Good afternoon, friends, ladies and
I hope that the place for your discussions, for our meetings is
well chosen and that the timing is good. We are in the centre of
Russia - not a geographical centre, but a spiritual one.
[Novgorod Region] is a cradle of Russian statehood.
Our outstanding historians believe
and have analyzed how the elements of Russian statehood came
together right here. This is in the light of the fact that two
great rivers - the Volkhov and Neva - acted as natural means of
communication, providing a natural linkage at the time. And it
was here that Russian statehood gradually began to emerge.
As has already been pointed out, this year the [Valdai] club has
brought together an unprecedented list of participants: more
than 200 Russian and foreign politicians, public and spiritual
leaders, philosophers and cultural figures, people with very
different, original and sometimes opposing views.
You have already been conferring here for a few days now, and
I'll try not to bore you unduly. But nevertheless, I will allow
myself to state my views on subjects that you have touched on
during these discussions in one way or another.
I am not only thinking about
analyzing Russian historical, cultural, and governance
First and foremost, I am thinking of
general debates, conversations about the future, strategies, and
values, about the values underpinning our country's development,
how global processes will affect our national identity, what
kind of twenty-first-century world we want to see, and what
Russia, our country, can contribute to this world together with
Today we need new strategies to preserve our identity in a
rapidly changing world, a world that has become more open,
transparent and interdependent.
This fact confronts virtually all
countries and all peoples in one form or another: Russian,
European, Chinese and American - the societies of virtually all
countries. And naturally, including here in Valdai, we strive to
better understand how our partners are attempting to meet this
challenge, because we are meeting here with experts on Russia.
But we proceed from the fact that
our guests will state their views on the interaction and
relationship between Russia and the countries that you
For us (and I am talking about Russians and Russia), questions
about who we are and who we want to be are increasingly
prominent in our society. We have left behind Soviet ideology,
and there will be no return. Proponents of fundamental
conservatism who idealize pre-1917 Russia seem to be similarly
far from reality, as are supporters of an extreme, western-style
It is evident that it is impossible to move forward without
spiritual, cultural and national self-determination. Without
this we will not be able to withstand internal and external
challenges, nor we will succeed in global competitions. And
today we see a new round of such competitions.
Today their main focuses are
economic-technological and ideological-informational.
Military-political problems and general conditions are
worsening. The world is becoming more rigid, and sometimes
forgoes not merely international law, but also basic decency.
[Every country] has to have military, technological and economic
strength, but nevertheless the main thing that will determine
success is the quality of citizens, the quality of society:
their intellectual, spiritual
and moral strength.
After all, in the end economic
growth, prosperity and geopolitical influence are all derived
from societal conditions.
They depend on whether the citizens
of a given country consider themselves a nation, to what extent
they identify with their own history, values and traditions,
and whether they are united by common goals and
In this sense, the question of
finding and strengthening national identity really is
fundamental for Russia.
Meanwhile, today Russia's national identity is experiencing not
only objective pressures stemming
from globalization, but also
the consequences of the national catastrophes of the twentieth
century, when we experienced the collapse of our state two
The result was a devastating blow to
our nation's cultural and spiritual codes; we were faced with
the disruption of traditions and the consonance of history, with
the demoralization of society, with a deficit of trust and
responsibility. These are the root causes of many pressing
problems we face.
After all, the question of
responsibility for oneself, before society and the law, is
something fundamental for both legal and everyday life.
After 1991 there was the illusion that a new national ideology,
a development ideology, would simply appear by itself. The
state, authorities, intellectual and political classes virtually
rejected engaging in this work, all the more so since previous,
semi-official ideology was hard to swallow.
And in fact they were all simply
afraid to even broach the subject.
In addition, the lack of a national
idea stemming from a national identity profited the
quasi-colonial element of the elite - those determined to steal
and remove capital, and who did not link their future to that of
the country, the place where they earned their money.
