Excerpts from transcript of Talking of What Matters open lesson
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Hello, everyone.
Please forgive me for being a bit late, but I had another event for September 1, Knowledge Day – the opening of five Russian schools in Tajikistan. The President of Tajikistan and I agreed to do this long ago. They are obviously short of Russian schools, schools with instruction in Russian. We helped them open five schools in five cities in Tajikistan, and we will also send teachers there to teach the Russian language, literature, maths and some other subjects. They will do everything in accordance with Russian standards and based on Russian study materials.
This is what I wanted to say at the outset. I also wanted to add to this what I said there, and now, speaking to this audience, I would like to return to the main thing – to congratulate you on the start of the academic year, September 1. I would like to extend my best wishes to you, your grandparents and parents, teachers, all schoolchildren and all students – all those who begin their studies on September 1.
This is a completely new phase in life for many of those who came to school. I am referring, of course, to first graders. We have many of them this year, almost two million or 1,918,000 to be precise. They are starting a new and serious chapter in life, their adult life in a sense, and you feel this yourselves. Why is that? Because you are assuming responsibilities and this is, naturally, the first step into adulthood.
As for children who already have a few years of school under their belts, the main thing is to look for your own identity, to search for your own path in order to lead a fulfilling life, reach your potential and achieve the goals you set for yourself. This is very important, and not only for you personally but also for the country because its success depends on the success of each of you.
You know this joke: by carefully chewing your food, you are helping society. But there is a grain of truth in this. In the same way, an active lifestyle, as well as playing sports – if you exercise and do sports, improve your health, along with having to spend less on pills, on medicine, you also become more efficient, more energetic, more vigorous, and more purposeful. This helps you achieve success. And if it helps each person achieve success, then it contributes to the development of the nation as a whole, because a country’s success is added up from the success of each particular person.
Our country is developing rapidly, and of course, we need each person to be successful. True, Russia, as well as the world, is going through events that require a cautious approach and careful analysis, so that we can act decisively and carefully at the same time, and every step we take should be aimed at strengthening our country from within and reinforcing its standing in the world. This is not easy of course, but once again, I would like to reiterate the point that I just made: this country’s success will depend on you being successful in the future. And that begins to take shape at school, where your path begins.
And it is very important to find yourself – this is probably the most important thing for everyone. Many people keep searching all their lives and cannot find what they truly want or value right away, not after school, not even after university or professional training. Many change careers, and this is basically normal. This is especially important in the modern world, because the requirements – I will use some adult terminology – the requirements of the labour market are changing constantly. Science and education are going through swift and dynamic change. Naturally, we must create a knowledge acquisition paradigm in which acquired knowledge is, on the one hand, broad enough and, on the other hand, allows us to specialise and use this knowledge in a range of industries. This will make it much easier to make the first steps in one's career path. My wish for you is that you achieve this, it is very important.
That concludes my remarks. What we are doing is called a lesson, which sounds so serious. But I do not think this should be a lesson; perhaps it will be a useful conversation, a frank discussion, and, I hope, interesting for you.
Who wants to go first, please?
Vladimir Putin (answering a question on the development of science in Russia under the conditions when the country “appears to have been cut off from many foreign technologies” asked by Kira Golovataya from Moscow, who is interested in biotechnologies): Regarding the issue of someone cutting someone off from something, it is really hard to do it in the modern world, in the world of information dissemination, including research data, the internet and so on. Can you imagine it? It is practically impossible. Meanwhile, certain areas in science and technology are very hard to develop without Russia at all. For example, there are large international projects with our European partners where we have over 70 percent participation. They are really hard to implement at all [without us].
For example, in space, despite all the problems, our partners have declared that they want to continue cooperation, because although the Americans can also deliver materials, equipment and astronauts to the ISS, it costs several times more than by using our rockets. They all love to count and can do it very well down there.
Therefore, it is impossible to cut off everything. But this is not the point; the point is that we must develop such key areas inside the country. We must not be in a position where we are catching up or only focus on what we can do equally well. We must lead in key areas. We must hold the keys to certain areas of scientific research.
Biotechnologies are certainly among the most promising research areas. We have a programme for up to 2030. If memory serves me right, over 120 billion rubles have been earmarked for this programme.
However, it is crucial that problems in both fundamental and applied science are being solved so that the results of such research affect the development of our industry and science, separate sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medicine, agriculture and others. Overall, we have been successful in that.
