Opening of the Fifth St Petersburg International Cultural Forum
Vladimir Putin spoke at the opening ceremony of the Fifth St Petersburg International Cultural Forum.
December 2, 2016
Speech at the opening ceremony of the Fifth St Petersburg International Cultural Forum.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am pleased to welcome the participants of the International Cultural Forum to St Petersburg.
Visiting the Mariinsky Theatre and getting to know the work of its wonderful actors has already become a good tradition for forum guests. And this is hardly surprising.
The legendary Mariinsky is more than its star-studded troupe or one of the world’s best stages. The theatre is well known for its charity activity and high-profile educational projects, and it has proved that culture knows no bounds. The theatre reaffirms this with its creativity and its activity both on the world’s best stages and modest, regional stages in Russia.
All of you who have come together in Russia’s northern capital know this. You know that the kind of art that I just talked about at a meeting with our guests knows no bounds.
You speak this language, the language of art, which needs no translation. Your talent, your spiritual generosity and artistic excellence carry a powerful charge of creativity and goodness, imbuing our world with inspiration, nobility and great spirituality. Unsurprisingly, servants of the muses – artists, poets, actors and musicians – have enormous influence in society.
We rightly take pride in our Russian, national culture and are doing our best to preserve and develop it. Suffice it to mention the fact that the last three years in Russia were devoted to culture.
Thousands of notable, substantive events that took place during the years of culture, literature and the cinema have attracted millions of people and opened up new horizons of knowledge and emotions to them.
I am sure that forum participants remember how we closed the Year of Literature here at the Mariinsky, which was a tremendous success.
Today, the Year of the Russian Cinema is drawing to a close. Nevertheless, we all understand that official ceremonies around these events are purely symbolic. After all, the work to promote creative projects, collectives, and educational establishments will continue. Especially considering that the “themed” years have generated considerable, deep interest in society, which certainly needs further support. And this is what we will continue to do.
These questions are also addressed in St Petersburg at the International Cultural Forum. I am convinced that at these meetings, you, its participants, who represent the entire spectrum of culture, will be able to find appropriate answers to the questions posed by the present times.
Allow me to wish you fruitful work, creative success and all the very best.
Thank you for being here. Thank you very much.
Meeting with Foreign Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida
Vladimir Putin met with Foreign Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida to discuss preparations for the Russian President’s visit to Japan.
December 2, 2016
Meeting with Foreign Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased about the continuation of our contacts. At the APEC meeting in Lima, we agreed with the Prime Minister that such a meeting may take place.
It is very good that our contacts are not interrupted. We are working on implementing the proposals of the Prime Minster on expanding our contacts in all areas of interest for us on both sides.
I am very glad to see you.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Fumio Kishida (retranslated): Mr President, I would like to thank you for finding the time to meet me.
This is my first visit to St Petersburg. Today I did a bit of sightseeing before the meeting, and I am captivated by the beauty of this city. It is a great honour for me to meet with you in your hometown, St Petersburg.
This is my first visit to Russia since September of last year. This time I came to Russia to conduct final preparations for your visit to Japan with the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Lavrov, in order to achieve results on a broad range of political and economic issues, including the signing of a peace treaty, during your visit.
We paid a great deal of attention to your words in yesterday’s annual Address to the Federal Assembly that you hope for tangible progress in relations with Japan, and we appreciate you mentioning this in your Address.
Joint meeting of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council on the Russian Language
Vladimir Putin is chairing a joint meeting of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council on the Russian Language in St Petersburg.
December 2, 2016
Joint meeting of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council on the Russian Language.
Excerpts from transcript of joint meeting of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council on the Russian Language
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We have gathered today in St Petersburg, which has a very concentrated cultural programme these days. The International Cultural Forum is taking place here, and the closing ceremony of the Year of Russian Cinema will be held here in the evening. I would like to wish productive work to all participants of these events.
Today, we are holding a joint meeting of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council on the Russian Language in this wonderful, beautiful hall. This format was not chosen by accident. We are going to talk about the consolidation of the country’s integrated cultural space and its foundations – the Russian language and classical Russian literature, which have always determined the common spiritual and moral values of the peoples of the Russian Federation and helped us preserve our cultural code and pass it on to the future generations.
