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 the cooperation between educational and youth organisations, including programmes to promote Russian culture, and joint projects between search, archaeological, military historical, cultural and patriotic groups, with young people abroad taking part.
Mr President, we continue to operate on the premise that preserving historical memory about the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War and forestalling attempts to revise its outcome is an important factor in consolidating Russian society, including for the purposes of effectively pursuing our country’s ambitious goals. The goal-oriented and planned-out activities conducted by federal and regional authorities, scientific and expert circles, and non-governmental organisations, have made it possible to preserve the enduring importance of our Victory and to communicate to the European and international public an objective assessment of WWII events and the importance of the outcomes for all of humankind. We will not allow anyone to desecrate historic events which are sacred to our people. This is important to our country, its current and future generations. This is important to international public opinion as well.
In pursuance of the resolution adopted by the 37th meeting of the Pobeda (Victory) Committee held in April 2016 and your instruction, a working group was formed to prepare a report on current activities in this area. The group includes representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Communications, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Cultural Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), the Russian Academy of Sciences, and a number of Russian regions and public organisations.
The group put together a report which will be presented today. It analyses the activities of federal stakeholders, and summarises a significant amount of information received from the Russian regions as well as the findings of dedicated research and opinion polls.
The document reflects the current forms of international activities with the participation of federal bodies, Russian regions, cities, media outlets, the academic community, and public associations.
The analysis contained in the report makes it possible to draw the following conclusions. First of all, the interdepartmental work on providing objective information about the role of our country in defeating Nazism, countering attempts to revise history, including the outcome of WWII, to glorify Nazism and to disseminate propaganda of neo-Nazism should continue in a systemic and coordinated manner.
The Foreign Ministry drafted a package of measures to activate this work in international organisations and through bilateral ties. With due regard to the provisions of the abovementioned document, we are drafting a concrete action plan for its implementation together with the relevant ministries and agencies.
In particular, we see a need for further steps to maintain and support in decent state burial sites of Russian and Soviet soldiers abroad, including with the help of Russian and foreign public organisations. We should continue drawing up passports for burial sites and publishing information on them on the internet.
We will make more active use of the resources offered by people’s diplomacy and continue to deepen ties between regions, twin cities, and NGOs. The geographical reach and structure and contents of these contacts requires our detailed study and also the needed support from the federal authorities.
We need to further encourage international cooperation between universities. It is important to encourage joint research projects and the participation of practical scholars in carrying out educational work.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. In this context, the Defence Ministry’s work to develop an internet resource dedicated to Russia’s participation in this major event in world history is particularly important.
The scale of the tasks before us dictates the need for close coordination between agencies, constructive cooperation with non-commercial organisations, and effective information support.
The Foreign Ministry continues its work to preserve the historical memory of our people’s feat.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Ms Simonyan, you have the floor.
Editor-in-Chief of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency and Russia Today Television Channel Margarita Simonyan: Good afternoon,
It is a great honour for us to have this chance to speak at this meeting and tell you about what our media are doing and will do to tell the world the truth about the war, and also how these resources can be used in the work of practically every one of us here today.
In our work, we make use of research that we try to carry out ourselves in order not to fall into the trap of biased research carried out by others with the results decided in advance. Sometimes, this research produces very unexpected results and we suddenly see that people in the United States or Europe see events very differently to the way their media portray them and have a very different attitude.
We carried out studies on the war, more precisely, on who people in Britain, France, Germany and the USA think won in World War II. The figures were no source of joy or comfort, regrettably. We always carry out these studies together with big reputable companies in Europe and America, in other words, they are serious public opinion surveys, not simply a survey conducted on our site. The results show that 50 percent of respondents thought the USA won, 22 percent though Britain won, and only 14 percent thought it was the Soviet Union that vanquished Nazism. One percent named another country, and 13 percent simply did not know.
Of course, the decades of educational programmes designed to produce just this result, films, the media, political organisations, and public statements by politicians could not have led to any other outcome. But this does not mean that there is nothing we can do about this. This means that we need to be even more active in our efforts.