Domestically produced instruments and devices are among the acute problems that are far from being resolved at present, of course. We obviously have to make very serious steps forward in this respect, and we have a whole programme for developing domestic instrument engineering.
Thus, we are aware of what is to be done. I completely agree with you that it is one of the crucial areas, and I hope we will be making progress in it with your participation.
Vladimir Putin (responding to Alexander Smolin, 12, from Skopin, Ryazan Region, who spoke about how he and his friends visit elderly people in a nursing home): It might be difficult at your age to grasp what I am going to say but on the other hand, there might be nothing difficult in it at all.
You say it was your mum who brought you there for the first time, right? It means your mother has a kind heart. That is absolutely clear. And she will obviously pass this on to you. Not as something you are told to do but as part of your conscience and your soul. And this will undoubtedly be with you for the rest of your life. This is very important. It is not some assignment from someone; it must be an inner need.
You see, your mother is undoubtedly a very kind and decent person. I want to say the following in this connection. You are all quite young. There is such a notion as a maternal or a parental instinct. It exists in nature, it is in our genes, especially in women.
Maternity means strong feelings, and having children makes one incredibly happy. It is one of the goals in life and existence of every living being and this is a very powerful instinct. It compels a person to take certain actions to support and defend their children. It is like this almost everywhere in nature. Meanwhile, children do not have an instinct to protect their parents. It is basically quite natural although I may be saying controversial things. Adults will hear me now and will begin to argue or say that something is wrong.
Yet I think it is an obvious thing because all of us, both adults and children, accept our parents’ kindness as something due to us: they must act this way, and we do not even notice it. This is how it should be; it is traditional and natural. Meanwhile, there is no reciprocal inner, physiological movement towards parents and the elderly. Instead, there is something programmed by our upbringing: compassion, care, attention to people who need your help and support. This is what your mother has, and she instils it in you.
They say that kindness towards the elderly is determined by the level of society’s development. And it makes society more efficient. It is also important to cultivate this in oneself and pass it on to those around you.
Therefore, there is a great need for what you are doing. To say nothing of the fact that people are in such homes because they do not have a family, and they certainly need attention. They definitely need such care. But it is also important for you because if you feel that you are doing something good for people, you make this kindness stronger in your heart, you are becoming a better person, so actually you need it as much as the elderly people.
Finally, there is one more component of this entire process. There are many well-educated people with great life experience in such homes, and as you speak with them, you can learn many useful things. So this is something very important and necessary.
Thank you. Full speed ahead!
Yelizaveta Shvydenko: Good afternoon, Mr President. I am from Makeyevka, Donetsk People’s Republic.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I love reading, drawing, dancing, and I also learn foreign languages. They are my hobby.
This summer one of my schoolmates went to St Petersburg under the University Shift programme [a programme for children from the DPR and LPR encompassing over 40 Russian universities and 11,000 children this year]. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go there because at that time I won a tour to the Artek children’s camp and went there.
Could you say if the University Shifts will continue? To be honest, I would very much love to participate, as well as many of my friends, even Russians.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, sure. I suppose if you like it and your friend liked it, it must be a useful undertaking.
And I believe it is useful overall, by design.
Because the people living there – and you know this better than any outsider – identify themselves as part of our common humanitarian, cultural and language space. Of course, you also speak Russian, which is your native language.
And for that reason, and especially in view of the difficult time you had for the past eight years, you have the right and you should have a chance to come in contact – in the highest and best sense of the word – including by making such trips and getting such experience.
We will definitely keep such programmes running.
Yelizaveta Shvydenko: Good.
Can I use this opportunity to ask you for something?
We are on the air now, and my mother and grandmother are watching us right now. Could you please wish them something good? I think they will be very pleased.
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
First of all, I would like to thank them for raising such a good daughter and granddaughter. Thank you very much, my deepest gratitude and all the very best to you!
Vladimir Putin (in response to the request by Danila Skryabin from the Vladimir Region, a member of the children’s public council of the Victory Museum, an organiser of the First National School History Forum Right Makes Might, on support in creating a website with virtual exhibits and exhibitions devoted to the current events in Ukraine): What exactly do we need to do?
Danila Skryabin: We will most likely need help in obtaining electronic materials, getting people’s recollections and, probably, some technical base.
