Skip to main content

Cuppuleri, Adriana, and Liridona Veliu Ashiku. “The Multidimensional Soft Power of Illiberal States: Russia in the Western Balkans.” Nationalities Papers, 2023, 1-21.


This article aims to make a threefold contribution to the study of soft power. First, considering that the potential of soft power of illiberal states is both underestimated and distorted, this study presents a two-dimensional conceptualization of Russia’s soft power, distinguishing between Russia’s posture toward the liberal international order, and sources of Russia’s foreign policy. Second, it analyzes whether Russian soft power in the Western Balkan countries remains ideologically relevant beyond its hitherto conceptualizations as either the result of its historic cultural ties with the region, or a reflection of Russian foreign policy strategies. Through an analysis of elite discourses and news media as exemplified in speeches, press releases, and interviews, this article locates, challenges, and develops on Russia’s soft power indicators in the Western Balkans. Finally, it contributes to surmounting the residing liberal democratic bias in the study of soft power of illiberal states, showing that not only can they be ideologically attractive but that their scope of influence differs according to the multi-layered nature of soft power.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.