We would like to show you more advanced ways of communicating our truth to the world. Clearly, we are using many conventional ways, such as documentaries, entire cycles of them, stories, and so on, but this only works for a certain segment of the audience. Younger audiences aren’t big fans of such formats. Viral videos work better in their case.
We made such a viral video in different languages. We will launch it in time for Victory Day. We expect it to blow the audience away. Should anyone want to use it, such as the Foreign Ministry or other departments, we will gladly share it with them. This is just one example of an educational viral video for younger people.
(The video plays.)
Such short videos with straightforward messages are posted online and then take on a life of their own where users share it with each other, repost on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, YouTube, and such videos end up reaching audiences that are completely different from the audiences which we can reach using customary television approaches.
One other neat thing that we do right in our studio is 3D reconstruction of the battles and key events of WWII and the Great Patriotic War, which our audiences have come to think of as World War II.
(The video plays.)
This takes place right in the newsroom and certainly attracts sophisticated audiences. This is something that combines television, cinema and documentaries.
In this way, we are reproducing WWII history – which, for obvious reasons, very few people in our audience remember – in a more straightforward format.
The 360-degree format is the last such state-of-the-art format that I would like to share with you. To put it bluntly, we are among the world leaders in media producing videos of this format – we even shot one in outer space.
We use it to tell WWII stories in a more modern and stylish way. Of course, it's better to wear special glasses to watch them, or watch them on an iPad, but I think those who are familiar with the 360-degree format know that you can turn the screen around and see everything that’s going on behind the back and on the sides.
This is a digital 360-degree Victory Day video.
(The video plays.)
If I may, I’d like to spend a moment talking about the ways modern formats can change the structure and the understanding of how it works at educational institutions. This year, we launched a project dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. This is an innovative format for delivering information to the audience.
An online space is being created on Twitter where all the participants of those events have their own accounts. Once you start following them, you get completely immersed in that atmosphere. You can’t get this kind of immersion from watching a movie, or reading a book. It’s a totally different experience. We received tremendous feedback and plan to come up with a similar project next year. It takes a while to accomplish, and it's hard work, but it must be done for the next anniversary of the Victory.
What response did we get? Even the reporters and publications that hate us, pick at us and refer to us as Kremlin propaganda, have signed up to retweet this project. I’m talking about the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. There were good publications in major media outlets as well. Most importantly, the project has brought aboard historians from all over the world, and is used by Oxford and Columbia universities, to name a few. If you look at the official accounts of such Russophobes as Carl Bildt, even he responded positively to this project, as did some British and Italian MPs and many others.
There is no doubt that the project dedicated to World War II will have an even greater response and, perhaps, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education – I’m happy to see the Minister here. We propose using it for ourselves as all of this information can be made available to larger audiences in the form of a game.
Several standard, more customary formats are being released by our media for the 70th anniversary of Victory. We launched the Victors project where 70 veterans, in a variety of videos, shared their memories of the horrors of war they had experienced first-hand. We have received a lot of feedback. Here’s just a few small examples from the worldwide audience.
Stunningly, most viewers admitted that it was the first time they were hearing about the atrocities that we told them about. That audience is not even remotely familiar with the things that all of us have known from childhood.
I would like to bring to your attention (perhaps this would be useful for the Foreign Ministry, as well as other agencies) what we have done ahead of the 70th anniversary of Victory. This is updated annually and is available at 9may.rt.com. The quality of all this allows it to be used on the air and of course can be downloaded free of charge.
It includes everything: screensavers, wartime posters, letters, photos, a digital copy of the Victory Parade, documentary films and video footage. In short, it is hard to think of something about the war that is not there. We propose that you use all of this in your work, if necessary, at embassies, Rossotrudnichestvo [Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation] offices and possibly some other centres.
The St George Ribbon campaign is well known to everyone. It was born at the RIA Novosti news agency and is now making the rounds of the world. Our Sputnik agency is a merger of Voice of Russia and RIA Novosti’s international resources, including radio broadcasting, press centres and online media outlets in over 30 countries. They use volunteers and they, their relatives and friends distribute them. We send thousands of these ribbons there and they hand them out all over the world.