Moreover, the diversity of our mother tongue and the humanitarian values reflected in the best examples of Russian literature help us gain a deeper insight into the wealth of Russian culture as a whole, its historical significance for Russia and the entire world and, of course, our inclusion in our homeland’s destiny.
Much has been done to enhance the status of the Russian language and literature in the past few years. Owing to system-wide measures in schools and universities, active support of reading, film adaptation of classical literature and educational media projects, more and more people are choosing meaningful, so to say intellectual leisure.
It is enough to say that almost 120 million people visit museums every year. I do not know whether any other country comparable in population size has such figures, but I doubt it very much.
Theatres are also becoming more popular, gathering 39 million spectators per year, as well as theatre festivals devoted to our great writers: Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and a more modern galaxy of authors, such as Shukshin.
Not to miss a premiere and to regularly attend exhibitions and classical music concerts is becoming not only a matter of savoir vivre but an urgent need for Russians. It is very important to preserve this positive attitude in society.
Naturally, we will continue to support major socially important cultural projects, as well as our leading creative groups and educational institutions.
At the same time, state support alone is not enough to involve a broader audience, especially young people, in the world of high, insightful art. I touched upon this in my Address [to the Federal Assembly] yesterday, as you might have heard. We need new, original interpretations of classical works in cinematography, theatre, television and social networks. This is a task for the people of art: to create contemporary works while preserving the content of the original, its moral message and our rich and evocative language.
I spoke about my position on interfering in creative processes, and I want to reiterate that the freedom to create should be inviolable. However, all freedoms have their alternate side, namely, responsibility. We know it very well. This, actually, is acknowledged by all renowned philosophers.
Artists, “the rulers of our hearts,” have a special responsibility in everything they do. On the one hand, any disruptive behaviour, any attempts to sabotage a play or exhibition are absolutely intolerable and should be punished in accordance with the law. And we will do so. At the same time, the creative community – especially the creative community – should acknowledge the line between a cynical, insulting provocation and an act of creativity.
Renowned and respected people of art have gathered here today. I hope that you will voice your opinions on these issues.
I have no doubt that in accordance with the adopted Basics of the State Cultural Policy we will be able to develop and implement programmes that will boost the development of projects related to the preservation of cultural heritage and the Russian language in academic, folk and contemporary art.
There will be many volunteers, I am sure. By the way, Mr Mironov had a birthday recently. We all wish him a happy 50th birthday, and in that spirit I’ll give him the floor first. Mr Mironov, go ahead please.
Actor and Artistic Director of the State Theatre of Nations Yevgeny Mironov:
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen.
I can state with confidence that modern theatre in Russia is on the upswing. I am particularly pleased to say that it is not limited to the two capitals. Gone are the times when the alluring lights of the capitals literally devastated regional cultural life and lured actors away not only from small towns but even from regional centres.
At present there are about 700 theatres in our country. New, very powerful theatre centres are being established in Yekaterinburg, Perm, Yaroslavl, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Saratov, to name a few. It has become fashionable to go to premieres in these cities. Plays staged by local theatres are depriving the masters in the capitals of their “golden masks.” Theatre festivals in Voronezh and Omsk, for example, have become more competitive with the cultural offerings in the capitals due to their extensive programmes.
The Federal Touring Support Centre is three years old. It was established by the Ministry of Culture at your initiative, Mr President. It helps arrange exchanges of guest performances not only for Russian companies but also for theatres from former Soviet republics. As far as I know, there are about 30 tours per year.
We see all the interesting things happening in theatre in small cities, which have 150 professional companies in 53 regions. City theatres of Novokuibyshevsk, Minusinsk, Glazov, Kudymkar and Lysva have become famous throughout the country.
The State Theatre of Nations has developed a programme in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, which is aimed at meeting theatres’ creative needs, from supplying them with qualified teachers in different areas of theatre to helping compile their repertoire. The best companies from all parts of the country get together for an annual festival of small city theatres.
Quite recently we received very good news. I understand that the State Duma adopted a decision that means a lot for us, as it adds support for small city theatres to the state budget that is being now discussed. I hope this initiative of MPs will also receive your support, Mr President.
