Research article
Issue: № 4 (52), 2024


Francophonie, possessing its structure that unites French-speaking states within the framework of permanent cooperation, stands as one of the few international intergovernmental organizations that maintain their influence over such a wide geographical area to the present day. In its essence, this organization represents an alternative to the tendency of anglophone cultural and linguistic expansion. The list of goals of the international organization Francophonie in modern history includes preserving cultural, political and economic bonds with its former colonies together with maintaining peace and order in its own region while keeping reliable international relations between member countries.

1. Introduction

The OIF (Organization Internationale de la Francophonie) represents a unique historical and sociocultural union, which allows to effectively solve a wide range of issues based on intercultural communication. Francophonie relies on cultural relativism, advocates multiculturalism, widely using both traditional and completely new cultural policy instruments (TV5, Alliance française, art market, cultural centers, a network of institutions, etc.)

The OIF sees its tasks not as much in spreading its influence onto neighboring regions (as other previously colonial countries would pose it, for instance, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Japan). Concerning its colonial expansion in the past, France certainly relied on the universalism of its civilization together with messianism, in which the imperial principle got increasingly intensified. Today, such a policy is characteristic of the Anglo-American model, it primarily refers to the US international policy.

In addition, Francophonie creates and develops a strategy for the comprehensive modernization of the former colonial countries, encompassing not only culture, but economics and politics as well. It expresses and provides protection of the interests of the poorest states of the South, acting as an intermediary in the dialogue between the North and South, using its significance in the competition within the Western world. Francophonie has an actual possibility to neutralize or soften negative consequences for developing countries caused by globalization processes. This was largely due to the fact that the active initiators of the creation of the Francophonie were not that many European states, but the African countries freed from colonial dependence.

2. Main part

The Agency for Technical and Cultural Development, which subsequently turned into the International Organization of Francophonie in 1970. However, one can talk about a strong international organization headed by the French Republic only starting from the late 1980s, after the first Summit of the OIF was organized followed by the signing of the Quebec Declaration (OIF Charter). Even 50 years ago it was an institutionally unorganized francophone community, united "by interests", only recognizing strengthening the positions of the French language in the world as its main goal.

It’s possible to distinguish two historical stages that predetermined the emergence of Froancophonie as an international organization. One of them took place throughout the XVI-XIX centuries, while the other period represents the era of colonialism of the XIX-early XX century. Starting from the middle of the XX century the concept of francophony has evolved. Today, due to the end of the war between the East and the West, one can observe the process of formation of new ideals of the International Organization of Francophonie characteristic of the world existing in the epoch of globalization


The concept of "francophony" appears in 1880 in the work of Onezime Reclus "France, Algeria and colonies." The author, interested in the topic of French colonial expansion, welcomed the colonial activity of France and especially emphasized the role of a linguistic factor in this process


It should be noted that the term “francophony” appears almost simultaneously with the term “geopolitics”, belonging to Friedrich Ratzel, this gave rise to geopolitical analysis, which includes a set of constant (geographical location, history, culture, language) and variable (political regime, civil society development level, state of economy) factors needed for the study of diplomatic relations between states.

The concept of francophony made it possible to precisely explore constant geopolitical values. O. Reclus introduced the neologism of “francophony” into use to describe cultural and language communities, among which it was exactly France and its colonies

. By this term he meant all countries and peoples who, to a greater or lesser degree, used the French language, which was not only an instrument of colonial expansion outspread, but also a means of spreading advanced French civilization in retarded countries, according to his understanding

On the other hand, common history is not the only thing that united them, thus pushing the parties to dialogue and cooperation. The key issue needed to be mentioned is the state-legal status and democratic values that have recently existed under the slogan of cultural pluralism


Reclus himself spoke about this when he talking about Francophonie as a whole and about francophones in particular. The author interestingly described the latter ones: “We recognize as francophones all those who are already or yet to become a user of our language: Bretons and Basques of France, Arabs and Berbers, who already consider us as masters. However, we do not attribute all the Belgians to the francophones, although it is quite possible that in the future Flamans speakers can once become francophones”

. Thus, one can draw a conclusion that O. Reclus already viewed Francophonie as a living organism, capable of moving away from its ordinary concept, attracting new participants and followers, no matter where they came from, on equal terms with the peoples who have already joined. “The future humanity will not really take care of wonderful languages, excellent literature and historical rights: it will give preference to languages that are extremely convenient for conversation and, therefore, seem very useful”

However, considerable disputes may arise among researchers when speaking of equality, as according to the French historian, Francophonie mainly stands as the leading tool of France's foreign policy. It should serve precisely the interests of the French Dominion, which by the end of the XIX century started losing its position in the world.