Another project is the dissemination of photos from that war to a great number of media outlets in the world. You see, even The New York Times, a newspaper that is so unfriendly toward Russia, publishes them with pleasure because when you distribute something somebody is bound to use it.
Sputnik is running a very nice and touching project. We find veterans in these countries. Thanks to Sputnik, we have had several moving stories of people finding each other after such a long time – people who lost each other, that is, people who ended up outside Russia, our former fellow citizens, sad as this may sound, and people who remained in Russia. There is a case of a woman veteran from Abkhazia: her relatives read this story on Sputnik’s website and found each other.
Our other project, Russia Beyond the Headlines, targets audiences in countries and in languages in which they are published, finding people who had something to do with our war, who admired or wrote something about it, and gives their stories there. Because even Pablo Neruda’s poetry glorifying Stalingrad has not been read by everybody even in its native language; not everyone knows about this and maybe nobody would have seen it anywhere else. There are a lot of such examples.
We operate about 10 multimedia portals related to the Great Patriotic War. If someone needs their addresses for official use, I will gladly share them with the relevant departments after the meeting. Also, your spokespersons can contact us, and we will share these addresses with them, so that this vast content could be used by more than just us.
With regard to the target audience, Russia Today’s audience with more than 700 million viewers is our audience. The IBS survey indicates that every week we are being watched by 70 million viewers in 38 countries, on YouTube, I’m sure you heard about it. Soon, we will reach 5 billion views.
Sputnik primarily works with our compatriots living abroad. We consider all former Soviet Union citizens our compatriots, and we focus our efforts on working with them.
I showed you our top results in recent years. These results cannot be maintained at this level day in and day out, but regardless these Sputniks are firmly positioned in the top ten in their respective countries. These are the best results that we managed to achieve during the year.
Strange as it may seem, the more we give out our – let's call it patriotic – content, the wider the response and the greater the audience. We will be happy to continue to do this in the future. If we can be of any use, we are happy to have this opportunity to share this information.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Kosolapov, please go ahead.
Mayor of Volgograd Andrei Kosolapov: Mr President, colleagues, thank you for inviting me to this meeting of the Russian Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee.
The words ”Victory“ and ”Stalingrad“ are inseparable. Stalingrad was the starting point for the triumphant march of our troops to victory in the Great Patriotic War and liberating Europe from Nazism.
Any attempts to rewrite history to suit the fleeting political interests are dangerous. You become fully cognizant of that fact when you stand beside the Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd.
The Red Army lost more than 1 million soldiers and officers in the Battle of Stalingrad alone. The city was reduced to rubble and experienced a humanitarian disaster. Before the war, the civilian population of Stalingrad was over 500,000 people, and on February 2, 1943 it was only 32,000.
The land of Stalingrad is another symbol of peace for the entire world. This is where friendship between Soviet Stalingrad and British Coventry was born. In 1944 they became the world’s first twin cities, giving rise to a movement that became worldwide after World War II. During the 73 years our city has acquired a unique experience in international activity, in particular public diplomacy.
Today, Volgograd has sister city relationships with 45 cities. This is the biggest number after Moscow and St Petersburg. We see Volgograd’s mission as the pioneer of the sister city movement above all in upholding and promoting the historical truth about the Great Patriotic War abroad.
Volgograd does a good job representing Russian cities at international organisations. Our city is a vice president and a member of 10 international interregional organisations, including Mayors for Peace, United Cities and Local Governments, Sister Cities International and the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities.
Organising and holding international forums is an important area of our work. The Dialogue on the Volga international public diplomacy forum, which annually brings together representatives of Volgograd’s sister cities and partners, heads of international associations and unions, scholars, journalists and public figures, has become a good tradition. The idea of this forum arose not through an administrative order but on the sidelines of people-to-people diplomacy meetings.
Last year’s forum, with a theme of Peace and Mutual Understanding in the 21st Century, brought together over 200 participants from 12 countries in Volgograd. Such forums are effective mechanisms for maintaining relations between peoples during difficult periods.