Long gone are the days when the theatre was just the usual three: drama theatre, children’s theatre, and puppet theatre. Many cities now have successful modern drama centres, such as in Yekaterinburg; and documentary theatre centres and modern dance centres, such as in Kostroma. Supporting independent projects and promoting a variety of theatrical forms to compete for audiences are important for ensuring an exciting and productive future for our theatres.
All these efforts focus on our ability to achieve one of the most important goals for federal policy on culture, which is to raise regional theatres above their provincial level, consolidate Russia’s cultural space, and promote theatrical and cultural life in the regions.
However, there are a number of long-standing issues. Salaries remain a problem for regional actors. It is important, first, to resolve this problem; and, second, it should not be resolved by cutting creative personnel jobs or closing theatres. Sometimes such ideas are voiced. On the contrary, it is imperative to preserve the theatre network in our country, because we take pride in our theatres.
Mr President, the theatre community clearly sees a need for more children's theatres, which account for only about 10 percent of the total number of state and municipal theatres. Children’s theatres are a place where the audiences have their first experience of the theatre. Art shapes our outlook on life, the spiritual meaning and value behind the life of an individual and the entire nation. Childhood is a critical stage in this process. Unfortunately, public funding of children’s theatres traditionally has been lower than for regular theatres. Children’s theatres cannot increase revenues by raising ticket prices. They don’t have the same ability as drama theatres to raise ticket prices, and besides children's theatres should remain affordable to as many children as possible. The situation with puppet theatres, of which there are just over 100 in our country, is even worse. Salaries in some regions are as low as 10,000 to 19,000 rubles a month.
I would like to make another very important point. Sorry if I am repeating myself. Participants in the recent meeting of Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko with artistic directors of Moscow and St Petersburg’s leading theatres discussed questions that are the subject of widespread debate, and my colleagues asked me to make this appeal to you, all the more so since you touched on very important issues today and in your Address to the Federal Assembly yesterday.
The problem of education in the arts, from a young age, and understanding the language of art has become particularly urgent recently. This is true of everyone – both ordinary spectators and government officials in the provinces. The level of culture in the provinces is often higher than the national average and it is important to make sure that this disparity, which is nothing tragic, leads to normal dialogue rather than an order shouted by minor officials.
As you know, Mr President, in the last few months the theatre community has become worried over restrictions on artistic freedom. These apprehensions are largely the result of illegal actions of some officials, including those in the provinces, that simply banned a number of shows, citing representatives of this or that civic organisation.
We are equally concerned over the actions of different activists, who go virtually unpunished after rushing into theatres during plays that caused disapproval or destroying displays at exhibitions. Contemporary art is always provocative but this does not mean that it should hurt someone’s feelings.
However, if no law was violated, evaluations of a piece of art should only be made in a professional, civilised and respectful atmosphere. We believe that in complex times society should rely on the opinion of the professional community, people whose achievements and names have earned them unqualified authority. I know Valery Fokin wanted to speak about this and offer a proposal.
We know your view, Mr President, and that of the leadership of the Presidential Executive Office. It coincides with the view of culture professionals. Artistic freedom is stipulated by law in our country, and nobody is going to repeal it. So, the ban on certain works of art, if their content is proved to be unlawful, can only be imposed by a court. Bullying over works of art should be stopped by law enforcement agencies. However, it seems to us they are not always willing to act. We would like – and we thank you for addressing this issue – the government to ease these concerns and fears felt by the professional community.
As we know, the State Duma is discussing a draft law on combating vandalism introduced by Stanislav Govorukhin. Hopefully, it will be adopted. On the other hand, you are absolutely right: as culture professionals, we understand the extent of our responsibility and, being engaged in public activity, we can come under fire, including harsh criticism. This is absolutely normal, we must bear this responsibility. And also, culture professionals should have a respectful dialogue with society that promotes positive values. We should think about the aesthetic education of the audience, which should start in school. Pushkin was completely right in saying that “the audience forms dramatic talents.” Today, we are lacking a degree of balance, and this issue could be on the agenda of a future meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art. Thank you.
President Putin: Thank you very much.
I think that we will repeatedly return to the issue of financial security, wages and the like.