Practice has shown that a new national idea does not simply
appear, nor does it develop according to market rules. A
spontaneously constructed state and society does not work, and
neither does mechanically copying other countries' experiences.
Such primitive borrowing and attempts to civilize Russia from
abroad were not accepted by an absolute majority of our people.
This is because the desire for
independence and sovereignty in spiritual, ideological and
foreign policy spheres is an integral part of our national
character. Incidentally, such approaches have often failed in
other nations too. The time when ready-made lifestyle models
could be installed in foreign states like computer programs has
We also understand that identity and a national idea cannot be
imposed from above, cannot be established on an ideological
Such a construction is very unstable
and vulnerable; we know this from personal experience. It has no
future in the modern world. We need historical creativity, a
synthesis of the best national practices and ideas, an
understanding of our cultural, spiritual and political
traditions from different points of view, and to understand that
[national identity] is not a rigid thing that will last forever,
but rather a living organism.
Only then will our identity be based
on a solid foundation, be directed towards the future and not
This is the main argument
demonstrating that a development ideology must be discussed by
people who hold different views, and have different opinions
about how and what to do to solve given problems.
All of us - so-called Neo-Slavophiles and Neo-Westernizers,
statists and so-called liberals - all of society must work
together to create common development goals.
We need to break the habit of only
listening to like-minded people, angrily - and even with hatred
- rejecting any other point of view from the outset. You can't
flip or even kick the country's future like a football, plunging
into unbridled nihilism, consumerism, criticism of anything and
everything, or gloomy pessimism.
This means that liberals have to learn to talk with
representatives of the left-wing and, conversely, that
nationalists must remember that Russia was formed specifically
as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country from its very
Nationalists must remember that by
calling into question our multi-ethnic character, and exploiting
the issue of Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Siberian or any other
nationalism or separatism, means that we are starting to destroy
our genetic code.
In effect, we will begin to destroy
Russia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity are
unconditional. These are red lines no one is allowed to cross.
For all the differences in our views, debates about identity and
about our national future are impossible unless their
participants are patriotic. Of course I mean patriotism in the
purest sense of the word.
Too often in our nation's history, instead of opposition to the
government we have been faced with opponents of Russia itself. I
have already mentioned this; Pushkin also talked about it. And
we know how it ended, with the demolition of the [Russian] state
There is virtually no Russian family
that completely escaped the troubles of the past century.
Questions about how to assess certain historical events still
divide our country and society.
We need to heal these wounds, and repair the tissues of our
historic fabric. We can no longer engage in self-deception,
striking out unsightly or ideologically uncomfortable pages of
our history, breaking links between generations, rushing to
extremes, creating or debunking idols. It's time to stop only
taking note of the bad in our history, and berating ourselves
more than even our opponents would do.
[Self-]criticism is necessary, but
without a sense of self-worth, or love for our Fatherland, such
criticism becomes humiliating and counterproductive.
We must be proud of our history, and we have things to be proud
of. Our entire, uncensored history must be a part of Russian
identity. Without recognizing this it is impossible to establish
mutual trust and allow society to move forward.
Another serious challenge to Russia's identity is linked to
events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign
policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the
Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots,
including the Christian values that constitute the basis of
They are denying moral principles
and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious
and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate
large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with
the belief in Satan.
The excesses of political correctness have reached the point
where people are seriously talking about registering political
parties whose aim is
to promote pedophilia. People
in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk
about their religious affiliations.
Holidays are abolished or even
called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is
their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to
export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this
opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in
a profound demographic and moral crisis.
What else but the loss of the ability to self-reproduce could
act as the greatest testimony of the moral crisis facing a human
Today almost all developed nations
are no longer able to reproduce themselves, even with the help
of migration. Without the values embedded in Christianity and
other world religions, without the standards of morality that
have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose
their human dignity.
We consider it natural and right to
defend these values. One must respect every minority's right
to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put
At the same time we see attempts to somehow revive a
standardized model of a unipolar world and to blur the
institutions of international law and national sovereignty.
