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Over the last decade words with the root "пиар" ("пиар-компания", "пиар-технологии", "пиар-акция", "чёрный пиар", "пиарить") became quit popular on Russian media. In this regard, I would be interested to know differences in use of "пиар" and "пропаганда" or "реклама", and why words with the root "пиар" become so popular.

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  • why words with the root "пиар" become so popular is not only a rhethorical question, it is a second one per post.
    – shabunc
    Jan 16 '17 at 19:19
  • Keep in mind the difference between "пиар-компания" and "пиар-кампания". The first one is a company whose trade is to make you famous for money, the second one is a campaign that someone (maybe yourself) drives to make you famous.
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 16 '17 at 20:39
  • To sum up Artemix' answer: «пиар» just makes me famous, and therefore it is more likely that you wish to do business with me because of your own decision; «реклама» delivers a message that here's why you should do business with .me, and you either agree with the message or not.
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 16 '17 at 20:46
  • Evgeniy, thank you for your clarifications.
    – Noviff
    Jan 16 '17 at 22:58
  • @shabunc, the word "rhetoric" (actually rhetorical) means "(of a question) asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information". So how can a rhetorical question appear on stackexchange? Jan 17 '17 at 11:02
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Пропаганда is about view-of-life, it's not about a person or a company. This could be about something like 'our country is the greatest' or 'to be healthy you need to run 5 miles every day' etc.

Реклама is advertising - posters on buildings or in the transport, banners in the internet etc. It is obvious that a person or a company paid for that.

Пиар also makes a person or a company more known - but in more subtle way. For instance a person may be known for organizing a music festival, or some special party each Valentine Day etc. So, it is not a straight-forward advertising, but a way to get people's attention.

Черный пиар could be some kind of activity to create a negative impression of a person or a company, e.g. there could be a series of articles or mentioning in media that 'they don't spend money on environmental protection' or 'they payed bribes' etc.


Пиар is a Russian rendering of PR (пи-ар) acronym, which stands for Public Relations. As far as I know it has a different meaning in Russian than Public Relations in English. Its a professional jargon among people that are a professionals in promotion and advertising. It become popular maybe because it contains the (new to Russian language) idea of organized activity of making company or a person more known to a wide audience. Before only реклама existed, but it does not cover all the required meanings.

Пиар has no negative meaning by itself, but when someone wants to say 'they are not so good as they look, they just want a positive image' they say 'это пиар', or 'они пиарятся на помощи бедным' (they help poor just to have positive image, not because they care about poor people) then пиар has negative meaning of course.

Usage of пиар can be traced back to 1996 - as you can see it became very popular during last several years. One of the first printed occurrences goes back to 1989:

Делал без причин, иногда даже во вред самому себе, своему, как бы сейчас сказали, «пиару» или «имиджу». [Генрих Боровик. [Послесловие к книге «Дело Кольцова»] (1989)]

Usage of пиар since 1996

I think it is one of the business-related words that become popular in post-USSR times like менеджер, проект, имидж, etc. that can be applied almost to any field of human activity (like art, architecture, technologies, literature and so on and so forth).


Actually, if we look on the examples of usage of пиар in 1990-ies, mostly they are connected with political parties. So, actually, at those times пиар (политический пиар) was a synonym for a "пропаганда" or "агитация" ("предвыборный пиар" = "предвыборная агитация", "пиар-команда" = "агитаторы"), but those are Soviet words, so usage of пиар allowed to sound modern.

However even in those times you can find examples like "после такого пиара клиенты стали обращаться в другой банк", "Деревня и райцентр не имеют пиара", "адвокатский пиар, с помощью которого будируется общественное мнение в пользу обвиняемых".

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  • the explanation of the word "propaganda" looks like it was taken from a first-grader book like "kolobok" Jan 17 '17 at 10:56
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    @user907860 Feel free to make a better one.
    – Artemix
    Jan 17 '17 at 11:05
  • Just for fun: turns out there is a different meaning of пиар: "Пиар, или пиарист – член католического монашеского ордена пиаров, основанного в Риме в XVII веке Иосифом Калазанским. Кроме обычных монашеских обетов, пиары брали на себя обет бесплатно обучать детей из бедных семей."
    – Artemix
    Jan 17 '17 at 16:09
  • проект has nothing to do with post-Soviet times, I think it was even more popular under the USSR.
    – Anixx
    Jan 19 '17 at 3:45
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    @Anixx Nowadays it has much wider meaning - when a person says "У меня сейчас два проекта" - you cannot tell for sure, if they mean "get married", "build a house", "go for a dinner" or "write a new book". In USSR проект had two meanings - scheme of some technical thing or a draft of some official document.
    – Artemix
    Jan 19 '17 at 5:28
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The differences of the word's meanings are (with the definitions):