As for the concerns about artistic freedom. You said there are attempts to forbid things. We meet quite seldom, so I would like to have a meaningful dialogue – who tried to prohibit something and when?
Yevgeny Mironov: Perhaps you know that the play “Jesus Christ Superstar” was banned in Omsk. This play has been staged for about 30 or 40 years. It is popular worldwide and in Moscow. For example, it is staged at Moscow Soviet Theatre. But, Mr President, we are afraid of a chain reaction. When such things happen in towns, they can spread quickly, leading to really stupid things. The play “Pushkin’s Tales” is staged by our Theatre of Nations. It is done by a very famous director, but many so-called ‘well-wishers’ repeatedly asked us to cut “The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda.”
Vladimir Putin: Who banned it?
Yevgeny Mironov: Nobody did. I am talking about a specific show, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Vladimir Putin: So, who banned it?
Yevgeny Mironov: The authorities did.
Vladimir Putin: Some abstract authorities or concrete authorities, as represented by concrete people? We have the minister here: Mr Medinsky.
Yevgeny Mironov: It was not recommended.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Medinsky, did you ban it?
Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky: I am trying to sort this out, Mr President. I certainly did not ban it. Omsk Region Culture Minister Viktor Lapukhin – he is the former director of the Omsk Drama Theatre. It would never have occurred to him to ban it. I am trying to find out.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this needs sorting out.You know, we should always bring such things to a logical conclusion because, on the one hand, it is easy to say “You have banned it” but on the other hand “We had nothing to do with it.” However, it is essential to understand what is in fact going on. Only once we understand what is going on can we draw the correct conclusions and take an appropriate decision.
Yevgeny Mironov: If I may – we have prepared for you a list of violations that were made but went unnoticed. For example, the cancellation of a tour by the Satirikon Theatre in your hometown, St Petersburg.
Vladimir Putin: The cancellation of a tour is not a ban. You mentioned activists. You know, there is always a fine line between what I described as a dangerous desire to shock and freedom of artistic expression. These activists, in a manner of speaking, went to the Charlie Hebdo editorial offices and shot people. Question: Did those cartoonists have to insult Muslims? They took the publication as an insult. It is another matter perhaps that the artists did not mean to insult anybody, but they did. To repeat, this is a very delicate thing, a fine line. Everything depends on our sense of tact, on the one hand, on the bureaucracy, on the other hand, on representatives of the arts.
Officials often act not because they want to restrict something. We have a general principle not to do that, never to return to that, but many do not want tragedies like those in Paris to happen here. We must not forget about that for a second. While this triggers an inappropriate response, to put it mildly, from representatives of certain faiths, leading to crime, representatives of other faiths, thank God, have no problem with it. This does not mean, however, that there can’t be overreactions. After all, there are plenty of radicals in all religions. Simply, we should bear this in mind and no matter what, we must not allow the situation to get to this point and divide society. Please note, when I spoke about that, I said that the community itself should develop certain criteria. They are very nuanced, as I said.
Perhaps this example from my own life is not entirely applicable, but as you know, I have been doing martial arts all my life: judo. And in judo the highest score is ippon. Do you know how you score ippon, according to the rules? By executing a throw with considerable force or speed. How much force or speed is not clear. However, there are definite criteria and they are observed in the professional community. God forbid they are violated in a major competition. The judge will simply be disqualified and never allowed to work again.
These criteria should also be developed in the artistic community. This is an uphill task but it would be very good if that was done by you rather than us. And then it would be easier for me, frankly speaking, to stop officials who go too far. Of course, we have always had plenty of those in Russia, let alone in the Soviet Union. Let us think about this together. All right?
Yevgeny Mironov: Yes, Mr President, I would just like to say that if your proposal is acted upon and if responsibility is shifted to the professional community so that people who ought to know could find a common language with society, then it would probably be easier, perhaps, as you say, for officials to let up on this a little. For example, the Jan Fabre exhibition at the Hermitage is now under attack – the same old story. It seems to me that Mr Piotrovsky is the best judge of all of us.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Mironov, people like you can be counted on the fingers of one hand not only in this country but also in the world. Now, where can I find officials like you? You see, this is a challenging task. For people whose job description is simpler than creative activity, more accurate criteria are needed. Help me do that, all right?