Such a unipolar, standardized world
does not require sovereign states; it requires vassals. In a
historical sense this amounts to a rejection of one's own
identity, of the God-given diversity of the world.
Russia agrees with those who believe that key decisions should
be worked out on a collective basis, rather than at the
discretion of and in the interests of certain countries or
groups of countries.
Russia believes that international
law, not the right of the strong, must apply. And we believe
that every country, every nation is not exceptional, but unique,
original and benefits from equal rights, including the right to
independently choose their own development path.
This is our conceptual outlook, and it follows from our own
historical destiny and Russia's role in global politics. Our
present position has deep historical roots. Russia itself has
evolved on the basis of diversity, harmony and balance, and
brings such a balance to the international stage.
I want to remind you that the Congress of Vienna of 1815 and the
agreements made at Yalta in 1945, taken with Russia's very
active participation, secured a lasting peace. Russia's
strength, the strength of a winning nation at those critical
junctures, manifested itself as generosity and justice.
And let us remember [the
Treaty of] Versailles,
concluded without Russia's participation.
Many experts, and I absolutely agree
with them, believe that Versailles laid the foundation for the
Second World War because the Treaty of Versailles was unfair to
the German people:
it imposed restrictions with
which they could not cope, and the course of the next
century became clear.
There is one more fundamental aspect
to which I want to draw your attention.
In Europe and some other countries
so-called multiculturalism is in many respects a transplanted,
artificial model that is now being questioned, for
understandable reasons. This is because it is based on paying
for the colonial past.
It is no accident that today
European politicians and public figures are increasingly talking
about the failures of multiculturalism, and that they are not
able to integrate foreign languages or foreign cultural elements
into their societies.
Over the past centuries in Russia, which some have tried to
label as the "prison of nations", not even the smallest ethnic
group has disappeared. And they have retained not only their
internal autonomy and cultural identity, but also their
You know, I was interested to learn
(I did not even know this) that in Soviet times [authorities]
paid such careful attention to this that virtually every small
ethnic group had its own print publication, support for its
language, and for its national literature. We should bring back
and take on board much of what has been done in this respect.
Along with this the different cultures in Russia have the unique
experience of mutual influence, mutual enrichment and mutual
respect. This multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity lives in our
historical consciousness, in our spirit and in our historical
makeup. Our state was built in the course of a millennium on
this organic model.
Russia - as philosopher Konstantin Leontyev vividly put
it - has always evolved in "blossoming complexity" as a
state-civilization, reinforced by the Russian people, Russian
language, Russian culture, Russian Orthodox Church and the
country's other traditional religions.
It is precisely the
state-civilization model that has shaped our state polity. It
has always sought to flexibly accommodate the ethnic and
religious specificity of particular territories, ensuring
diversity in unity.
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions are
an integral part of Russia's identity, its historical heritage
and the present-day lives of its citizens. The main task of the
state, as enshrined in the Constitution, is to ensure equal
rights for members of traditional religions and atheists, and
the right to freedom of conscience for all citizens.
However, it is clearly impossible to identify oneself only
through one's ethnicity or religion in such a large nation with
a multi-ethnic population. In order to maintain the nation's
unity, people must develop a civic identity on the basis of
shared values, a patriotic consciousness, civic responsibility
and solidarity, respect for the law, and a sense of
responsibility for their homeland's fate, without losing touch
with their ethnic or religious roots.
There are broad discussions on how the ideology of national
development will be structured politically and conceptually -
including with your participation, colleagues.
But I deeply believe that
individuals' personal, moral, intellectual and physical
development must remain at the heart of our philosophy.
Back at the start of the 1990s,
Solzhenitsyn stated that the nation's main goal should be to
preserve the population after a very difficult 20th century.
Today, we must admit that we have not yet fully overcome the
negative demographic trends, although we have veered away from a
dangerous decline in the national potential.
