The recipients of the award include Valery Gergiyev, conductor and artistic director of St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, Konstantin Chumanov, a specialist machine-tool operator at the Instrument-building Plant in Trekhgorny, Chelyabinsk Region, Yury Konnov, a farm machinery engineer and chief specialist at the Rossiya-Agro agribusiness company in Voronezh Region, Vladimir Melnik, an engineer and machine operator at the Kotinskaya Mine in Kemerovo Region, and Alexander Konovalov, a leading neurosurgery specialist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Academy of Medical Science, and director of the N.N. Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery.
The award ceremony took place at the Konstantin Palace in St Petersburg.
The initiative to introduce the Hero of Labour award came during a meeting last December between the President and the authorised representatives who backed him in his 2012 presidential election campaign. Mr Putin signed the Presidential Executive Order establishing the Title of Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation following the Russian Popular Front’s first conference on Building Social Justice, in March this year.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends,
We are meeting today on May 1. This could become a fine tradition for this occasion. For indeed, we have a reason today to meet especially on this holiday, the Day of Spring and Labour, namely, it is today that we are presenting for the first time a new state decoration – the Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation gold medal.
The decision to establish this decoration is not just to recognise the services of those who bring glory to our country through their work. This title and the accompanying medal are another step towards restoring continuity of tradition and strengthening the links between eras and generations.
Honest and conscientious work, perseverance, skill and talent were always honoured and respected at every time in our country’s history. Our people’s legends, folk tales, proverbs and sayings extoll these qualities. Russia has therefore always particularly recognised not just feats on the battlefield but also the hard work and achievements of farmers and artisans, merchants’ noble acts, and great scientific, geographical and creative achievements.
Russia in the 18–19th centuries recognised its people’s services with decorations such as the medals For Zeal and For Work Beneficial to Society and so on. Thousands of people were awarded the titles Hero of Labour, Hero of Socialist Labour, and other honorary distinctions during the Soviet years. Our country’s industrial might was indeed built upon the sincere enthusiasm and heroic labour of our fathers and grandfathers. This is a historic fact that there is no disputing.
We all remember too, of course, that our victory in the Great Patriotic War was forged not just on the frontlines but also on the home front. Millions of our compatriots worked selflessly in the factories and fields, and their contribution to victory was also recognised with high state decorations.
Today, we know that we can move forward only by continuing to rely on our spiritual and cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions, strengthening the moral values that unite our nation.
”The decision to establish this decoration is not just to recognise the services of those who bring glory to our country through their work. The title of Hero of Labour is another step towards restoring continuity of tradition and strengthening the links between eras and generations.“
We must cherish and preserve our historical memory and fill our hearts with pride for our people, this people that built our great country, and that know how to work hard, sparing no effort, and achieve their goals by getting everyone working together.
We must restore respect for labour and raise the prestige of the professions that form the country’s backbone: engineers, designers, workers, farmers, teachers, doctors. Such are the demands of the times, and we must realise that only through hard work can we build a strong and prosperous Russia.
Any constructive activity, be it scientific discoveries, creating great works of art, organising a successful business, working at the factory bench, down a coal mine, or at the wheel of a combine harvester, is a contribution to developing Russia and raising our people’s prosperity, and it should get deserved recognition.
Friends, the people receiving the Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation gold medal today are people who have achieved outstanding results in agriculture and industry, have saved human lives, and have given audiences artistic works of world significance.
Let me say a few words about each of the recipients.
The first of the Hero of Labour gold medals is awarded to Academician Alexander Konovalov, who has devoted his entire life’s work to the Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery. People say that Mr Konovalov is a truly heaven-sent neurosurgeon whose hands can work miracles. He is a founder of Russia’s neurosurgery school and has performed more than 10,000 highly complex operations.
Our next recipient needs no special introduction. The talent of Valery Gergiev, a great conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, is known and loved by millions not just here in Russia but all around the world.
Miners, the miners from the Kuzbass mining region, have always been recognised as true heroes of real strength and courage. One of these heroes is Vladimir Melnik, a brigade leader at the Kotinskaya Mine. His brigade set a production record that no one has been able to beat yet.
Yury Konnov, an agricultural engineer at Rossiya-Agro company, has devoted his life to the land. For almost 39 years he has been making his real, outstanding and visible contribution – and this is no exaggeration – to Russia’s food security, ensuring high harvests of our most important crops every year. Love of the land and love of his profession are something that his family has handed down through the generations.
We have always had great respect for the specialists working in our defence and nuclear industries. They have unique skills and knowledge that are literally vital for guaranteeing our country’s reliable defence. Konstantin Chumanov has worked as a machine operator at one of Rosatom’s plants for more than 40 years now and is entrusted with particularly complex jobs. He has proven his top-level professionalism and skill on many occasions and come up with innovative technical solutions.
All of you have golden hands and determined characters. Your achievements are the result of years of daily hard work. Each of you is our country’s pride and treasure. I congratulate you on receiving the high title and decoration of Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation.
