Issues discussed included the state youth policy, Russian language study, raising literacy and linguistic skills and historical education.
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Address at the meeting of the Council for Interethnic Relations
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
I would like to suggest that the Council meeting today focuses on culture and education and the special role they play in harmonising interethnic relations and in the civic and patriotic education of young people.
Currently over 30.5 million Russians are aged 15 to 29. As we all understand, their views largely determine the future of Russia.
It is important for young people to fully understand the significance of the ethnic policy and ethnic and cultural diversity. This diversity lies at the roots of this country’s strength as it accumulated various traditions, cultures and ethnic groups over the centuries. This mutual enrichment helped this huge country develop and strengthen its identity. Whenever this harmony was violated, the inner strength of the nation itself was also violated. This raises the demands to our ethnic, cultural and educational policy. It is obvious that an educated person with sufficient knowledge and a broad outlook is immune to the virus of nationalism and intolerance.
Unfortunately, there is a constant struggle going on in the world for ideological and informational domination. The goal is either to weaken certain countries, or to create a competitive advantage in politics or the economy by artificially provoking conflicts linked in one way or another to ethnic issues. We need constant systematic efforts to protect this country, its younger generation from such risks, to strengthen civic solidarity and interethnic accord.
Everyone must get involved in these efforts: state and municipal authorities, public organisations and, of course, the family. Most importantly, there should be no dogmatism or bureaucracy here, or we would achieve the opposite effect.
”We need constant systematic efforts to protect this country, its younger generation from such risks, to strengthen civic solidarity and interethnic accord. Everyone must get involved in these efforts: state and municipal authorities, public organisations and, of course, the family.“
In this connection, I find it necessary to also consider improving the implementation of the state program for patriotic education. We should fill it with truly interesting initiatives that would be first of all clear to the young people; we should establish close partnership with public, students’, military, patriotic and search organisations and the like. Obviously, a lot depends on the individuals who are involved.
In addition, we must clearly formulate our priorities in the state youth policy. They should be directed at the overall development of a harmonious personality, at bringing up Russian citizens as mature and responsible people who combine love for their country and their home, their national and ethnic identity, and respect the culture and traditions of the people who live around them.
The Education Ministry is developing a set of youth policy priorities. I would like to ask our colleagues to speed up their work and to give special attention to the prevention of extremism among students.
A single system of monitoring interethnic relations and preventing possible ethnic conflicts should be of great help here. The Government is to launch it before the end of the year.
The system will cover all the country’s regions, while the federal monitoring centre that is to be set up will coordinate analytical and preventive activities of the authorities concerned, of research organisations and the academic community; it will generate recommendations and proposals in this area.
We have spoken many times of the irreplaceable role of literature, history, the Russian language and the languages of other peoples of Russia in educating the younger generation. It is largely thanks to this Council’s initiative that work was launched to develop unified cultural and historical educational standards.
In the past years, the state has done a great deal to raise the teachers’ status and to provide them with respectable working conditions. We expect all of this to have an impact primarily on the quality of school education, on teaching the principal subjects that form an individual’s mindset.
There are still quite a few problems here. Thus, the results of the National Final School Exam in the Russian language were far from excellent. I will not go into detail now. This is yet another reason to get back to Russian language teaching curricula and standards for the quality of teaching.
”Our priorities in the state youth policy should be directed at the overall development of a harmonious personality, at bringing up Russian citizens as mature and responsible people who combine love for their country and their home, their national and ethnic identity, who respect the culture and traditions of the people who live around them.“
I expect that the recently established Council on the Russian Language will make a significant contribution to improving state policy on the development, protection and support of Russian language and linguistic culture. Of course, young people should be getting more knowledge on Russia historical, cultural and natural resources at school. This, I believe, is the best way to teach people to love their homeland and to strive to be of use to it.
Here, of course, we need modern methods that would draw the interest of the young people. The Likhachev Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural heritage could be of great help here. The prime ministers of the CIS states at their meeting in Minsk on May 30 awarded it the status of the central organisation within the Commonwealth concerned with the preservation of world heritage. We should use this resource not only to preserve and promote the cultural and historical potential of the Russian world, of the peoples of Russia, but also for the patriotic education of the younger generation, for its spiritual and moral development.
One more proposal. I believe it would be useful for this Council to pursue another area of activity – information support for state ethnic policy implementation. It is important to clearly explain our moves in this area, to cooperate with the media and civil society institutions.
I would like to add that there is growing concern in many countries about the degradation of traditional moral and spiritual values. Unfortunately, we are seeing the revival of neo-Nazi organisations, which are acquiring political power, while ethnic and religious intolerance and calls for violence are used by forces that are fighting to gain power. In this connection, I find it important to create a legal basis for counteracting the revival of Nazi ideology and the glorification of Nazi criminals.
I am convinced that Russia’s strong educational traditions, our culture and our great history can play a decisive role in resolving all the tasks I have outlined here.
Let us proceed with our discussion.
Colleagues, I do not know if there is a more serious and important issue in terms of preserving our unity – I mean the unity of the Russian state, of our people. Any small crack in interethnic relations, not to mention a major split, does not affect the territory – it runs through the heart and soul.
”Any small crack in interethnic relations, not to mention a major split, does not affect the territory – it runs through the heart and soul.“
It reaches the most subtle tissues of the heart; this is a very sensitive matter. Specialists are well aware of this, of course, while those who do not study this professionally feel it in their hearts, as I have said.
This is vitally important in the modern world in any country, even in those that consider themselves mono-ethnic, while in such multi-ethnic states (especially those that were formed as multi-ethnic) as Russia this is of special significance.
We have met for a regular discussion, however the issues we dealt with are extremely important also because the instrument we mentioned, the instrument we need to harmonise interethnic relations is of great value in and of itself – it is culture and education.
I would like to thank you for your proposals. We will do our best to implement them. Our job is to make sure these issues never leave the focus of public and state attention. We will continue working on it.
Thank you very much.