The Ukrainian Institute was founded 2017.

The Ukrainian Institute was founded 2017.

Okategoriserade Experiences of Sweden and Ukraine regarding “country promotion”

To create a positive image abroad of a certain country many countries invest a lot or resources to promote themselves. However citizens are not always aware of the activities the authorities tasked with this mission by their government carry out abroad. In this essay therefore we will investigate to what extent the official country promotion coincides with the vision of the country's citizens in the cases of Ukraine and Sweden. The aim of this essay is to investigate the experience of representatives of Sweden and Ukraine regarding the promotion of countries.

Published on on December 16, 2021

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To create a positive image abroad of a certain country many countries invest a lot or resources to promote themselves. [1] However citizens are not always aware of the activities the authorities tasked with this mission by their government carry out abroad. In this essay therefore we will investigate to what extent the official country promotion coincides with the vision of the country’s citizens in the cases of Ukraine and Sweden. The aim of this essay is to investigate the experience of representatives of Sweden and Ukraine regarding the promotion of countries.[2]

The two main research questions are: 1) How activities of Swedish and Ukrainian institutes coincide with visions of Swedes and Ukrainians respectively regarding “country promotion”? 2) What are similarities and differences in Swedish and Ukrainian experiences regarding “country promotion”?

Country promotion of a certain culture

It is clear that each country promotes its own culture abroad. According to Nelson & Braff, [3]  culture is “a set of beliefs, practices and symbols that are learned and shared”. All people belong to certain cultures directly or indirectly. This process is called enculturation.[4] When people identify their belonging to a certain culture, it does not always mean that all people who also belong to this community can share the values ​​that this community spreads. Benedict Anderson[5]  introduced concepts to explain this phenomenon as “imagined communities”. He suggested that a person can live with a certain idea that most of his/her compatriots also belong to a certain community and share the values ​​of this culture. But this person will never meet most of his/her compatriots, hear about them or get to know their thoughts about the culture of their country, rather the person will continue to live with the image that if we, compatriots, live in a certain place together, it means that we are involved in the similar culture.[6]

I therefore argue that it is necessary to include the concept of “imagined communities” in the study of “country promotion” as citizens of a certain country live with the idea that the promotion of their country is really reflecting the image of their country and culture as they see it, but in reality, it is just the image of affinity.

Certain features are often used repeatedly to describe a certain culture of a certain country. For instance, Swedes are, according to Frykman, [7]  often portrayed as people with rationalism, orderliness, homelessness, and a high degree of acceptance of changes. Swedish culture is also often described as cherishing values such as egalitarian, individualism and strict work ethic and to praising itself with a high level of education and a great degree of social mobility.[8] Sweden is proud of its own development foremost, maybe more than its culture, proposes Frykman. [9]

Ukraine is portrayed on its hand as a people occupied with the distribution of power, fulfillment of own ambitions and a people that highly values such as a high degree of individualism, a strong economy, ingenuity and freedom.[10] Sometimes Ukraine is also seen as a buffert zone, or rather a melange, between the East and the West, combining practicality and materialism with a philosophical contemplative worldview.[11]

Those collective images of Swedes and Ukrainians form a persistent idea about a particular nation and its culture. When the state promotes itself, it is those features of the people that are spread and used. In reality, they do not necessarily at all reflect the individuals living in the respectively countries, surely not every individual or even a majority.

Cultural diplomacy aims a promoting the country and its culture and [12]  is carried out through intercultural dialogue, people-to-people exchange or special institutions.[13] Cultural institutions mainly organise culture and language activities (film-related events, cultural days/seasons/years, visual and performing arts, literature promotion, training and capacity building activities, cross-disciplinary projects, conferences and debates). The main purposes are to promote the country through language, art, national heritage and cuisine; to form a positive image of the country as a whole and strengthen relationships and enter new markets in the country they are hosted in.[14] Cultural diplomacy can also contribute to nation branding and visibility on the international scene.[15]

Sweden for instance has been promoting itself via the Swedish institute since 1945. Then in order to improve the image of Sweden after WWII and ensure Sweden’s integration into the sphere of the post-war powers.[16] Today, the Swedish institute funds various international scholarships, organises visitors programmes, produces information about Sweden for foreign publics and works with countering occasionally negative images spread abroad (such as on the migration policy and integration issues).[17] The Swedish institute promotes such areas as: sustainability, innovation, equality, Sweden’s welfare system and natural landscapes and work on global issues.[18]

The Ukrainian institute on the other hand is a quite new organization set up in 2018. The main goals of the institute are to expand Ukraine’s presence on the cultural map of the world, launch international mobility programs, opportunities to finance trips of Ukrainian and foreign specialists in the field of culture, education, science, art to acquaint others with Ukraine and establish professional ties. [19] The institute is also interested in establishing ties with foreign cultural institutions to strengthen the international dimension of contemporary Ukrainian culture and support joint projects and support Ukrainian studies in foreign universities abroad.[20]