The Dialogue on the Volga forum brought forth the idea of an exhibition project called From Stalingrad to Prague, which tells the real history of the victory over Nazism. Volgograd presented documentary materials from the world’s leading museums in several European cities in English, German, Czech and Slovak.
In 2015 and 2016, the exhibition was shown in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. That was done with personal support from Czech MEP Jiri Mastalka. Two weeks ago the exhibition opened in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava.
Volgograd’s promising international projects, of course, are related to the youth. Together with the Japanese sister city of Hiroshima it annually hosts the youth conferences, For a Peaceful Future.
New ideas are developed at this venue, through which we, together with our Japanese colleagues, raise awareness among foreign youth of the truth about World War II, which some of our neighbours want to forget.
We carry out different types of activity, and I could talk about them for a long time. But Volgograd has an objective, which we are moving steadily towards – to become a centre, a large, universally recognised platform for the development of public diplomacy.
Two years ago, we opened a resource centre for public diplomacy at Volgograd State University. We managed to do this thanks to the support of the Foreign Minister and the Volgograd Region Governor.
Colleagues, in 2018, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. Pursuant to the corresponding Presidential Executive Order, the Volgograd Region has launched preparations for an event that is significant for the entire country and the world. The city developed a festive programme, and the federal plan for all activities is being coordinated.
Of course, we plan to time many international projects to coincide with this memorable date. In particular, we plan to expand the Dialogue on the Volga forum by inviting a much wider number of cities participating in the global sister city movement.
We plan to hold an international peace forum, The Birth of the Sister City Movement as a Humanitarian Outcome of the Stalingrad Victory, in September 2018 in Volgograd. We are ready and eager to host this peace forum annually in Volgograd.
Mr President, colleagues,
Volgograd has good, globally significant experience in developing the sister city movement and public diplomacy. We have a great desire to develop this further and make Volgograd the true centre of Russia’s public diplomacy.
We also count on your support in order to attract to Volgograd official delegations, international and interregional forums, projects and cultural events. We are ready to become a resource centre, a locomotive of the sister city movement for Russian cities.
Volgograd is actively working toward this goal in the Russian Cities Union. The International Relations project office was established within the Union’s framework with our participation. The Russian Cities Union has 91 member cities, including four Hero Cities and 17 Cities of Military Glory.
My city mayor colleagues think that sister city relations have acquired special importance now as one of the few surviving tools of preserving international contacts at the time – suffice it to say that contacts between sister cities in Russia and other countries not only were not severed in the problem-laden period 2014–2016 but ever became closer in many respects.
Cities hold thousands of joint events in Russia and abroad. Memorial celebrations connected with the Soviet people’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War remain the priority in the activities of Union member cities.
Young people and the creative class make up a majority of foreign participants of such events. Active work is underway in international organisations. The most active cities have between 10 and 45 partner cities and maintain real friendly ties with all of them.
We are convinced that we must build up and extend this form of cooperation, as it promotes practical confidence building in contacts with foreigners, sympathy toward our country and access to accurate information about Russia.
We proposed to Russia’s Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee a comprehensive approach to supporting cities’ international activism. Cities certainly need legal and methodological support from authorised federal authorities. We also deem it necessary to hold more nationwide forums on public diplomacy and Russian cities’ international cooperation.
All too often, we need organisational support in our work with compatriots abroad as we hold events. We also believe it’s necessary to provide training to municipal officials on matters of promoting international humanitarian cooperation.
We think now is the right time to hold competitions for relevant grants for municipalities. We would like to see the media cover public diplomacy more extensively and with greater interest. On behalf of all my colleagues, Russian city mayors, I would like to express my hope that the Pobeda (Victory) Committee will support us in these matters.