Yevgeny Mironov: All right. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Sholokhov, please.
President of the Russian Committee of the International Council of Museums, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Culture Alexander Sholokhov: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday, in his address, the President spoke about the importance of unity for Russia today. It was with great satisfaction that we noted the role in strengthening that unity that was assigned to education and culture.
Indeed, it is inconceivable to bring up a generation to which we will entrust our country’s fate in the near future without the joint efforts of the entire society, primarily, of course, educational institutions that work in close contact with libraries, museums, theatres, and cinemas, which preserve, study and expand our amazing cultural heritage and preserve the main driving force of that heritage: our language. Today, I would like to touch on some aspects of this activity and cite some examples.
The importance of cultural heritage is so obvious that it needs no proof. This is our shared wealth, the source of our pride and patriotism, and the foundation on which our future is based. At the same time it is also evident that any wealth can be squandered, any source of pride can be replaced or even turned into a source of shame, which would, naturally, erode the foundation for our future achievements. As such, I would like to thank you, Mr President, for stressing the need for extreme caution with regard to experiments in the sphere of culture and education.
In recent years, a great deal has been done to promote our cultural assets. At the same time there is no need to prove that knowledge of the history of one’s homeland, love of it, and a sense of pride in it are the foundation of our spirituality, identity, and patriotism. It is impossible to love the Motherland in general, as something abstract, and at the same time feel ashamed of one’s hometown or village.
There is not a single place in our country whose history would not provide cause for pride or material for study. Interest in the heritage of one’s home region is steadily growing, with regional studies serving as an academic foundation for the systemic study of historical, cultural, and environmental heritage. Regional studies can satisfy people’s varied interests, and it was no accident that academic Likhachev described it as an educational discipline. The moral payoff of regional studies as a discipline is immense.
It is necessary to think about creating conditions at the national level for the development of a regional studies movement, for municipal and regional support of activists, and for schools, museums and pedagogical universities to promote public initiatives in regional studies and provide an academic basis for research.
I would like to single out for attention a problem that hampers many endeavours. I will illustrate it with an example regarding the preservation of historical and cultural monuments. The public and the media often raise the issue, and the country’s leadership focuses attention on it time and again. However, it is impossible to this day to put an end to the destruction of cultural heritage. It’s not some grand evil plot. I see the main cause in the reluctance, inability and occasional impossibility of pooling the efforts of state heritage protection offices and civic organisations and initiatives.
It is perfectly evident that the state alone cannot preserve hundreds of thousands of identified monuments and many thousands more forgotten. It is no accident that the Constitution stipulates that the preservation of cultural and historical heritage is the duty of every citizen and of the state.
We should create conditions that facilitate cooperation between government and the public, under which monument protection as a form of social activism would be part and parcel of the government system of cultural heritage protection or, in a broader sense, part of the state cultural regulation system.
These objectives require a legislative basis. The regulations on volunteer movements and support of socially important nongovernment organisations, which are being endorsed now, provide a good start. But, first of all, we must change the approach to the study, protection and development of cultural heritage, and regard culture among the key national priorities on a par with economic growth and defence capabilities. That would be a decisive contribution to achieving all our objectives, as it would be an essential part of the process of forming and expanding human capital – the nation’s most precious capital.
Mr President, we have a big request to make: we would like your next address to the Federal Assembly to include a section on the priority role of culture in our country, and on the need to focus our spiritual and material efforts toward this end.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Varlamov, please.
Author, historian of Russian literature, rector of the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute Alexei Varlamov: Mr President, colleagues, friends,
We are talking about culture, and in my view the current situation in culture is cause both for rejoicing and concern. The facts mentioned here earlier make us happy. There is a wonderful forum being held now in St Petersburg, Moscow is hosting the Non-Fiction Book Fair, there are brilliant theatre shows, museums, the things we spoke about today – all that is wonderful. But, unfortunately, this does not apply to all the people in our country, and alongside with the growth of culture, let us be frank about it, lack of culture, offensive behaviour and aggression are also growing and are present in our society. This is disturbing but I think we should neither despair nor get euphoric. We should take a sober approach to these things.