The citizens own views on country promotion

As argued here the basis of country promotion is the concept of an “imagined community” of the country in question abroad. Next, we will investigate how those activities of Swedish and Ukrainian institutes correlate with the visions of the citizens in respectively country, and further, what similarities and differences can be found if comparing the Swedish and Ukrainian citizens’ experiences of “country promotion”. We therefore have collected data through using a method of one-to-one, semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions, which were recorded.[21] The interviewees are 3 citizens from Sweden (age 22, 32, 35) and 3 citizens from Ukraine (age 22, 23 and 27) that were willing to share their views on the promotion of their countries.[22]

The Swedish respondents were aware of the activities of the Swedish institute. All three named scholarships as one of the main means of promotion. All respondents saw the gender equality in Sweden as an issue to promote abroad. The social system in Sweden was also signifying for Sweden. The respondents emphasized as characteristic for Sweden the “medical/supportive system” or the “social benefits provided by the state” to citizens. They did not see Sweden as an ordinary country “I think many people would think that it is a rather extreme country, an extremist country”. One respondent believes that it is necessary to promote Swedish diverse geography and terrain as many might not now what it has to offer. Another underlines the Swedish nature:

I love Swedish nature. We have something “allemansrätten”. You can go to whenever you want, not to private household of course, but to private forest for example. In many countries people do not have such access to the nature because someone owns it. It is a very good thing and we need to defend it”.

Country promotion of Sweden should be targeted to countries with a high GDP was suggested:

It is necessary promote not just for Europe, but I think it is better for rich countries that have the greatest potential and when Sweden can get something afterwards. I think Ukraine is not as attractive in comparison with the United States or Canada for example”.

While another respondent prefers to promote the country outside Europe in the first place “Most European countries already know about Sweden. It is better to focus on Asian, African, South American countries”.

The respondents from Ukraine all stressed that many foreigners did not know much about Ukraine and suggested that the promotion should be carried out by all possible means, taking into account the personal contacts of Ukrainians abroad. One suggested to broadly “promoting Ukraine around the world”, while another suggested to go for target audience in the first place:

We need to promote Ukraine first of all for the EU countries, especially the youth of these countries”.

The Ukrainian language was highlighted as an issue to spread information about abroad. “Many are convinced that Russian is very well spoken in Ukraine. People are surprised that I communicate in Ukrainian with my parents. That is, the language aspect is very distorted in relation to Ukraine”.

The activities of the Ukrainian institute was not well known by the Ukrainians respondent, only one knew about its existence

I know only a little bit. They are really new. They are just building their strategy. They try to work similar to other institutes. But I do not know their concept or how they are doing, how they conceptualise Ukrainian culture and how they want to promote it”.

In sum all interviewed in both countries believe that their countries should promote themselves, especially as places to study for foreigners. Country promotion they suggested is not only carried out by the authorities for this but in large also through personal contacts created by the citizens when they are abroad or in contact with foreigners. The respondent also commented on the fact that their country had reputation abroad that was not solely positive:

Often for some reason Ukrainians are perceived as impudent, very high-minded, want to show themselves. In fact this is not true.”

And maybe some negative aspects that we have high taxes and Swedes are rich”.

The main differences between the interviewees are that the Swedes placed more emphasis on gender equality, human rights and sustainability, while the Ukrainians advocated the promotion of Ukrainian literature, architecture, paintings and holiday traditions.

The interviewees from Sweden supported the promotion of the Swedish institute in such spheres as sustainability, welfare state, equality, and nature. Innovation was the only thing promoted by the institute that none of the respondents mentioned.

The Ukrainian institute was not well known by the interviewees from Ukraine, as stated before but they all saw a need for promoting Ukraine:

Ukraine has long been under the influence of other countries, was a part of the former Soviet Union, has long been suppressed by Russia. Because of this, many foreigners do not know what Ukraine is, how it looks like”.

Many people do not know about Ukraine at all or little. Foreign experts, institutions or the public has a fragmentary image. Therefore, the main problem arises that foreigners do not understand Ukraine in most cases. …who these Ukrainians are, what they live for or where they came from…”.