I would like to say in conclusion: It is said that if the Great Victory had a heart, Stalingrad would be that heart. Today, Volgograd has all the prerequisites and enormous potential to become the heart of Russian public diplomacy.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Rogozin please.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin: Mr President,
Allow me to brief you on the implementation of your instruction. At the previous, 38th committee meeting on September 7, 2016, a coordination council of veterans organisations was created at the Victory Committee. It included the leaders of the 40 largest veteran associations, but in addition to war veterans and participants in combat operations, the council was also joined by veterans associations of the nuclear, space, oil, gas, energy, transport and defence industries.
The council will meet as necessary in the form of an ongoing conference under the first deputy chairman of the Victory Organising Committee. There are no plans to address issues related to veterans’ socioeconomic situation there.
At their first meeting, which took place in November, members of the Coordination Council tasked themselves with bringing the veteran movement’s agenda up to date, making it interesting also to young people.
The general opinion is that today it is necessary to focus on one major issue: The formats and channels of information that are used by veterans and young people do not coincide most of the time. This issue was partly addressed by Margarita Simonyan in her presentation.
Furthermore, there is a need to develop forms of work that envisage joint activity by veterans and young people and make broad use of modern information technology. Taking into account the Russian Military Historical Society’s extensive experience in this regard, there are also plans to involve it in this effort.
In addition to promoting military and patriotic values, there are plans to participate in sharing professional experience and work traditions and conducting information and educational activity to promote the achievements of Russian and Soviet science and industry. The Ask a Veteran motto has become a general motto summing up these initiatives.
The veteran community is also becoming involved in implementing the state programme Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens for 2016–2020. To this end, we facilitate the community’s contacts with interested federal executive agencies, inviting Cabinet members, if necessary.
The Coordination Council is designed to expand the participation of veterans of combat operations, military service and labour in promoting patriotic values among citizens, promoting the broad public recognition of their services. In keeping with your instructions, Mr President, this work is conducted by the Victory Organising Committee together with the Presidential Commission for Veterans Affairs.
In this connection, I propose that the next meeting of the Victory Committee be devoted to state policy with regard to veterans in the broadest possible sense of the word, including their social support and their involvement in social activities. I ask you to endorse this proposal.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Colleagues, who would like to add something? Please go ahead.
President of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor: Mr President, modern philosophers have noted that intellectual values have what is known as a cumulative effect. That is, knowledge is not only accumulated, but is transmitted from generation to generation. In contrast, ethical values, especially those related to relations between people, do not accumulate, but must be cultivated by each generation.
As we get further away in time from World War II and the victory of the Soviet Union in it, we can fully observe this contradictory process. We strongly support the current international agenda of the Victory Committee, as many have forgotten that it was the Red Army's victory that saved the lives of tens of millions of people in dozens of countries around the world. We see from the report prepared by Margarita Simonyan that only 10 percent of the people in Europe recognise the role of the Red Army. How can we cultivate these ethical values in younger generations, and the recognition by other people of the right to life, friendship, freedom of choice, etc. without having to do so through more catastrophes?
As a public figure and President of the European Jewish Congress, I meet with many prisoners of the Holocaust. Do you know what film about the war many of them consider the best? The Fate of a Man based on a story by Sholokhov, followed by Schindler's List. I am glad to report that today the Russian-made film Paradise made it onto that list as well. It was shown on Russian television on Saturday.
This is a huge international project, which, no doubt, is addressed not only to Russian, but international audiences as well. It is in this film that Andrei Konchalovsky offers an answer to the question about how the loss of moral and ethical values destroys a highly educated, intelligent and advanced nation and neighbouring nations as well.
Art and culture are important in promoting this cause. However, recognising universally accepted international definitions – firstly, criminal collaboration with regimes condemned by international tribunals and international courts, the inadmissibility of glorifying such movements and, of course, anti-Semitism – will do much to help eliminate confusion among young people and adults alike. Seventy years have passed since the world was liberated from the Holocaust, but there is still no universally recognised international definition of anti-Semitism.
On behalf of the 42 Jewish communities of Europe and the Russian Jewish community, I would like to thank you, Mr President, the Presidential Executive Office, the Government, primarily, the Foreign Ministry, for persevering in your work on these issues and I request to include in the minutes the item on finalising the approval by the Russian Federation of the working definition of anti-Semitism in at least the OSCE format, which was already supported by 50 countries. Of course, we support adopting such definitions with regard to Christianophobia and Islamophobia as well. This is only fair.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your proposal.