I will speak about literature because this topic is closest to me, and I think that writers are, on the one hand, the happiest people because nobody bashes them, it is absolutely certain that no bureaucrats are banning them, and they ultimately are not dependent on bureaucrats. Writers need neither producers nor managers. All their work, all their property is a sheet of paper, a pen, pencil or a computer today, and it all comes down to your talent: if you write a good book – good for you, if you wrote a bad one – it’s your own fault. But it does not mean there are no problems with reading and literature. There are problems, and very big ones. They are mostly related to book distribution because the number of bookshops in our country is shrinking. The number of literary journals is also going down, and I think this is a very disturbing trend, very disturbing, because Russian literature cannot exist without literary journals, without our tradition.
Of course, a lot of good things are being done. The Year of Literature is over, and I highly appreciate the fact that the Year of Literature was held. The organising committee on supporting book publishing and book distribution is active. The Russian Literature Society has been established, and we have already heard here about initiatives and forms of operation that can be realised to promote reading. But I believe such measures are not sufficient, especially if we speak about young people, because a modern child, a teenager, a modern young person is a pragmatic individual, and he or she needs a clear motive for reading.
At a recent meeting of the presidium of the Council for Culture and Art the council’s member Archimandrite Tikhon, the abbot of the Sretensky Monastery, aired a small film which showed young people approached in the street and asked questions about Russian history and Russian literature. The simplest questions on elementary things, and yet the young people do not know the answers, we have to admit that. Because we, the people who were raised reading the Russian classics, run the risk that new generations will have lost the names of literary characters, the names of writers, our national symbol – the Russian classics, for the sake of which we have gathered here and are discussing it.
I think we have to consider some fundamental measures to promote reading. Writing compositions is one of them. I would also contemplate introducing a Russian literature course at all the universities for all majors, maybe a course on world literature with a basis of Russian literature, because all that is very important and could be very useful. It is already being done at Moscow State University. The idea of a humanities course for all students seems very important to me because education in our country has suffered a certain degree of dehumanisation.
Another key issue I would like to touch upon has to do with the fact that we live in the most ethnically diverse country in the world, the most multicultural country of the world, and this is our wealth, our destiny, our fate. I think that ethnic literatures have suffered greatly in the course of the past events, because the school of artistic translation in our country is gone. And whereas in the past we all knew the names of such wonderful writers as Chingiz Aitmatov, Kaisyn Kuliyev, David Kugultinov, Mustai Karim, Rasul Gamzatov, today, unfortunately, all that is also being washed out of our lives. This is a dangerous symptom because we are all well aware that a writer’s word can bring peace, and it can also bring strife.
Russian literature and the Russian language have always been a gateway for national literatures in our country. Today that gateway is only half open, regretfully. We at the Literary Institute, which I head, are trying to revive those traditions, re-instating the chair of artistic translation from the languages of the peoples of Russia. But I don’t think the efforts of the Literary Institute alone will be enough. In the course of my visits, my talks with colleagues from the constituent republics, from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Belarus, an idea emerged to set up the House of National Literatures in Moscow. I believe this is a very good initiative because such an institution could be a good venue for cultural exchanges, for a dialogue, for understanding and internalising the fact that the Russian language is our circulatory system, and it is through the Russian language that those literatures would be spreading throughout the entire world. Unfortunately, if we do not work on this, since nature abhors a vacuum, then other languages may arrive to replace Russian because there are many who do not like the friendship among the peoples of Russia. I would like to ask you, Mr President, to support this idea.
On November 4, at the unveiling of the monument to Prince Vladimir, Natalya Solzhenitsyn made a very good speech. She said the Soviet past had terrible, evil, unjust, bitter pages, but there were also good pages. I am sure that the friendship of our peoples, our multinational literature and the Russian language with the tremendous role it used to play here is the good that we must never lose. I am confident that the House of National Literatures could serve as a solid foundation, a depository, a real act in strengthening the ties between the peoples of Russia, our brotherly peoples. Mr President, I would like to give you, a small project of such a house.
Vladimir Putin: It is a good idea. We will have to work on it together. Thank you very much.
Ms Verbitskaya, please.
President of the Russian Academy of Education Lyudmila Verbitskaya:
Mr President, colleagues, friends,
We are well aware that there is no issue more important than, from my perspective, the issue of the Russian language and its preservation because, in fact, the issue of the Russian language’s preservation is the issue of security of our Fatherland.
