Mintimer Shaimiyev was supposed to take part in a meeting with representatives of Muslim religious organisations and the leadership of the Bulgarian Islamic Academy, which was held yesterday, but was not able to attend due to illness. Vladimir Putin and Rustam Minnikhanov told Mr Shaimiyev about the meeting and thanked him for his charity work. The President highly praised the atmosphere in the republic where various religions are able to coexist.
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Vladimir Putin: Yesterday Mr Minnikhanov and I looked at how our project to establish the Islamic Academy is being implemented. I am happy with it, everything is beautiful and on schedule, and proceeding as planned. The newly trained personnel have promise.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: For the first time in Russia’s history.
Vladimir Putin: People are learning. We will, of course, think about expanding this project.
You know, I have just been to Ufa, and another academy is being established there; there is also one in the Caucasus. But this centre is unique, no doubt.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: Yes, it offers master’s degree programmes, this is higher learning. Madrasas are operating, too.
Rustam Minnikhanov: They offer doctoral and master’s degree programmes.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: What is most important, it took us just one year.
Vladimir Putin: Those who graduate from madrasas should go and work where they are supposed to, not in some other area.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: We have thought about it and discussed it too. Islam has many movements, as you know. The creation of the Islamic Academy in Russia, in the area where Islam was adopted voluntarily, strengthens religion. It is a good spirit.
Vladimir Putin: It is very good that you support all such movements and develop it all. Mr Minnikhanov and I spoke about this earlier. I watched a TV programme today about Tatarstan and saw Lutfulla Shafigullin. I was pleased to listen to him; he speaks very simply and clearly. It means you have a good religious environment here.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: You know, even small villages are expressing an interest in their history.
In addition, Mr President, the fate of our people… if we look at these 100 years since the 1917 revolution: what they have been through! For our people, to discover and recreate spirituality through such projects is a task of enormous importance.
During our meeting, you gave us your support and we began renovations at Bolgar and Sviyazhsk. Financial support measures went smoothly. Then it was said that both Bolgar and Sviyazhsk were cities of federal importance. But at the same time, we are seeing some 100,000 philanthropists of various kinds, from newborns – families donate on their behalf – to the oldest people. Our oldest contributor is a woman who is 103 years old. Russian philanthropists and companies, as well as foreign ones, have also made a huge contribution.
Vladimir Putin: I hope the majority are from Russia.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: Of course. The construction of the academy is proceeding fast, but there are more projects such as the Kazan Kremlin. You headed this commission after Boris Yeltsin. Bolgar and Sviyazhsk are both on the UNESCO list. The programme expires this year: the Russian Culture Ministry and the Finance Ministry drafted a plan for the last year of the programme. It concludes this year.
We had another programme, approved and signed by Mr Minnikhanov, to build the academy and restore the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. I have to say, and you saw it for yourself, that the church is being restored at an amazing pace.
Rustam Minnikhanov: The foundation was in very good shape, there was even a cave church.
Vladimir Putin: It is one of the oldest Orthodox churches.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: The Icon of Our Lady of Kazan is one of the most worshipped icons in the Christian world.
Rustam Minnikhanov: We will invite you to the opening.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to say that you have created a very positive and friendly atmosphere here.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: This is the only way to achieve mutual understanding. I am absolutely sincere in saying this. People know that it cannot be done without it.
We hear many words of gratitude from people. Their attitude is changing, and they are changing themselves. I have to say, while walking through the Kazan Kremlin, which is also on the UNESCO list (the Annunciation Cathedral and the Qol Sharif Mosque), I saw how many changes there are in the people, especially in children: they speak differently, and their faces have changed, too.
Rustam Minnikhanov: Last year Tatarstan received 3.1 million tourists. It is a large business.
Mintimer Shaimiyev: Tourism is developing well. The new project – you have probably not seen it yet – is the construction of a hotel in Bolgar.
Vladimir Putin: I saw it, Mr Minnikhanov showed me, and it is gorgeous.