Building a sphere of influence in their backyard: a comparative analysis of Turkey‘s and Russia‘s soft power

Tafuro Ambrosetti, Eleonora
This thesis analyses how Russia and Turkey under the governments of Vladimir Putin (2000 to date) and Tayyip Erdoğan (2003 to date) respectively, understand and implement the concept of soft power to construct/re-affirm their zones of influence in their shared neighbourhoods with the EU. Building on existing literature, this thesis argues that, in its original formulation, the concept of soft power has liberal biases that complicate its application to non- or partially liberal states, such as Russia and Turkey. A different definition rooted in some concepts by the political theorist Antonio Gramsci – especially, ̳hegemony‘ and ̳common sense‘ is proposed. This revised definition is operationalised through soft power narratives and applied it through the empirical analysis of two case studies – Armenia for Russia and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) for Turkey. This thesis, thus, carries out: I) a comparative analysis of the commonalities and differences between Turkish and Russian understandings and use of soft power, and II) an empirical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of these narratives in the two specific case studies. This thesis aims to contribute to the soft power literature through a theoretical reflection about the concept and its empirical application in the case of Turkey and Russia.