Mr President, a great deal has already been done. We have some great work from the International Association of Teachers of the Russian Language and Literature, which unites almost 80 countries, as well as the Russian Society of Teachers of the Russian Language in the most diverse Russian regions. I am very glad that the Society of Russian Literature has actually started operating. There are eight working groups resolving the most diverse issues dealing with life, development of language, dictionaries, reference materials, textbooks and manuals. This is excellent. There are also wonderful programmes of the Pushkin Institute, which have attracted around a million users.
But I believe that today it is very important to talk about the issues that cannot be ignored, because, as I have already told you, Mr President, you are the only person, who asks the question: how is it pronounced? There are many people who use different pronunciation, but they do not ask since they are convinced that they are saying it right.
Here is what I would like to tell you: if we think about the preservation of the Russian language, first of all we need to look at what is happening with the Russian language inside Russia. When Mr President signed his Executive Order on the establishment of the Russian World foundation, the first objective assigned to us was to preserve the Russian language, our wonderful, vivid, evocative language inside Russia. And the second objective was to promote it beyond the borders of our Fatherland.
And what have we seen? A colloquial style has penetrated the literary speech everywhere. I rarely watch our TV programmes, but a colloquial style has penetrated the television as well. There is a huge number and a wide variety of mistakes. Practically all advertisements contain mistakes.
A great number of borrowings which are not needed in cases when there are wonderful Russian words. I sincerely ask all the officials in charge of culture and education present in this hall: please do your best to make sure that we hear Russian words all around us in those cases when there is no need to indicate new notions, new directions of science.
(Lyudmila Verbitskaya went on to talk about teacher training in Russia, particularly, the training of teachers of the Russian language and literature.)
Briefly about the importance of reading. Mr President, several years ago you asked us to draft a list of 100 books no Russian can live without. There is such a list, and now we are improving it. But let us ask ourselves how it turned out that in 2014 the number of Russians who have not read a single book in their lives reached 30 percent of the population. How is that possible?
What I would like to say as well, when we all studied (I realise that there are almost no people of my age or very few of them), we remember that our teachers did not need any textbooks or curricula because these were outstanding, creative individuals. I would really like to return the proper resonance to the word “teacher” by forgetting all these words like “education services” as soon as possible, and to have wonderful teachers once again.
I would ask all of you: please do not stay indifferent to what you hear around you, do not be afraid to correct someone, I really hope that apart from the President of the Russian Federation, who asks questions, there are other people who would like to know how words are pronounced correctly.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Piotrovsky, please.
Director of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky: Mr President, colleagues,
One year ago, at a cultural forum, we urged to use force to protect cultural monuments. Several months later Palmyra was liberated and we are all thankful for that. Since that time our cultural and scientific institutions have been working in difficult conditions, conducting initial studies, and they have created a 3D map of Palmyra. This is something that opens opportunities for further work. We must carefully define the next stage of cooperation with Syria, UNESCO, Interpol, international organisations, and our colleagues in different countries. We are doing all of this.
There are discussions conducted around the world on ways to protect cultural monuments. I have just been to London. There are a lot of such conferences, and everywhere we bring with us and disseminate Dmitry Likhachev's Declaration of the Rights of Culture. This is a great document, a principal document, because we need an ideology of protecting culture rather than a simple conversation that it is a good thing and we need to protect it. As it turned out, this declaration is more than just a great document. It is juxtaposed to a very different ideology. Because when people speak about ways to protect cultural monuments they say: “Let’s spread the famous humanitarian intervention doctrine in this culture.” The very doctrine that justified the invasion of Libya and so on. One can say that Likhachev’s declaration shows how these political doctrines are unacceptable and what is really important is an ideology that will protect us.
But our mission is to talk about the rights of the domestic culture. The language is connected to many different problems we have. A general meeting of the Union of Russian Museums has been held recently, where we talked about this. We said that it is an understatement to say that the style of communication between the people and institutions, culture and community is poor; in fact, it is arduous. Cultural institutions often deal with what we call a crowd dictate and crowd censorship in a very complicated environment. This is a difficult contact, because there is a word “service” which is constantly applied to what we do. In fact we – museums, cultural institutions – perform a national state function, not provide a service. A service is something very simple: I bought a ticket and I must get what I want.
