President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Lyubimova, I know that you have many questions for me, as usual. Go ahead.
Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova: Mr President, I would like to begin with our large projects, which have been completed recently or will be completed soon. They concern restoration.
One of the much-anticipated projects for our sector is a large International Restoration Centre, which has opened in the Leningrad Region. It is a highly anticipated project with the floor space of 10,000 square metres. We managed to purchase cutting-edge equipment and instruments just in time. It is very important for the people who recreate, sometimes literally from ashes, and miraculously save our masterpieces to have the opportunity to work in wonderful conditions. We will also provide advanced training and hold conferences at the centre.
It is an ambitious project.
Vladimir Putin: Where is it located?
Olga Lyubimova: It is located near Gatchina in the Leningrad Region. Everyone in the Leningrad Region, and not only that region, will be able to use it. We also plan to bring young specialists from all over Russia there for training and to have access to its equipment.
Vladimir Putin: It is very interesting.
Olga Lyubimova: They are looking forward to your visit.
Vladimir Putin: It would be interesting, of course.
Olga Lyubimova: A short distance from it, Monrepos Park has reopened in Vyborg after a long period of restoration. The project has been completed.
It is an extremely beautiful garden complex in the Leningrad Region, which is open to everyone. Along with the restored facilities, it offers various tours. In short, we have finished one more project.
Another one of our wonderful museums in Veliky Novgorod, the Kremlin, its big museum part, the Vitoslavlitsy museum, is also very popular with the locals and will be a big gift for the tourists. This museum of wooden architecture comprises 24 buildings. It is beautiful as it is, but it has also prepared major programmes for holiday events, both for children and adults.
We are working on two large museum blocks in Pskov and Tula. We are just launching the Pskov block. Tula is already operating at full strength. We will complete a few more facilities in Tula in 2025. We have already finished the museum block in Pskov. In 2022, 800,000 people visited Tula, and we will strive to hit the one million visitors benchmark at our museum branches for the first time this year.
Vladimir Putin: Did this cost 10 billion?
Olga Lyubimova: You are absolutely right. It cost us 10 billion, and branches of the Kulikovo Field State Historical Museum, Polenovo and Yasnaya Polyana have already opened there. We are set to open the Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, a branch of the Polytechnic Museum and that of the Andrei Rublev Museum featuring icon painting. These are major events, and museum teams, which are getting new sites, are already working with great pleasure.
What’s more, it’s all so diverse. In the past, this was just an ordinary Metallistov Street suffering from constant traffic jams, while its unique local cultural landmarks had rundown and dilapidated façades. Today, this has become a branch of the State Historical Museum. For example, entire families can come here from Moscow and enjoy an exhibition of Faberge masterpieces.
We are also getting ready to open the Factory Kitchen, a branch of the State Tretyakov Gallery. This is a fantastic cultural landmark where a young team is preparing to launch some great and diverse activities.
Vladimir Putin: Is this in Samara?
Olga Lyubimova: Yes, in Samara, and it is very important that, apart from ambitious exhibition activities, it will accommodate a large youth centre offering lectures, an additional educational programme and multiple hobby groups for children. Understandably, apart from receiving tourists, local residents want this to become yet another major event for their city, so that they would be able to spend a lot of time there, interact with each other and gain additional knowledge.
In 2024, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow. The convent has 36 facilities, and we have already renovated 24 of them. I hope that we will complete our joint, long-running, meticulous and even long-suffering work.
Vladimir Putin: Why?
Olga Lyubimova: We faced difficulties from the very beginning. As you remember, the Convent’s bell tower caught fire, and we had major problems with the contractor. Thank God, good and highly responsible restorers have now started working, and the Mother Superior is extremely satisfied.
Vladimir Putin: This work is also expensive, costing almost 9 billion, right?
Olga Lyubimova: You are absolutely right; this is our major project.
And, of course, the celebrations marking the anniversary of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky. I definitely have to mention the huge Alexander Nevsky Church in Chelyabinsk, as big as 1,000 square metres. A large and very beautiful church, it has reopened after extensive restoration works, and this, of course, was a big event for Chelyabinsk residents.
Apart from cultural developments and other events, it is very important for us, of course, that such major anniversaries prompt breakthroughs in art restoration. In this regard, I cannot fail to mention the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. At the moment, and this is very important, too, a renovation project is underway there, which will be completed at the end of 2024.
The next slide presents our international competitions and festivals. I must admit that a year ago, when the term “cancel culture” appeared, the first thing we thought about was the International Tchaikovsky Competition. It is a kind of musical Olympiad, an incredible and most important test in the careers of the world’s top musicians. When we announced the competition this year, I will not hide that we waited with anxiety and great interest to see how many applications there would be. And 742 contestants applied from 41 countries including the United States, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Germany and South Korea.
Vladimir Putin: Citizens of the world are outside politics.