”We must restore respect for labour and raise the prestige of the professions that form the country’s backbone: engineers, designers, workers, farmers, teachers, doctors. Such are the demands of the times, and we must realise that only through hard work can we build a strong and prosperous Russia.“
Concluding the official part of this event, laureates and friends, I want to inform you that tomorrow will be a big day in St Petersburg because we will be opening the Mariinsky Theatre’s new stage, and Mr Gergiev will celebrate his sixtieth birthday. He knows nothing about this yet, but on his behalf I invite you all to stay another day in St Petersburg. I think you would make him very happy.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Director of the Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery Alexander Konovalov: Mr President, friends,
I think there’s no need to explain that this is the most meaningful and emotional day in my already not so short life. All my life I have tried to do what my parents, who were doctors too, taught me, what my teachers taught me, and what my colleagues continue to teach me now, namely, to do good, be of use to others and help those in greatest need of support – the seriously ill.
I have been lucky in life. I have spent more than 50 years working in one institute, the Institute of Neurosurgery, where we have a wonderful team and where generations of marvellous researchers and scientists have established this discipline and proposed new treatment methods. This is tremendously important to me, and I realise that the credit here goes not to me but above all to this wonderful team.
I want to say today, that recognition of these services is a huge encouragement to continue the work, continue to develop new treatment methods, and perhaps most importantly, continue passing on the knowledge that has built up over all these years.
I want to end by saying “I serve Russia!” This is perhaps a bit unconventional, it’s what soldiers say, after all, but then again, medicine and the army have always gone together. Moreover, I don’t think there are any words that express what I want to say as fully and succinctly as “I serve Russia”.
Mr President, I realise that the Institute of Neurosurgery is not the Mariinsky Theatre, but we nonetheless hope that amidst your very busy schedule you will find the time to visit our institute too.
Conductor and Artistic Director of the Mariinsky theatre Valery Gergiev: Mr President, friends,
Of course this is an emotional moment. It is a huge honour to be here today. The Mariinsky Theatre’s team of thousands of people is living some very special moments over these days, and today’s ceremony is part of the big holiday that marks a turning point in this great Russian theatre’s history.
Tomorrow, we will open not just a new stage but a whole new theatre. I think we could also say with regret that we are not doctors, but I want to hope and believe that concerts and performances, not just ours but others’ too, help people to feel the joy of being in this world, the joy of living in Russia, living today in a stable country of such wealth, above all wealth in human talent. I hope that this is a new chapter we are opening today and tomorrow too.
Our theatre will be full of labour veterans today as it happens. We decided to hold two opening concerts. I hope that all of the veterans we were able to invite will come to the new theatre today. We will be performing two identical concerts. Tomorrow’s concert will mark the new theatre’s official opening. I hope the new page we are writing today will mark a golden and truly precious moment in the history of our theatre, which is already 230 years old.
Thank you very much, Mr President, for supporting the theatre. We made it through the toughest years of the late 1980s and almost the whole of the 1990s thanks to our team’s efforts, and then we started to receive hitherto unseen support from the state authorities over the 2000s. We have a new concert hall, and now will be opening our new theatre building. Naturally, we understand that we have to work now to pay back this support.
Work is something we were always good at. I hope the God will give us the strength and over the coming 5–10 years we will show the entire creative world and our own country above all, just how correct and essential a decision it was on the part of the authorities to give us this support.
We have so many talented young people joining our troupes now and they will have opportunities to dazzle the entire world. That is probably the main thing I am thinking about now. And the schoolchildren and students who will fill our theatre every day – for them above all it is worth undertaking all of this ambitious work.
Thank you very much.
”The people receiving the Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation gold medal today are people who have achieved outstanding results in agriculture and industry, have saved human lives, and have given audiences artistic works of world significance.“
AGRICULTURAL ENGINEER AND CHIEF SPECIALIST AT ROSSIYA-AGRO AGRICULTURAL COMPANY [VORONEZH REGION] YURY KONNOV: Mr President, friends, thank you for this high state decoration.
I have worked on the land all my life and have never been disappointed with my job. My grandfather was in this same profession, and my father, brother, and now my son too, all work on the land. This decoration’s establishment gives the opportunity and hope that the hard work of our farmers will be recognised and honoured. On behalf of everyone working in the countryside, I promise that we will do all we can. We have always worked hard and we always will.
Once again, thank you very much.
Machine Operator At Kotinskaya Mine [Kemerovo Region] Vladimir Melnik: Mr President,
I want to thank you for this high decoration. It honours the labour of all Kuzbass region miners. The region has been growing steadily over these last years, like the country as a whole. Our region’s miners produced 200 million tons of coal last year. This is the highest result in recent years.
I think that your labour as our country’s leader also contributed to this high decoration and to these tons of coal, Mr President, because you have always stood by our region in joy and in sorrow. We all know this.
Thank you very much on behalf of all of the Kuzbass miners.
Vladimir Putin: Friends,
I congratulate the laureates once again on their decorations and want to thank them once more for their work. We worked hard too, if you noticed, because it was no easy task to choose the first recipients of such a high title as Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation from among Russia’s many talented and successful people. It really was a very difficult moral choice to make.
It made me happy just before to hear the agricultural engineer say that this decoration recognises the people who work on the land. We will try to ensure that we do pay attention to the most important sectors and find there our heroes of labour who will receive these medals.
I think that today’s choice was a big success. They are all truly outstanding people and I wish them continued success. They have already achieved a lot and will yet accomplish even more for our country and people. They will delight us with their successes and we and the whole country will enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Your lives and work are a shining and wonderful example for many, for all of us, especially for young people who see you and realise that it is possible in Russia to achieve world-level results, and earn our country’s recognition.
Thank you very much for your work.