The main item on the meeting’s agenda was developing humanitarian cooperation with other countries at government and public level in the aim of promoting objective information about Russia’s history and present, including its role in the victory over Nazism.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today, we are holding this meeting of the Russian Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee to discuss ways to develop our international cooperation and make fuller use of our humanitarian ties’ tremendous potential in our work together with others who are on the same page with us and think along the same lines as we do.
Work to preserve and defend the historical truth about World War II and the traditions and spirit of alliance in the fight against Nazism plays a great role here. In our view, this is above all a moral and human concept, a moral and human duty to the generation of victors, to those who fell for their motherland, and to those who revived and developed the country after the Great Patriotic War. This historical truth cements society and provides a spiritual foundation and basic values for development and for giving people of various generations the sense of being part of a truly united nation.
At the same time, we pursue open discussion of even the most controversial aspects of history, not only from the World War II period, but from other eras too. We take the view that no matter how difficult and contradictory history may be, it is there not to make us quarrel, but to warn us against mistakes and help us to strengthen our good neighbourly ties.
Historical revision opens the road to a revision of the foundations of the modern world order and erosion of key principles of international law and security that took shape following World War II.
Sadly, there are other approaches to history too, of course, which attempt to turn it into a political and ideological weapon. We see the risks that arise from a cynical approach to the past. We see how falsification and manipulation of historical facts create division between countries and peoples, draw new dividing lines and create supposed enemies.
The line that same countries now follow, and which elevates Nazism to heroic status and justifies the Nazis’ accomplices, is particularly dangerous. Not only does it insult the memory of the victims of Nazi crimes, but it feeds nationalist, xenophobic and radical forces.
I want to emphasise too that historical revision opens the road to a revision of the very foundations of the modern world order and the erosion of the key principles of international law and security that took shape following World War II. We have said before what great risks this could have for everyone today.
Colleagues, we must stand up for an objective approach to history and pursue consistent and steady work on patriotic education, support public initiatives such as search movements or historical reconstructions, develop ties with compatriots abroad, look after the memorials here at home and abroad, and respond firmly to all acts of vandalism.
I think it particularly important to ensure broad access to archival materials, facilitate their publication and give people the possibility of turning to the original sources. This is an effective means of combating all kinds of inventions and myths.
We need to publish and store these archival and other materials on modern and good quality internet resources with interactive capability and enable convenient search for needed information. We need to focus on young people above all in this work and offer and promote these resources with the help of social networks.
Let me add that we are always open to honest and professional discussions on historical themes and joint research on even the most sensitive issues, at all levels what’s more, from large-scale intergovernmental programmes to bilateral contacts between regions, twin cities, universities, museums, scholars and researchers.
Common historical dates, including those that recall our brotherhood in battle and our cooperation during World War II are a good occasion for organising international conferences, round tables and exhibitions. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the legendary Normandie-Nieman regiment.
We have less than three weeks to go before May 9. I am sure that streets in Russia and abroad will once again fill with crowds of people willing to join the ranks of the Immortal Regiment. This deeply symbolic and touching event took place in 50 countries last year. This is the best proof of international cooperation’s colossal potential and of how a commitment to historical truth and our common memory brings people closer and unites them, and strengthens the mutual trust so greatly needed in Europe and around the world today.
The Foreign Ministry has overseen the drafting of a report and plan for comprehensive measures in the areas I have mentioned in humanitarian and international cooperation. We will discuss this document today.
Please, you have the floor, Mr Karasin.
Historical truth cements society and provides a spiritual foundation and basic values for development and for giving people of various generations the sense of being part of a truly united nation.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin: Mr President, colleagues,
At this time of new challenges in global affairs, promoting objective information about our country and its past and present and responding to attempts to falsify history are undoubted priorities for the Foreign Ministry and the other agencies engaged in international activity. We are pursuing this work in accordance with the new draft of Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept that you approved in November 2016. Today, these efforts are particularly important.
Over recent years, history has become a target for the large-scale information campaign unleashed against our country and aiming to contain it and weaken its authority on the international stage.
Constant attempts to revise the results of World War II as enshrined in the UN Charter and other international legal documents are of particular concern, as are attempts to paint with the same brush Nazi Germany, the aggressor country, and the Soviet Union, whose people bore the brunt of the war and who freed Europe from the fascist plague, thereby ensuring the continent’s peaceful development for decades to come. We continue to give utmost attention to responding to this hostile line. We consistently advance the argument, including in key international forums, that it was the united anti-Nazi coalition’s efforts that not only vanquished Nazism but also created the post-war world order and its institutions, including the United Nations Organisation, and gave the human rights protection system its current shape.
We constantly remind our partners of the enduring significance of the Nuremburg tribunal’s decisions that stated in clear and unambiguous terms who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil.