Vladimir Putin: I will certainly ask my colleagues to think this through. The main thing is that these materials’ authenticity must be confirmed, as such things must be based on true information, on some material objects confirming the sequence of events which took place in the past.
A girl from Donbass just had the floor before you and you brought this subject up again. You are well aware of the events that took place there, aren’t you? Yesterday I had a conversation with Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov. He has travelled to Donetsk and other areas. I listened to the things he told me with my mouth open. Students do not even know that the Crimean Bridge exists. They believe it is a fake.
They have no clue, no idea that Ukraine and Russia used to be part of a single state – the Soviet Union. They simply do not know this. This is how they were taught. And not only children but even many adults appear not to know that Ukraine had never been a sovereign state before the establishment of the Soviet Union. Such a state simply did not exist. There were some quasi-state entities created after the 1917 Revolution and then Ukraine emerged during the establishment of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party, which was in power back then, formed union republics, including Ukraine, and transferred a large number of historic Russian lands, including Donbass, to Ukraine, although Donbass residents did not want that. There is direct evidence and documents testifying to this: first Donbass, Lugansk and Donetsk formed the Krivoi Rog Republic, which was supposed to become part of Russia, and then Vladimir Lenin said: we need to settle it differently. And gave them to Ukraine, whose formation was in progress.
No one knows it there. Everybody believes that there is some Russian aggression. No one understands or knows that following the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, the people of Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea, at least, most of them, did not want to accept the results of this coup. It is not really a subject for children but it is very clear. A war against them was unleashed, and it lasted for eight years. And our objective, our mission, the mission of our soldiers whom you mentioned, the Donbass militia, is to stop this war, protect the people and defend Russia, since an anti-Russian enclave threatening our country was being created in Ukraine. This is why our soldiers fighting there are defending both the people of Donbass and Russia.
Of course, this is very important and it deserves utmost support of society, of young people, as the men fighting there are putting their lives at risk and many of them perish. They have to know what they give their lives for ‒ this is extremely important ‒ for Russia and for the people of Donbass.
This is why the matter you are talking about is: a) very important; and b) must be confirmed with authentic materials; this authenticity must be ensured. We will work on this as this matter is very important.
Thank you very much.
Danil Lesnykh: Hello Mr President.
I am from the Astrakhan Region. I am a member of the Young Army, an activist for the children’s public council of the Victory Museum, and an activist of the Right Makes Might association. I also participate in sports, practice kyokushin karate, and do breakdancing. I have already started thinking about what I will tie my future to, in other words, what profession I will choose.
I have narrowed it down to two spheres: IT and the military. But to be able to do something that you love you have to be personally disciplined in order to correctly make the necessary adjustments to your future career choice. This is why I would like to ask you, a person of the most disciplined character, for advice: how can a person correctly discipline oneself and one’s work?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I would not say I am the most disciplined person. There is a lot of work to be done in this regard, this is clear. But discipline is vital for achieving success. Discipline on its own is not enough, you need internal motivation to achieve your goals, an open-minded approach to the problems you are dealing with; an inner, emotional mindset and a sense of responsibility.
All of this must not block out another very important component, one that lies at the core of success – a creative approach to addressing the challenges facing you. Discipline and the like should not lead to tunnel thinking. It is an important component, but on its own it is unlikely to lead to anything.
Immanuel Kant, one of the world’s greatest philosophers and thinkers, lived and practiced his craft in the city where we are today. Incidentally, he, at one time, became a Russian citizen, even though this was a German city, for the city became part of the Russian Empire. The citizens set the clock by him: he took his walks at the same time in a very disciplined manner.
That aside, I would like to reiterate once again, such exactness must never block your road to creativity. You need to feel as free as a bird.
All of this together, to my mind, will bring the needed result, which is success. This is the path to success. And a strong work ethic, of course. All this together is very important. Having a strong work ethic is actually a talent in its own right, this is not just, I beg your pardon, a rubber backside. Forcing yourself to work and to do so productively, correctly arranging everything that needs to be done – all this requires talent.
All of these combined with the discipline, I reiterate for the third time, can produce results.