You have the floor please.
Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Ural Federal District Igor Kholmanskikh: Mr President, colleagues, I would like to add a few words to what my colleagues have said.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of international humanitarian cooperation for the formation of an objective idea of Russian history, particularly our role in the Victory over Nazism. This is part and parcel of improving our country’s reputation abroad and its prestige with ordinary people, to which any sanctions, lies and calumny recede. The truth is our weapon, and we should not blush as we use it.
International cultural and humanitarian contacts and public diplomacy are developing apace. This is evident, in particular, in the regions of the Ural Federal District. Municipal offices, cultural agencies and non-governmental companies are growing ever more active in this field. Educational establishments, mainly universities, are doing serious work in international relations. The development of international humanitarian ties is an objective process, yet it should not be left unattended: It requires close, constant coordination.
As we know, the Urals lie on the border between Europe and Asia, and maintain close contacts with an extremely broad range of countries. However, what really matters is not contacts as such but their effect and focus on Russia’s national interests. This goal requires consistency, regular activities, and being true to one’s pledges. It is essential not to disperse efforts and resources though we observe such trends sometimes.
More than that, the international agenda is changing dynamically, life poses new tasks, and federal programme documents on foreign political guidelines are updated regularly. It is therefore all the more important to promptly inform regional and municipal office heads about it.
I am confident that it is within gubernatorial responsibilities to address this challenge. And on the whole, we should increase regional authorities’ attention to international humanitarian cooperation. Among other things, it will allow us to take closer stock of territorial specifics and experience gathered by territories.
The choice of priorities is evident here. They follow from the documents approved by the head of state, and the vast experience gained by the Foreign Ministry. A council on the development of international humanitarian cooperation has been established in our federal district to coordinate this work. Among council members are regional vice governors, heads of the Foreign Ministry territorial offices, university rectors, experts and representatives of non-profit organisations.
The content of the council’s work is based on measures it has elaborated to develop international humanitarian cooperation between the federal district’s regions and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. All council activities proceed in close contact with the Foreign Ministry. They are as open and transparent as possible. This publicity has justified itself. It allows municipal offices and public organisations to coordinate their plans with events underway in the regions.
I would like to note that the regions have also established working groups to develop humanitarian cooperation with other countries. They coordinate this work at the regional and local levels.
We pay special attention to the development and coordination of international cooperation between universities. This work proceeds jointly with the Rectors’ Council of the Ural universities, led by the Ural Federal University and the South Ural State University.
A comprehensive approach to the development of humanitarian cooperation lends positive results, and allows for extending and updating development plans for the regions’ international ties, whose humanitarian aspect has been prioritised.
The regions in our federal district have shifted the priorities of their international activities towards the CIS countries, especially in Central Asia, with its geographic proximity, and China.
As we see it, the district’s format for the coordination of international humanitarian contacts is useful and promising. It allows us to take all interested parties’ opinions into consideration and improve the quality of international cooperation in this sphere.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Chairman of the Russian National Public Organisation of Afghanistan War Disabled and Wounded Andrei Chepurnoi: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
The Russian National Society of Afghanistan War Disabled and Wounded is an active participant in the Victory Organising Committee and has participated since its foundation in carrying out your decisions, instructions and guidelines, Mr President.
Last year, our organisation registered the 100,000th patient completing a rehabilitation course at our centres. It is also actively engaged in the Fortitude project designed to instil patriotic values in young people across the vast expanses of our great Motherland.
However, for three years now, Senator Klintsevich, taking advantage of his administrative clout, has been trying to destroy our organisation, seize its property and divide the disabled veterans’ movement. Instead of addressing youth-related issues, promoting patriotic values and rehabilitation issues, Klintsevich has organised a series of inspections. Last year alone, we had 67 state audits and other inspections, which found no significant violations but Klintsevich continues to insist that these people should be jailed.
