The meeting is timed to coincide with the Lawyer's Day marked in Russia on December 3.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon friends,
We are here today at the university for a meeting of the Board of Trustees. We will look together at what more we can do for our country’s main university. But I asked for the possibility to meet separately with law students. There are two good reasons for this. The first is that today is Jurist’s Day, and I congratulate you from all my heart on this occasion. The second concerns students at Moscow University’s Law Faculty. I want to congratulate you on moving into your new home. You have an excellent new building with great facilities and possibilities, where you will be able to take pleasure from the contacts with your teachers and the academic literature at your disposal, and feel at home in every sense of the word. I congratulate you on this new move.
With regard to Jurist’s Day, I want to note an important event that is coming up. We are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian Federation Constitution. This is our basic law, the law at the foundation of any country, including our own. And as such it has no less value, indeed, perhaps even more, as I will try to explain now, than is the case for other countries.
It probably has even greater value because, as we all know and discussed many times, our country is going through a very complicated transformation process. This makes it even more important to have the basic values enshrined by our country’s Constitution. It is very important that our entire society and each citizen knows that our country rests on stable and just legal principles. It is this — along with history and what we learn from our parents — that gives birth to the healthy spirit of patriotism that we have spoken about so often over recent times.
This patriotic spirit will be all the more solid and enduring the more a person realises and understands that he loves and feels pride in his homeland. That is what patriotism is about after all – love for one’s homeland. And this sense of love and pride comes too from knowing that your country looks after your basic interests, rights and freedoms. Our Constitution enshrines these principles above all. They are at the Constitution’s foundation and give it not just legal but also immense and very important moral and ethical significance. Therefore, as I congratulate you on Jurist’s Day, I also want to congratulate you on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Constitution.
I do not want to make a long speech here at this meeting with you. I doubt that this meeting will be a long one, and so I would rather answer your questions if you have any, and I am sure that you do have questions. We do not get the chance to have such meetings often. There was a meeting earlier with some of the students, who are involved in practical political life and give some of their time, knowledge and skills to monitoring elections. I want to thank you for this work. I know that you were actively involved last year in monitoring the presidential election campaign. This year, you have already taken part in monitoring elections in the Russian Federation’s regions. Many of you are probably preparing to continue this work next autumn.
I think this is indeed very important and useful work. It is useful and needed because public confidence in the state authorities increases only when people can be sure that government is formed in accordance with the law and that no kind of tricks and unlawful means can get into power anyone who does not deserve to be there and has not earned voters’ trust. As for whether a person can live up to the expectations of voters who want to see concrete work and results – this is something their work will show with time. In any case, your work on monitoring elections at the various levels is very important and very useful, and that is no exaggeration.
Of course, I also must say a few words about the importance of the future profession you have chosen. It would be rare for someone never to come into contact with doctors say, and also very rare indeed for someone never to have dealings with members of the legal profession. Various circumstances in life can bring people into contact with lawyers, investigators, prosecutors, and judges, and when this happens, they essentially entrust their fate to these professionals. This is a very important area of the state’s work, and it is also of great importance for every citizen when they come into contact with the legal profession and its members.
I therefore call on you to always be careful and balanced in your work, and professional of course. It is also very important for a jurist, as for a doctor, to show utmost attentiveness to the people who entrust them with their fate and perhaps sometimes even their lives. I want you to remember this, and to remember too that a jurist’s work is very diverse and very complex, no matter what the area, whether it’s regulating economic activity, civil court proceedings, civil law, or criminal law.
There are no secondary areas in the legal profession. All areas of work in this profession require knowledge and also warmth in relations with people, and they also involve a heavy burden of course. In all of the areas I just named, and in others too, including administrative violations and their regulation, jurists confront a conflict situation and must resolve relations between people, between an individual and the state, or an individual and a particular state agency. There is always a dispute involved, and jurists have to get involved in it and in one way or another it colours their emotions with feelings that as a rule can hardly be called positive. This is not an easy profession.
One of my friends who spent his entire career working as a defence lawyer – not an investigator or prosecutor, but the very peaceful-seeming profession of defence lawyer – calculated the time he had spent together with his clients, studying their cases, talking with them and so on. He said to me recently, “You know, if you tally up all the time I’ve spent with my clients, I’ve spent about 15 years in prison”.
This is really a serious matter. He did this voluntarily, certainly, but all the same, you turn up in the morning and spend 5–6 hours, even 7 hours, studying the case, and don’t come home until evening, only you’ve spent your day not in a concert hall somewhere, but in a pre-trial detention centre, in prison, essentially.
Other areas of the legal profession also come with big physical and even psychological burdens, including arbitration disputes, say. This is particularly so today, when our country has big companies with multi-million turnover at work here, and when what is at stake is not just the fate of the individuals and companies engaged in disputes, but entire workforces. These are extremely important matters.
I congratulate you on Jurist’s Day and wish you good luck!