Olga Lyubimova: This proves once again that this is absolutely true.
A very important and wonderful initiative came from Andrei Nikitin, Governor of the Novgorod Region, in the year of the 150th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff: he proposed holding a competition for very young, novice musicians in Veliky Novgorod, in memory of Sergei Rachmaninoff, that is, for those who dream of eventually making it to the Tchaikovsky Competition.
This year, the competition was held in Veliky Novgorod for the first time and it was directed by Denis Matsuev. As many as 120 children came from several countries, and they performed wonderfully.
The third point – as we discuss our international activity, I cannot fail to mention our circus industry because there is a competition in Monte Carlo, which has been held for 45 years, and our wonderful circus artists have participated in it for years and received top awards in the highest categories and in various disciplines.
Then, last year, Monte Carlo said Russia was no longer allowed to participate, and two hours later, we announced that we would have our own competition. It will take place at the Ciniselli Circus in St Petersburg, in September, when children are usually back in town and we can have huge crowds of them attend the event. Sold out already.
Vladimir Putin: It will take place in September, right?
Olga Lyubimova: Yes, in mid-September. More than 20 countries. And it was very important to us, because the circle knows no unfriendly spectators or unfriendly artists. And when they all come out marching, carrying all the flags, representing every category, that’s very important too.
The Ministry of Culture has a new, separate area of work. I am referring to our engagement with the new regions. The experience we have gained under the Culture national project and in working with the Russian regions, the relevance of these areas are of great help. We are reviving libraries, theatres and concert halls, museums, virtual halls, culture centres. What I mean is that we replace the equipment, provide assistance, discuss problems, etc.
When the Culture national project was launched, everyone asked what the car clubs were all about. They are the same thing as in the 1960s… This proved an important idea, because at first those car clubs saved us during the COVID-19 pandemic (they came and made it possible to gather people outdoors), while today, we can just drive in and throw a party where infrastructure is still a problem.
Our outreach teams represent yet another area of work, which is handled by Roskontsert in cooperation with the Defence Ministry. They visit regions, hospitals and rehabilitation centres to support our men where the Defence Ministry allows us to come and where we will not be a nuisance. We send as many people as can be of help and delight people with their performances.
I want to mention the fact that people join a queue to take part in our road shows, which is yet another significant point. We constantly receive applications from performers in different age groups working in various genres who want to do their bit and support both the new regions and our soldiers.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is very important. Rebuilding the physical infrastructure is no less important. I already said this. Regrettably, I had no opportunity to see social facilities when I was visiting the Kherson Region and the Lugansk People’s Republic. But it was clear that where there were no hostilities, where the situation was more or less stable, everything was clean and tidied up. But, of course, the facilities themselves – you can’t see much from a car or a helicopter – the facilities themselves, as I know, need support, restoration and renovation at the modern level in the same way as it is being done in many places in Russia.
Olga Lyubimova: We appreciate this opportunity. You know, the museums, the libraries… Each federal museum has volunteered to help the new regions. Six federal libraries are providing comprehensive assistance to 995 local libraries. The first batch of 540,000 new books…
First of all, we always consult with our colleagues from other ministries and with regional heads on how to do it in the best possible way. We discuss and examine our projects together. We badly need books for children and books for schools, because children are told to go to a library to take a book they need to read in addition to the main course.
Of course, it is very important for us to discuss these issues with our new colleagues in the new regions. All of us are learning, so, let us do it together. It is part of our work in the area of additional education.
Vladimir Putin: Do you have a list of establishments that should be rebuilt or renovated?
Olga Lyubimova: We have finalised a plan. It includes 14 libraries this year, 15 theatres, 11 museums, 10 online museums and 40 cultural centres. This is what we will do this year.
Next, we have plans for cinemas. Before February 2022, there were only two cinemas in Donbass. There are 21 of them now, and all of them are open to the public. Children there watch the same films we watch here. We talk about who liked Cheburashka, and who is looking forward to a sequel. They have the same questions for our colleagues in the new regions as children in other Russian regions. An additional 28 cinemas will open by the end of the year. The fact is, there is going to be a chain of cinemas that will open by December.
There is one more important aspect. Apart from films that are running now, there is a demand for our golden collections. The Gosfilmofond film archive and the Mosfilm and Lenfilm studios provide modern high-quality digitised films, but there are also our old Soviet films that whole families can watch.
We have started doing this in some parts. For example, there is a cinema and television college in Shakhtersk, which had a small screening room. We are building a large cinema there. It will open for children by September, and adults will be able to watch films there in the afternoon. It is a combination of learning and enjoying cinema. The VGIK [the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography] will help and is helping us a lot.
We will open a small museum together with the Cinema Museum and Gosfilmofond, which will become a community space open to everyone. They never had a cinema before.
Of course, such things are extremely important for the new regions and for our sector as a whole.
Vladimir Putin: Very good.