Interestingly they also saw a need of country promotion for strengthening the collective image of Ukraine: for a better understanding of themselves:

If we dont talk about our country, no one else will. This is important for self-awareness

Promotion is needed for a modern rethinking of Ukrainian culture and historical heritage

There are also some misunderstandings between interviewees and the vision of the Ukrainian institute regarding the image of Ukraine abroad. The emphasis should be on promoting Ukrainian traditions or on Ukrainian architecture and paintings the interviewees suggested, while the Ukrainian institute advocates the representation of Ukrainians as a political nation consisting of citizens of Ukraine of different nationalities and new production of film and theatre plays.[23]

The answers of the respondents here indicate that the image of Ukraine and Sweden is based on different values. One reason is, we suggest, the difference in wealth. Inglehart & Baker also suggested that the “worldviews of the peoples of rich societies differ from those of low-income societies across a wide range of political, social and religious norms and beliefs”. [24] Ukraine is in the group of countries struggling with its survival. Therefore, according to this arguing, the main focus is on physical and economic security in Ukraine. Sweden is in the group of countries with dominant values of self-realization. Therefore, it focuses on tolerance, equality of rights and freedoms of the individual. [25] In sum the answers of the respondents show that Ukraine is a local player that is more focused on solving its own domestic problems, while Sweden is an international player that is focused on solving the global problems of mankind. 


[1] O. Rozumna  “Dosvid funktsionuvannya yevropeysʹkykh instytutiv kulʹturnoyi dyplomatiyi: vysnovky dlya Ukrayiny: Analitychna zapyska [Experience of the functioning of European institutions of cultural diplomacy: conclusions for Ukraine: Analytical note]”, 2014, par. 2, accessed September 13, 2021. Avaialble at:

[2] N. Glover “Imaging Community: Sweden in ‘cultural propaganda’ then and now”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 34:3 (2009): 246, accepted September 13, 2021, doi: 10.1080/03468750903134707; Rozumna, par. 5 and 23.

[3] Brown N., McIlwraith T. and Tubelle de González L. Perspectives: an Open Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association, 2020), 6.

[4] Brown N., McIlwraith T. and Tubelle de González L. Perspectives: an Open Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association, 2020), 5, 6, 10.

[5] Anderson B. Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Frykman J. Swedish mentality: between modernity and cultural nationalism. In Almqvist K. and Glans K., editors. The Swedish Success Story? Axel and Margaret Johnson Foundation, 2004, 127.

[8] Trägårdh L. Swedish model or Swedish culture? Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, 4:4 (2008), 579, doi: 10.1080/08913819008459622.

[9] Frykman, 125.

[10] I. Yeremeyev, “Khvoroby ukrayins’koyi mental’nosti [Diseases of the Ukrainian mentality], 2012, par. 15, accessed September 13, 2021, Available at:

[11] Yeremeyev, par. 2.

[12] N. Goda and M. Čiefova, “Cultural Diplomacy of selected Countries in a Comparative Perspective”. Folia Geographica, vol. 61 no. 2 (2019), 175.

[13] Y. Smits, C. Daubeuf and P. Kern, European Cultural Institutes Abroad (Brussels: Directorate-General for Internal Policies, 2016), 16.

[14] Rozumna, par. 12.

[15] Smits, Daubeuf and Kern, 21.

[16] Glover, 247.

[17] Glover, 249; Annual report of the image of Sweden abroad: summary, 2018, par. 5, accessed September 13, 2021,

[18] Annual report, par. 7.

[19] Pelenska O. “Ukrayini potribno zatsikavyty soboyu svit [Ukraine needs to interest the world]”, 2019, par. 3, accessed September 13, 2021,

[20] Vyshnyts’ka A. “Nemozhlyvo Tvoryty Kulʹturni Fenomeny, ne Zvazhayuchy na te, shcho Vidbuvayet’sya u Sviti [It is Impossible to Create Cultural Phenomena, Despite the Fact what is Happening in the World]”, 2019, par. 6, accessed September 13, 2021,

[21] Monaghan J. and Just P. Social and cultural anthropology: A very short introduction (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2000), 24.

[22] According to our research questions, we created and used such questions for the interview as:

  1. Why is it necessary to promote Sweden (Ukraine) abroad?
  2. Which aspects regarding Sweden (Ukraine) do you most proud of?
  3. What image has Sweden (Ukraine) abroad according to your observation?
  4. If you have an opportunity to promote Sweden (Ukraine) how will you do it?
  5. What is necessary to promote from the Swedish (Ukrainian) culture to other countries?
  6. What do you know about Swedish (Ukrainian) institute?

As for data analysis, it involves such elements as transcription answers, identifying significant information for coding, categorization and themeing. See Brown, McIlwraith and Tubelle de González, 65.

[23] Vyshnyts’ka, par. 5.

[24] Inglehart & Baker (2000).

[25] Ibid., 29.

  • by Roman Balandiuk

    Interdisciplinary researcher with a PhD degree from the Institute of Pedagogy of the National Academy of the Educational Sciences of Ukraine.

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