This brings us to another word, a very important word – “accessibility”. What is accessibility? Does it mean that you can walk in and touch anything in a museum? Or you can listen to something, find out what you need, get an explanation, learn – does that give you access to the cultural values of the people who tell you about them, the values that exist or are created? We have a cultural illiteracy, which becomes an aggression. And education is the response to it. We thought that everything was all right with education at a certain level. No, we still have a lot to explain, to clarify. And when there is an exhibition that is not clear for many people, we hold dozens of workshops, dozens of different excursions, explanations, publications in order to start and hold a very important dialogue, which we try to launch.
Mr President, during the last session of the Council for Science we discussed the National Strategy of Scientific and Technological Development. You have already approved an Executive Order. And then concerns were voiced about the almost total absence of humanities in this programme. There are some, but their number is small. This omission has to be rectified and, in particular, with the help of our Council as well. <…>. I support the things we have been discussing. Mr President, culture must be recognised as a priority in our public life. Our St Petersburg International Cultural Forum, which is being held now and which is full of very interesting and very heated debates that attract everyone’s attention, is proof that there are huge opportunities which will be very useful for society, and they must be used.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Mr Piotrovsky, you mentioned Palmyra. This is your job to a large extent, and there is nothing surprising that you went there but still I would like to thank you. Fifty-degree heat and the sound of cannons. It was a special mission with Mr Gergiev, with his wonderful orchestra. Of course, we will do our best to help you and further undertake the necessary efforts to preserve monuments of international culture and in our country as well.
As for services in the field of culture. The colleagues raised this issue several times. You know we have a lot of purely professional clichés. Demographers have a notion of “survival time”. Sounds depressing and terrible. But it turned out to be a professional cliché. This is especially relevant for some budget activity or budget process. There are such clich
Opening of the central section of the Western High-Speed Diameter
Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the central section of the Western High-Speed Diameter toll road in St Petersburg.
December 2, 2016
Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the central section of the Western High-Speed Diameter toll road in St Petersburg.
The Western High-Speed Diameter is a 46.6-kilometre road with a total length, including all exit and entry ramps and interchanges, of over 70 kilometres. It features 15 interchanges, and its width varies from four to eight lanes. The new road is expected to ease congestion in the historic centre of St Petersburg, the St Petersburg Ring Road and road network, enabling drivers to cross the city in less than 20 minutes.
The section of the Western High-Speed Diameter that was launched today links the southern and northern parts of the St Petersburg Ring Road, and provides a connection with the Scandinavia motorway. The northern and southern parts of the road are already in operation.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, I want to thank all of your teams, builders, engineers, and all those who participated in the construction effort. This is a big event not only for St Petersburg, but the entire northwest as well. I think you are well aware of it, because this expressway will connect the city’s business centres, and a huge number of vehicles will be able to bypass the historic centre.
Currently, the existing sections are used by 3 million vehicles a month. We just heard that after the central section opens to traffic, this number will increase to 6–7 million a month. Can you imagine the enormous number of vehicles which will go around the city centre? This will help preserve the historic centre, and will certainly improve the environmental situation and air quality.
Among other things, the economic component is very significant, because the expressway will help promote commercial activity in these city districts. Again, this is the largest public-private partnership project. It cost 210 billion rubles. Construction began in 2005 and is now complete. This is an important milestone for St Petersburg.
Thank you very much. Please accept my congratulations on this accomplishment. A big thank you goes to all the participants, including our friends from foreign companies. I hope you enjoyed working here, and we will think about doing more such projects in the future. Thank you.
Remark: We are proud to work here, with you, and for you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I hope you enjoyed it. This is a beautiful, ambitious and modern project. It involved many specialists, including our major research centres and enterprises, which supplied all that was needed.
Remark: We hope we will have another chance after Pulkovo.
Vladimir Putin: Of course, you just need to talk with the people who are in charge of such projects. Perhaps you are aware of the plans that are being implemented here in the northwest, and our future plans. So, we will talk about them by all means, and continue to work.
Thank you very much. Good luck.