Unfortunately, throughout our nation's history, little value was
given at times to individual human lives. Too often, people were
seen simply as a means, rather than a goal and a mission for
development. We no longer have that right and we cannot throw
millions of human lives into the fire for the sake of
development. We must treasure every individual.
Russia's main strength in this and
future centuries will lie in its educated, creative, physically
and spiritually healthy people, rather than natural resources.
The role of education is all the more important because in order
to educate an individual, a patriot, we must restore the role of
great Russian culture and literature. They must serve as the
foundation for people's personal identity, the source of their
uniqueness and their basis for understanding the national idea.
Here, a great deal depends on the
teaching community, which has been and remains a highly
important guardian of nationwide values, ideas and philosophies.
This community speaks the same
language - the language of science, knowledge and education,
despite the fact that it is spread out over an enormous
territory, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. In this way, the
community of teachers, the educational community overall, in the
broad sense of the word, binds the nation together.
Supporting this community is one of
the most important steps on the path toward a strong,
I want to stress again that without focusing our efforts on
people's education and health, creating mutual responsibility
between the authorities and each individual, and establishing
trust within society, we will be losers in the competition of
Russia's citizens must feel that
they are the responsible owners of their country, region,
hometown, property, belongings and their lives. A citizen is
someone who is capable of independently managing his or her own
affairs, freely cooperating with equals.
Local governments and self-regulated citizens' organizations
serve as the best school for civic consciousness. Of course, I'm
referring to non-profits. Incidentally, one of the best Russian
political traditions, the country council tradition, was also
built on the principles of local government.
A true civil society and a true,
nationally-focused political elite, including the opposition
with its own ideology, values and standards for good and evil -
their own, rather than those dictated by the media or from
abroad - can only grow through effective self-governing
The government is prepared to trust
self-regulating and self-governing associations, but we must
know whom we are trusting. This is absolutely normal global
practice, which is precisely why we have passed new legislation
to increase the transparency of nongovernmental organizations.
Speaking of any kind of reforms, it is important to bear in mind
that there is more to our nation than just Moscow and St
In developing Russian federalism, we
must rely on our own historical experience, using flexible and
diverse models. The Russian model of federalism has a great deal
of potential built into it.
It is imperative that we learn to
use it competently, not forgetting its most important aspect:
the development of the regions
and their independence should create equal opportunities for
all of our nation's citizens, regardless of where they live,
to eliminate inequalities in the economic and social
development of Russia's territory, thereby strengthening the
Ultimately, this is a huge challenge
because these territories' development has been very unbalanced
over the course of decades and even centuries.
I would like to touch on another topic.
The 21st century promises to become
the century of major changes, the era of the formation of major
geopolitical zones, as well as financial and economic, cultural,
civilizational, and military and political areas. That is why
integrating with our neighbors is our absolute priority.
The future Eurasian Economic Union,
which we have declared and which we have discussed extensively
as of late, is not just a collection of mutually beneficial
agreements. The Eurasian Union is a project for maintaining the
identity of nations in the historical Eurasian space in a new
century and in a new world.
Eurasian integration is a chance for
the entire post-Soviet space to become an independent centre for
global development, rather than remaining on the outskirts of
Europe and Asia.
I want to stress that Eurasian integration will also be built on
the principle of diversity.
This is a union where everyone
maintains their identity, their distinctive character and their
political independence. Together with our partners, we will
gradually implement this project, step by step. We expect that
it will become our common input into maintaining diversity and
stable global development.
Colleagues, the years after 1991 are often referred to as the
post-Soviet era. We have lived through and overcome that
turbulent, dramatic period. Russia has passed through these
trials and tribulations and is returning to itself, to its own
history, just as it did at other points in its history.
After consolidating our national
identity, strengthening our roots, and remaining open and
receptive to the best ideas and practices of the East and the
West, we must and will move forward.
Thank you very much for your attention.