The fact that you do sports is very important, it broadens the mind. Military training, technical professions, and science, they are compatible today. Actually, all discoveries today occur at the nexus of various disciplines. And this is quite consistent. We have a structure at the Ministry of Defence [the military innovation technopolis] called Era, where young people with good, outstanding education serve in the military and are content, and achieve very good results. One thing does not necessarily preclude the other. It is very important to find something you love. If this is the military – wonderful; if this is science – fantastic; and if you love them both – then why not combine the two. There is need to rush, start to explore and you will find what you are looking for. You are on the right track.
I would like to wish you luck.
Danila Lesnykh: Thank you very much Mr Putin. I would also like to ask you for a favour.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Danila Lesnykh: Can I shake your hand, please? This would be a great honour for me.
Vladimir Putin: Sure.
Danila Lesnykh: Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin (responding to Olga Egoricheva from Bryansk, who is a mentor for primary school students as part of the social activity programme, Russia’s Eaglets, on the question of whether the President had a mentor in his life): Let me collect my thoughts, I will try to give an informal answer rather than promote the mentorship institution, although it is very important, as is the fact that you are a mentor. You are a young person, and for people of your age and a bit younger than you, if you are a person of influence, it is vital that you convey to the people who see you as an authority the proper and necessary information.
Mentorship, in the broad sense of the word, accompanies us all our life and starts with our parents. And this kind of mentorship is not professional, but more of a moral-spiritual kind; it is communicated via personal example rather than by using moral arguments. This is an extremely important point. We do not even realise it. We just behave like the people that surround us do and in the same manner as people who we see as authority figures. And these are, first and foremost, our parents and grandparents.
In this regard, I would like to recall something, and I believe I have already said this once before, but there is no harm in repeating, that my mother once told me: she was seven years old back then, a first-grader by today’s standards. My relatives lived in a village, they are village people, peasants, she was seven years old, when a beggar with a travelling bag – a homeless person – approached her. Here my mother recalled, “I sent him on his way.” He started asking for something, for bread, and again she drove him away. Her mother, my grandmother saw this, scolded her, and said, “Go get him.” She caught up with him and made him come back. “Now give him some food.” She fed him, then they found a place for him to sleep. He ended up spending the night at their house. The next day they bid him farewell, giving him some food and something else for the road.
My mother was seven at the time, but she remembered this her whole life. This is a life lesson. She told me this story when I was a kid, and I remember it to this day and now I am telling you this story as an example of generosity, of love for your fellow humans. This is a very important thing, which is passed down through generations by our families. This is part of our national cultural DNA. This is mentorship.
As for other mentors, I once had a teacher, I recall, in the first grade – and it is September 1 today – and I even remember her name, Tamara Chizhova. She was a kind, calm, and level-headed woman. I only vaguely remember how she treated us, very sensibly, I would even say in a motherly fashion in general. And, as you see, I have remembered her all my life.
Then I had another teacher, Vera Gurevich, who had a very big impact on me, I was older then.
Then I had a sambo and a judo coach, who taught us to fight to the end. To the end. This is a very important thing for every person, and for a future man, a boy especially. Anatoly Rakhlin. This too, a person’s upbringing, is what mentorship is all about.
And, as you might know, I started my career after the university in the security sector. Soon after that I started working in the Soviet foreign intelligence services.
I remember there was an old man working in an adjacent office, we called him San Sanych. He, San Sanych, worked in the adjacent office, but for 25 years before this he had an illegal assignment abroad as an illegal agent. To be clear, an illegal agent does not have a diplomatic passport and every day he risks his freedom, health, and maybe even his life. The man worked for 25 years in such conditions.
Once I gathered enough courage to ask him, “San Sanych, is this not an insult to you? I am a beginner, a young man, and you have worked as an illegal agent for 25 years and here you are, sitting next to me. Aren’t you supposed to be sitting somewhere else?” You know, I will never forget what he said in response. “Volodya, look, I could have easily not been here, I was offered other jobs. I did not need this. In my day the Motherland entrusted me with something that it did not entrust to others. I felt that my services were needed. I am not waiting for any gratitude from the Motherland for what I did. I am thankful to her for the opportunity she gave me to work as I did, to be in demand and to realize my potential. I am thankful to her and I expect no gratitude from her in return.”
You know when he told me this in such simple, relatable words, just like I did now, my world turned upside down. I discovered how precious our existence is and what life is about: it is not about satisfying your ambitions, but serving and realizing one’s potential in such a manner.
And it is my wish that you, too, have such mentors.