You see, instead of bringing veterans together, he sends such letters to all regions, to all officials and heads of nongovernmental organisations, where he writes with his own hand that our national organisation is to blame for everything. That is the first point.
Secondly, he claims that courts, law enforcement agencies and the justice system are all corrupt, since they refuse to jail some people he dislikes. However, at the same time, for some reason, he praises [Vyacheslav] Volodin and says that thanks to Volodin’s support, they have taken rehabilitation money from the disabled and handed it to the organisation that is headed by Klintsevich himself.
However, the most outrageous thing about this letter, Mr President, is that Klintsevich points to Volodin as a successor to the president of the Russian Federation. You see, he telephones and harasses our organisation members, leaders and officials, saying that Volodin will soon be president and will grant Klintsevich enormous powers, and the latter would simply pound uncooperative elements into the pavement and bury them alive.
Mr President, we have appealed to all agencies. This here is a petition from our organisation members with numerous signatures, asking for only one thing: We are ready to fight to the bitter end, as you have always said. We support your words: the Russian people do not surrender. We will not surrender but we are asking one thing: to protect the good name of our organisation and to defend the honour and dignity of the people who have suffered while performing their military duty. People do not understand why mud is being slung at them or why they are being punished. They simply do not understand this. And they want only one thing – that our country be united, friendly and strong.
Vladimir Putin: I believe Afghan war veterans cannot be intimidated by threats of being pounded into the pavement. This is my first point.
Secondly, only the Russian people – and nobody else – choose a successor to the president in the course of democratic elections.
Thirdly, this is the first time I am hearing about conflict within your community. I will look into it.
Mr Nikiforov, please.
Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov: Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to make a few remarks not as Minister of Communications and Mass Media but rather as co-chair of the Russian-Slovenian Intergovernmental Commission. I believe we have acquired some very interesting experience in Slovenia related to disseminating objective historical information and preserving war burial sites and memorials.
A brief history. January 2010: three monuments to Soviet soldiers destroyed. February 2010: a Russian chapel damaged. Mr President, you know this building. You visited it in 2016. It was erected in memory of prisoners of war: about 300 people killed on a mountain pass in 1916.
It became obvious that in order to preserve and restore monuments it is necessary above all to promote strong public aversion to any falsification of history, any affront to such memorials. This work was organised together with Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev, and during the past seven years, 74 war memorials in 50 towns have been restored.
Annual events began to take place with the participation of local residents, NGOs and veteran organisations. The mayors of 40 towns participate in these events. A large amount of information started coming from local communities, which made it possible to find and restore lost memorials and burial sites.
For example, in 2014, we opened a museum at the site of a former concentration camp, where Soviet prisoners of war were held. What is 2014? We remember very well what the geopolitical situation was like then. This was July 2014. We opened the museum together with Sergei Lavrov. The ambassadors of practically all European states were in attendance. Slovenia is essentially the centre of Europe, an EU country, a NATO member, and in 2014, we opened such a museum. In 2015, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended memorial events at the Russian chapel.
In 2016, the centennial of the Russian chapel, you and the President of Slovenia unveiled a unique monument in Ljubljana that has no equals in the world, a monument that we erected together with the Russian Military History Society, a shared monument – to Russian and Soviet soldiers killed on Slovenian soil during World Wars I and II, which was also a unique event.
Today we are at a new stage of cooperation. We are working to create a permanent historical centre at the Maribor museum for research projects and various activities.
We are doing all this together with our Slovenian colleagues. We are setting up a Russian-Slovenian organising committee, and we are working together.
I considered it important to share this information because I believe the experience accumulated in Slovenia needs careful study and possibly dissemination in other countries.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Vasilyev, please.
State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev: Mr President, colleagues,
First, I would like to thank the previous speakers for their reports, and say that the State Duma is also taking part in this process. In particular, we would like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to learn about our journalists’ work in Syria. We recommended this exhibition to other countries’ parliaments.
I believe the first such experience, which we are implementing, is not devoid of interest just as the parliamentary dimension in general. We will try to draft proposals that could be used to great extent, as we see it.