An unexpected strike for the French Republic, as Reclus says, was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, after which “we turned into a Small land from the Great land, and after one or two centuries we will become a tiny land, as the day will come and France will only possess a hundredth part of the world's population; sons of our grandchildren will see it all. The French people of France will relate to all the humanity the same way as the population of Lyon or Marseille does to our 38 million people, or as a separate commune to its department”


It is worth emphasizing that O. Reclus does not limit the circle of powers of the French authorities to promote and protect the French language and culture on the planet, especially in the territory of their colonies. In his opinion, politics accepts both “subtle hints and aggressive tactics of cultural battle”, which, with clear and organized expansion, can help build “future equatorial France”, which “will not be French, same as Brazil of Mamelukes and Negroes is not considered Portuguese. Still, Brazil speaks Portuguese, and this is enough for Portugal, same as the francophone Congo will be enough for France”


Reclus makes the emphasis on the African continent countries in the colonial policy of France. As he notes: “These 220 thousand North African French-speaking people mean infinitely more for the future of our language than the millions who know the French language in Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, America and in the entire civilized world”

. The author equally proposes to leave the countries of Asia, which is stated in his book “Leave Asia, take Africa” (1904), since “French is not the only language fighting in the Far East against “yellow languages”: there is also English, German and, in particular, Chinese – political, administrative, social and literary idiom for more than four hundred million people”

Nevertheless, neither the failure of France in the world arena in the end of XIX century, nor the fall of the authority of the French language in the world led to the strengthening of the francophone movement, O. Reclus never found like -minded people.

Soon the term introduced by Reclus was almost forgotten, as in the first quarter of XX century the development of cooperation with the Francophonie was not taken care of by state structures of France due to the still existing French colonial system, and, therefore, the term denoting something different from France was simply not in demand


Starting from the 1930s and until 1962 the word “francophone” appeared in some dictionaries, while“francophony” actually disappears. Another term comes in its place, the “francite” invented by the president of Senegal, Leopold Senghor, who later made immense contribution to the process of specifying the goals and principles of the IOF ideology. In November 1962 alone, the concept of “francophony” was revived in socio-political discourse, quickly displacing the concepts of “francitudes”, “French-speaking community”, “francophone community”, etc.

It took more than half a century to make the ideas of O. Reclus heard and perceived properly. By 1970, residents of the French-speaking territory have realized the significance and importance of the francophone community, as well as the international organization of Francophonie per se. Today the inhabitants of the former French colonies define their movement and the French language itself as “the best development tool found on the ruins of the colonial regime”


Despite the fact that the term "francophony" was not popular until the middle of the twentieth century, starting from the end of the nineteenth century the public movement of "Francophonie" appears. The French community made a considerable number of attempts to create a unified organized system to promote and implement its tasks. Since 1883 a network of French alliances has been created (the National Association for the promotion of the French language in the colonies and abroad, led by the French diplomat by the Paul Cambon), striving to find its own approach in cultural and linguistic activities, different from the state and confessional institutions; it spread its influence on all continents, having formed more than 1200 unions by XX century

. This way, for example, back in 1899, the Association of French-speaking pediatricians was created, the “French secular mission” was formed in 1902, it was supposed to deliver the “French spirit” even to the most remote corners of the planet. In 1906 the International Federation for protection of culture and spread of the French language was created, 1909 gave rise to the Bureau of French schools and cases abroad, the main task of which was the coordination of already existing organizations, in 1937 one more non-governmental organization was established, it was the International Association of French-speaking writers.

The growing movement of Francophonie was facilitated by peculiarities of the cultural policy of France in the world arena. Hereby it is necessary to highlight the value of missionarism, which, first of all, advocates religious postulates of particular church. However, in French foreign policy such a movement took on a slightly different character, its main mission was the propaganda of French culture and the French language, as the language of “religion”. Out of 70 thousand missionaries, about 50 thousand, or 2/3, were the French. In Africa alone there were 1600 schools and 230 hospitals. There were 5 thousand schools in Diwan, where 80 thousand students studied. In Egypt, in spite of the rivalry of England, the number of schoolchildren increased from 15 thousand (1902) to 25 thousand (1914)


Moreover, during the period from 1901 to 1906, named as so -called “secular bias” in the life of the French state caused by the advent of radicals (Leon Bourgeois, Louis Emile Combes), including separation of the church from the state and the break of relations with Vatican, missionary missions still continued. Moreover, the government, understanding the significance of their teachings for the domestic and foreign policy of France, constantly increased their financing, sometimes leaving other missions that had no religious origin to “suffocate”.

