Current issues in history as a science, the role of historical knowledge in developing society, and falsification of history were among the subjects of discussion.
Participants at the meeting included State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, representatives of public organisations, the academic community, search movements, and Anne-Marie Guido, the daughter of a French pilot in the Normandie-Nieman regiment, who decided to give her father’s medals to the Russian Military Historical Regiment’s museum.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with delegates to the National Historical Assembly
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends and colleagues,
We are all well acquainted with the Russian Geographical Society’s work. Its organisers have made a lot of effort to publicise the Society’s activities in the media and they have many projects underway. Other initiatives are important too. One initiative has come from the Historical Society, and another from the Military Historical Society.
We are marking a date of particular significance today – the start of the Great Patriotic War. I spoke about this date and its significance at the State Duma earlier and will not repeat myself now, but there is one thing I want to say in connection with this event. I see on my right Ms Anne-Marie Guido. I want to welcome you today. I know that you have decided to present to the Russian Military Historical Society’s museum the medals of your father, Maurice Guido, who was a pilot in the Normandie-Nieman regiment, which has great renown in our country.
We are very grateful to you for this decision and for your trust and your respect for our great common victories. I want to assure that we will lovingly and attentively preserve the memory of your father and his comrades in arms, and of the spirit of alliance and fraternity that united the soldiers in the anti-Nazi coalition.
I would like to make just a few remarks at the start of this meeting. They are general remarks, but nonetheless important things that should be said aloud.
Russia’s history forms the foundation for our country’s worldview and culture in the broad sense of the word. It is unquestionably a source of our identity and our mission as a civilisation. It also offers us lessons we can learn from in order to resolve the tasks before us today and look further into the future, look at our present moment and at the longer term and beyond.
Let me conclude these opening remarks here. It will be a pleasure to hear what you have to say, hear about your future work plans and priorities, and perhaps about any additional help you might need from the authorities at different levels, from municipal level to the federal authorities.
They say politics does not deal in the subjunctive mood. This is true – politics doesn’t but science does. In fact, it is of great importance and interest. Let me explain to you what I mean.
Quite recently I spoke to one of my German friends. You’ve just spoken about the need to know what the Nazis perpetrated in our land. My German friend read different historical documents about what Hitler had planned to do with the Russian people had he won, where the Russian people would have ended up – far away in Siberia, essentially doomed to extinction. My friend also paid attention to other historical facts.
Everyone should know this, including those who are trying to reinterpret what happened and draw conclusions, which no one has the right to do today, or to denounce somebody. It is necessary to look at what would have happened to us if we had been defeated. This is very important because all aspects are of interest in historiography: both what happened and what could have happened if we had not achieved what we did. This is a very interesting point.
You know I would like to say something – not by way of discussion – and I think you’ll agree with me, with what I’m going to say. We need more good literature rather than just war literature.
Tvardovsky was mentioned. Indeed, who doesn’t remember: “River crossing, river crossing! Left bank, right bank, rough snow, the ice’s edge…” When you read the lines “…some get dark water,” they hit home. This is what we need. As for having more or less of this or that kind… War subjects are very important and we’ve talked a lot about this today because it is June 22 – the day the Great Patriotic War began.
But it is equally important for us to have a positive view of today and tomorrow, because without what you’ve said and what we are talking today about, without the knowledge of our own history – I said this in the very beginning and I know that all those present agree with this – without the knowledge of this past we cannot look to the future. This is a cliché but it is true and we cannot ignore it.
Yes, of course, the world is changing now, and borders are disappearing, but I don’t know of any nation that doesn’t cherish its identity, the loss of which has such grave consequences. This is not our choice.
We want to be part of modern civilisation and, of course, to look to the future. Not a single country or nation should live in the past and bask in its heroism forever. This is harmful and dangerous for a nation’s future. It is necessary to move forward, relying exclusively – not exclusively but largely on the foundation that was created by the previous generations. It is necessary to bring up young people on the basis of the best achievements of our predecessors in decades and centuries past. This is the only way to feel secure in this rapidly changing world. It’s the only way to choose the right development goals.
I would like to thank all of you for your work, to wish success to all of you and to assure you that for my part I will do everything I can to support you.
Thank you very much.