It was at our proposal that the UN General Assembly passes every year a resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that cause escalation of modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
To expand and support this base, the Foreign Ministry works in concerted fashion in multilateral formats and during bilateral contacts with our partners abroad.
A new resolution was adopted at the plenary session of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York last December. 136 countries voted for this document. Only two delegations voted against it: the USA and Ukraine. 49 countries abstained. It is particularly important and valuable that the number of UN member states acting as co-authors of the document, increased to 55.
We are also making active use of the potential of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. We are developing cooperation with our partners and like-minded thinkers in the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, SCO and the BRICS group, including through adopting joint statements and organising events to mark important dates in the history of World War II.
We organise thematic exhibitions, photo shows, film showings, and round tables with participation by representatives of Russian and foreign NGOs on the sidelines of various international forums. We believe that acting against falsification of history is an important uniting factor in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
This subject has been discussed regularly at meetings of the CIS charter bodies. The CIS Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Fund plays a particular role in this work. The big projects it is helping to carry out include the annual international forum of the victors, The Great Victory Achieved by Unity. Last year, the forum took place in Minsk. On April 28 this year, the forum will take place in Astana.
We are pleased to see the growing interest in the Victory from our compatriots abroad. Members of Russian-speaking communities actively take part in campaigns such as the St George Ribbon campaign, take part in search and memorial work, and seek to spread objective information to the general public in their countries of residence on the war years’ events.
The Immortal Regiment event is also spreading to more and more countries. Last year, it took place in more than 50 countries. It is pleasing to see that in a number of countries, including Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Serbia, the United States and France, people from these countries have joined the processions of our compatriots abroad.
Every year, as part of the Victory Day celebrations, members of the Russian communities abroad organise concerts, conferences and photo exhibitions. In our neighbouring countries, children from Russian-language schools, students at the branches of our universities and Slavic universities, and Great Patriotic War veterans take part in these events.
In today’s situation, interregional cooperation plays a big part in maintaining trust, including cooperation between twin cities. Over the last 2–2.5 years, ties between twin cities have not diminished at all, but have actually grown stronger in many ways. We will do everything we can to encourage and intensify this kind of cooperation, which helps to cement sympathetic feelings towards our country.
We must stand up for an objective approach to history and pursue steady work on patriotic education, support public initiatives such as search movements or historical reconstructions, look after the memorials here at home and abroad, and respond firmly to all acts of vandalism.
Work on military memorials is an important part of preserving the historical memory and enables us to maintain mutual understanding, including with countries with which our relations have their difficult or controversial moments.
To work in fullest measure to preserve and immortalise the memory of the Russian and Soviet soldiers who fell defending their homeland abroad, the Foreign Ministry makes an ongoing effort to expand and bolster the bilateral legal base in this area.
Bilateral commissions of historians play a particular role in a depoliticised and comprehensive discussion of history, including its most difficult chapters. In particular, the Russian-Austrian, Russian-German, and Russian-Lithuanian commissions have been working for many years now at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for World History, as well as the International Association of the Institutes of History of the CIS Countries. These commissions organise conferences, round tables, work to publish important archival documents and publish joint books and articles. Their members include heads of archives, research centres and universities, and prominent historians.
Cooperation between archives is developing productively. Rosarkhiv (federal archival service) has concluded agreements with colleagues in 55 countries and is successfully pursuing dialogue with the International Council on Archives. We welcome and support the activity of NGOs such as the Russian Historical Society, the Russian Military Historical Society, the Historical Perspective Foundation, the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, and the Historical Memory Foundation.
The Historical Perspective Foundation is carrying out particularly fruitful and effective work, based on its broad contacts abroad and authoritative expert potential, and also with support from the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, implementing information publishing programmes at international forums.
Rossotrudnichestvo and its offices abroad, our cultural and science centres, also play a big part in spreading objective information on our country to the public in countries abroad. They organise comprehensive events that put their main focus on issues such as preserving historical memory and preventing attempts to distort the history of World War II.
Veterans’ organisations traditionally make a big contribution to promoting historical truth and patriotic education among young people.
It would be difficult to overestimate the role the mass media play in getting Russia’s position across to the general public abroad. We think it important to continue making active use of traditional media’s potential and also making best use of modern information and communications technology, including the instruments of digital diplomacy.
We are always open to honest and professional discussions on historical themes and joint research on even the most sensitive issues, at all levels what’s more, from large-scale intergovernmental programmes to bilateral contacts between regions, twin cities, universities, museums, scholars and researchers.
Russian museums’ exhibitions organised abroad continue to play an important part in spreading information about Russia. The Central Museum of the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War is particularly active in international exchanges between museums.
I note too th