Once again, it should be repeated that the propaganda of religion, Catholicism in this case did not play such an important role. The policy of assimilation and acculturation conducted by France in the expanding colonial empire was carried out in a differentiated manner, taking into account certain conditions and moods in a particular country. For instance, French schools for Muslims, located both in France and in Arab countries, such as Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, worked without the intention of converting students to Christianity. At the same time even teachers were Muslims and Arabs in these schools


On the other hand, the upbringing of the younger generation in the countries of central Africa took place in the atmosphere of religious education in particular, being aimed not only at teaching the children themselves, but also at instilling love for the church in them, so that they, in their turn, would bring new “mentors” to it, who would wish to serve France and the French language.

Another important area of peaceful French expansion of that time was cultural policy. The cultural aspect of international relations confidently entered the diplomatic life between the countries of all continents only after the First World War, but France starts actively using it in the early XX century.

According to multiple researchers, including Alain Rey, the author of the historical dictionary of the French language, the concept of “culture” in its Latin meaning has already been expressed as “the moral sense of the development of intellectual abilities by means of relevant actions” in XVI century

. Considering this concept in German sources, one can find the following definition of the term “Kultur”, borrowed from I. Kant in the end of the 18th century: “Culture is civilization expressed by intellectual features”
. The cultural policy of the French state as a whole arose as a result of the sacred and canonical perception of national ideals, steady striving of monarchical and republican powers of this country for defending and patronizing fruits of spiritual activity, art and artistic creativity, considering it to be the national property
, calling such activity as “cultural work” and “cultural activity”. Some authors spoke about the use of culture not for politics, but instead of politics. Others used the term of “intellectual cooperation” instead of “cultural cooperation”

According to representatives of the French nation, the peculiarity and power of the French cultural policy consisted in gradual “integration of arts and the creative process into the legal and administrative framework of state structures that are in the service of all segments of the population, as well as the recognition of the legitimacy and benefits of such state intervention”


Drawing the conclusion, it is possible to say that the colonialism and expansionism of France have never been aggressive, but on the contrary, carried signs of soft power, that is, “soft power” mainly based on cultural and linguistic influence of the colonial dominion. Nye himself, when developing the idea of soft power, often compared and identified such a policy with the French state itself, since “cultural policy, as well as diplomacy are French inventions”


The modern Ministry of Culture and Communication of France in its annual pamphlet indicates that its administrative organogram originates in the 17th century – starting from the creation of general superintendence for the management of royal real estate in 1654. It is this exact document that serves as the starting point of the cultural policy of the French state.

A Russian researcher S.I. Kosenko believes that the beginning of the official cultural policy of France can be noticed even in 1539, when the French king Francois I signed an order – Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterets concerning the mandatory use of the French language instead of Latin in the process of state document preparation


Conversely, according to archival data, Karl the Great himself showed care for the maintenance of schools and the restoration of manuscripts in the end of the first millennium of our history, surrounded himself with scientists and artists in order to develop a new concept of cultural expansion to the East, the penetration of the French language into the Middle East in particular, followed by the spread of Catholic creed around the local Sultanate (while using special Catholic missions)


The apogee of French expansion falls on the end of XVIII – beginning of XIX century. This period includes the development of Canada, the creation of the Middle Eastern Center of French Culture in Lebanon and the spread of French influence throughout the political space. The confirmation of the growing power of French expansion can be shown through the words of the abbot Gregoire, who wrote: “If our language has received such a favorable welcome from the side of tyrants and courtyards, to which monarchical France gave theaters, fashion and manners, then what should be expected from the peoples who the Republican France shows their rights, opening the road of freedom before them”