пропаганда (in English "propaganda" has exactly the same meaning as it has in Russian):

  • state or government lies (it seems like this meaning the word has gained in recent years, because I cannot remember any example of it in literature etc.)
  • a systematic, organized complex of measures to spread ideas/ideology to the widest audience possible (you can encounter occurrences of "propaganda" with this meaning in literature, in historical (like министерство пропаганды в Германии / the Ministry of Propaganda in Germany, отдел пропаганды в комитете Компартии / the Department of propaganda in a committee of the Communist Party etc.) and other contexts (like "пропаганда здорового образа жизни / propaganda of the healthy life style", "анти-табачная пропаганда / anti-tobacco propaganda" etc.);

пиар (almost the same meaning as PR (Public Relations) in English, but often implies a negative attitude and usually is not used officially):

  • a complex of measures to promote something, gain popularity usually involving media. Or an instance of such a process. Can be used about a person, company, product. This has been borrowed from English (PR). Usually:

    • it is not used officially, that is you can hardly hear that a company has a department of "пиар", generally this is called something like "отдел по связям с общественностью / прессой и т.п." (literally: the department of liaison with the press, public etc., though in English, as I can remember this is commonly called something like "the Public Relations Department);

    • it does not involve sales, that is you don't (usually) say "пиар, чтобы продать товар";

    • it has a purpose to affect the general opinion of the audience about something, not necessarily intended to entice the audience to do something immediately. For instance: a company paid for a commercial on a TV channel, this is called "реклама", it is intended to prod the audience to buy the product. The company made a big investment somewhere, so that media covered this (or the company paid some journalist so they wrote something about it) this is "пиар".

реклама (in Enlish there are at least two words corresponding to this: advertisement, a commercial)

  • a complex of measures to promote something or an instance of such promotion (like a TV commercial, newspaper advert, web site banner, advert in a bulletin board or on a light pole etc.). Usually this is about goods/services, businesses but can be of anything actually. Though it is very unlikely, that a government or state would be promoting their policy in such a way, which in its turn is done commonly via press-conferences, tv-shows on state-owned or affiliated media etc.

Regarding your second question about why words with "пиар" have gained popularity I can only guess. I think the reason is alike to one, which is behind the popularity of the words: логистика, менеджер, чернокожий etc. It can be that this words started to be used by people who use English a lot and then spread to other's vocabulary.

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    I personally think that a good explanation must be as short as possible. I was taught that if an explanation sounds childish, that's actually good because it is easier to use, and the only purpose of every explanation is to be used. Content-wise, your answer is the same as the one by @Artemix, but it is considerably more difficult to grasp. So, I think it adds nothing useful.
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 17 '17 at 12:54
  • @Evgeniy, tell me please is the statement we like travelling a propaganda? It fits perfectly well to the definition provided by Artemix: -it is about "way of life", - it is not about a person or a company. And by your opinion about "a good definition" I suppose you had some troubles with mathematics in school. A definition must be as succinct as possible, but in the first place it must define the item in a precise and unequivocal manner. Jan 17 '17 at 13:09
  • @Evgeniy, the word propaganda in the examples: RT is Putin's propaganda, VOA is American propaganda, he used to be the head of the department of propaganda in the regional committee of the Party; hardly fits into the definition you consider so gooood. What is about "way of life" in the last example about a man, who was the head of the department of propaganda? This was his way of life? Jan 17 '17 at 13:14
  • "We like travelling" is not a propaganda, but "do travel a lot" is one, if repeated a lot among many people. Similarly, Putin is a person, but to support Putin (that is, the corresponding policies and what results of them) is a way of life. The question was not about what was in common between all the terms, the question was about what is different among them.
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 17 '17 at 13:19
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    As to being unequivocal, that quality does not result from inserting many words that make the sentences sound "formal", but add no meaning to what you unequivocally make up by yourself (like "a complex of measures", etc); it results from filling up all "holes" in what you understand really. What a human understands is never a repetition of the structure that the text follows, so… no structure is imposed on the text, save usability requirements. And yes, I actually was taught that by a mathematician.
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 17 '17 at 13:29

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