After the eruption of a street revolution in late 2013 that saw civilians dodging Molotov cocktails, burning barricades and government snipers, it might be a surprise to learn that young Ukrainians feel surprisingly optimistic about the future of their country. And in the last 18 months or so, life has changed a great deal in Ukraine.
Almost a century ago, a dark and skinny girl of illegitimate birth dreamed about becoming an actress in her country's capital, Buenos Aires. Her name was María Eva Duarte (later "Eva Perón"). Not only did Eva Perón realize this childhood dream by achieving nationwide fame as a successful actress in her early youth, she also dramatically turned into a major player on the world's stage as the First Lady of Argentina.
There's plenty to be proud of when it comes to UK culture and our national image. And that's important as it attracts people from around the world to visit, study here and do business with us. The world may (wrongly this week) think that our weather's terrible - but the sun never sets on UK culture, and it shines all around the world.
It will be interesting to see how the next World Cup kicking off in Moscow in 2018 impacts global views of the Kremlin. For while the media spotlight has shone on an already-vibrant Brazil today, unless the four year hiatus is used to full benefit, it may reflect very differently on Russia tomorrow.
Most people are familiar with what is known as Hard Power. The idea that someone with more swords, bigger guns and overwhelming military ability can force someone to do something against their will but which is almost entirely in favour of those holding the gun. History is full of situations, the ancient Chinese, Persians, Romans all the way through to the British, French, American and Russians...
Soft power can influence others to want the same things as the UK "by building positive international relationships and coalitions which defend our interests and security, uphold our national reputation and promote our trade and prosperity." The report also says it should be carefully combined with hard power, essentially military force, to form "smart power."
Just like the courtesy of learning a few words of the language, for someone from the UK travelling to countries with different memories of WWI than ours, learning a little more about the scale and legacy of this truly global conflict can be invaluable in effectively navigating and building relationships of trust.
This week I was a panellist at the launch event for the inaugural Ipsos MORI Top Cities survey - a worldwide poll that crowned London as the most popular city in Europe, but forced us to tip our bowler hats to New York as the global winner. But in amongst the data were a few fascinating phenomena...