Mr Chepurnoi, I could not but respond to your report and say that it was a collective decision in which not only our colleague Mr Klintsevich but also Mr Sablin and Mr Shamanov took part. It was a decision that pursued only one goal – the money flows that went directly to the centre should go through our veterans’ public organisations and only after that be duly distributed. An attempt was made to make the matter open and public. Therefore, I think you were very emotional here but your speech was not very informative.
Andrei Chepurnoi: I merely quoted Mr Klintsevich’s letter.
Vladimir Putin: We will look into the matter. Here is Mr Kiriyenko [First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office]. I have spoken to him already, and he will look into this.
Mr Medinsky, please.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky: Mr President,
Mr Nikiforov spoke about a wonderful monument in Ljubljana, which you unveiled. All in all, the Military History Society has erected ten such monuments abroad, from Serbia to France. We are erecting three more monuments this year in France, a monument to our fallen soldiers in Vienna, and so on.
Three years ago, you chaired a meeting of the Victory Organising Committee at our museum in Prokhorovka Field. You set us the task then, first, to upgrade the museum and second, to update its exhibitions for the new young audience Margarita Simonyan told us about.
Since then, we have not only upgraded the Prokhorovka Field museum but also changed its exhibition entirely. We have even opened tank testing grounds at the museum with the Defence Ministry’s help. We are grateful for the vehicles it granted us.
We have changed the exhibits of the Poklonnaya Gora Museum, opened a new and modern Museum of the First World War at Tsarskoye Selo, and established a new and unique museum in Tula, the Tula Arms Museum, with the Governor’s help. We are developing a system to attract young people to museums.
We are changing the content of our museums. Take the Katyn museum: we intend to change its exhibition thoroughly this year. Everybody knows that it was the site of a tragedy, and about 4,500 Poles were buried there. There is no mention in the museum that twice as many Soviet people were buried there, too. They were also victims of political reprisals, and theirs was a hard lot. That is why we are making a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to our soldiers, as well – heroic soldiers, Russian people who fell victim to reprisals side by side with the Poles, and there was nothing interethnic in it. Those were hard times.
I would like also to draw your attention to another thing: Mr Kantor mentioned the film “Paradise”. We are now making the film “Sobibor” and have almost finished the shooting. It is about the only successful mass escape from a death camp in history. It was headed by Soviet Lieutenant Pechersky.
Mr President, you bestowed the Order of Courage on him posthumously last year. The whole world had an extraordinary response to it because he received the highest awards from Israel, the Netherlands and Poland but his own country had not decorated him at that time. The film is an international project, very ambitious, with world stars.
Generally, our military patriotic films have been huge box office hits. True, I have been reproached for such films as “The Battle for Sevastopol” (photographs of sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko from The New York Times were shown during its presentation), “The Battalion” and “Panfilov’s 28 Men”, and their returns show that they have enjoyed great success with the public.
I would like to ask the Foreign Ministry and Rossotrudnichestvo [Federal Agency for CIS Issues, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation] to help arrange the release of these films translated into foreign languages – such versions are already available – for our compatriots abroad and for foreign audiences.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, I would like to thank you all for the efforts you make to reach the goals we set together in our teamwork.
We will take stock of the results of this discussion and take your proposals into consideration in the final documents. I propose to approve the report and the set of measures proposed by the Foreign Ministry.
We certainly do not need an excessive bureaucratic presence in the job, but I think the Presidential Executive Office will monitor all our endeavours, and I ask the presidential envoys not to abuse the administrative resource but to promote the implementation of the plans we have discussed today.
I would like to reiterate that I highly regard the work of the academic community and universities, which has tremendous importance because objective information based on hard facts alone can put a reliable barrier in the way of all kinds of aggressive amateurs and falsifiers of history. That is quite evident.
I proceed from the assumption that today’s discussion and joint efforts will provide a good impetus to organising all our activities in the field of patriotism and from the point of protecting the truth about historical facts – the facts that are so sensitive and topical for our nation.