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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends,
Today’s ceremony here in the St Catherine Hall is different in that it brings together people from one specific area of life. Here today we have talented members of the culture and arts community, recognised masters known throughout our country and loved by millions of our people. I decided to hold this ceremony now because we want to underscore the importance and meaning of our state decorations by awarding them not every week, but in a ceremony that will take place once a year.
I will be brief since there is no need for me to introduce the people here today. Your names are well known and your faces are familiar to most people in our country. I simply want to congratulate you all most warmly on these state decorations, and on the upcoming national holiday – the National Unity Day, which we will celebrate at the end of the week.
Our country must be united because it is in unity that its strength lies. It grew and formed as a large and strong country that was always able to defend itself, and in this is its future too. But unity is forged not just by cannons and tanks, and not just by economic opportunities, though these things are important of course. Unity is forged also by a common cultural space and by the people who are the bearers of knowledge and cultural achievement, and who cement us together as a united nation. You are these people, and it is therefore with great pleasure that I am here to present you with these state decorations today.
I therefore will not mention any of you in particular, so as not to offend anyone, but propose that we move straight on to presenting these state decorations and honorary titles.