The first institutional manifestation of cultural policy can be considered the creation of the French Academy by Richelieu in 1635. From then on, this idea in France, unlike other European countries, never ceased to gain strength. At the same time, prominent figures of the era, who were sent with special diplomatic missions to numerous corners of the world, played an outstanding role. Those were Jean-Jacques Rousseau who was the secretary of the French ambassador in Venice in 1743, Voltaire who was at the court of Friedrich II in Prussia, Diderot who was at the court of Catherine II In Russia within the period of 1773-1775, Chateaubriand who was sent by Napoleon to Berlin, London and Rome

. Once again, back to the historical events of the beginning of the twentieth century. Regardless of the significant scale and speedy pace of the spread of its influence, French expansion would constantly face absolutely adequate resistance of the local population of a particular country. Namely, a teacher at the University of Cologne, F. Schwib, spoke on this issue as follows: “The French achieved a lot thanks to the merits of their language, carrying universality. In this we should not envy them. However, let each nation work on improving its language, caring about its preservation, as, with all due respect for the French language, I would not at all want it to take the place of all other languages of Europe”

The Foreign Minister of the Ottoman Empire, Fuad Pasha, had the similar opinion saying: “I am not afraid of the bayonets you have in Damascus. I am scared by these 40 cassocks of missionaries who came to greet French officers ... These 40 cassocks impose love for France on my country”


It is purely logical that the peculiar distrust and suspiciousness was shown specifically in the opponents of France – Great Britain, Germany, Portugal. One of the German scientists wrote: “If our ancestors returned to this world, they would no longer recognize us: we have degenerated and become fake. Now we must have everything French: French clothes, dishes, language, French customs and French vices”


Moreover, by XIX century, those were the French who started being caricatured to associate themselves with the “pompous invaders”, as evidenced by the statement of Joseph de Maistre: “The whole French nation is nothing more than wide propaganda”

. This period is well disclosed in the words of French researchers such as J. Bell and P. Pelletier, who said: “Previously, the concept of “culture” delivered topics for propaganda. Now it has become a topic for cooperation”

At the same time, the concept of “frenchness” emerges, it appears as a product of the widespread “francization”, that is, teaching foreigners not only the basics of the French language, but also preparing them for service at administrative posts in France, in its colonies, for representing the French state during international conferences and in embassies of other countries. To achieve this, special educational institutions were created (all education levels were included, from primary to special higher education) both in France and beyond.

This way, in 1908, the Franco-Chinese University of Aurora was opened in Shanghai, not only did it advocate French culture in this region, but it was also a strong competitor to the British University in Hong Kong. In 1921, the Franco-Chinese University in Beijing was opened, consisting of 4 institutions: French literature and philosophy; sociology and politics; physics and chemistry; biology. Simultaneously, the establishment of higher educational institutions was held in Europe – in Madrid, Florence and St. Petersburg. A special “Descartes Foundation” was created in Sweden


To organize and maintain connections between these universities during the "beautiful epoch" of France, as the French historian J.-B. Duroselle stated, a special bureau of French schools and affairs was created abroad in 1920, as well as the Department of French affairs abroad, establishing both cultural and educational exchanges between countries on equal terms. It was the idea that subsequently entered the Mundus and Erasmus program.

One can notice the use of the term “frenchness” later, especially in the works of L. Senghor, who spoke about the inseparability of the concepts of “frenchness” and “francophony”: “Francophonie is a way of thinking and acting, a certain manner of setting problems and finding solutions for them. Moreover, it is a spiritual community, the noosphere around the earth. In short, Francophonie is, apart from the language, the French civilization or, to put it more accurately, the spirit of civilization, i.e. French culture, which I would call as frenchness”

. Thus, the active growth of international cultural bonds and agreements in the sphere of education, a large number of associations and organizations for promotion and protection of the French language poorly contributed to the consolidation of the francophone alliance as a defender and advocate of French culture, especially within the period between world wars. Only after the Second World War, as well as under the influence of the fall of the colonial system, it became possible to develop such an international organization as Francophonie.

3. Conclusion

The historical analysis of the traditions of the influence of the cultural policy of France in relation to its allies and colonies (missionary work as the propaganda of French culture and the French language, as the language of “religion”, the principles of the French education system without imposing religious fanaticism, etc.) shows that the colonialism and expansionism of France did not possess aggressive character, but carried the signs of “soft power”. This has led to the fact that in the concept of the ideology of Francophonie, one can distinguish, first of all, sociocultural factors: the spread of the French language together with cultural and linguistic diversity in the world; peace, democracy, human rights; education and science.

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