and educational policies and institutions, using the relevant institutional expertise and promoting Romanian artists who would consolidate both the image of Romania and the Republic of Moldova, as countries with very talented people, open to international collaboration. 

* The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the position of the Romanian Cultural Institute, but exclusively the opinions of the author.