The meeting addressed three projects being implemented by the Russian Geographical Society. The first is archaeological excavation in the area where the 400 kilometres long Kyzyl-Kuragino railway line will run and connect Tuva and Krasnoyarsk Territory, thereby broadening the coverage of Russia’s transport network. The second is an expedition for cleaning up the environment on the polluted territories of the Franz Josef Land archipelago. And the third is the Arctic Floating University research and educational expedition.
Besides, the meeting reviewed an initiative by Moscow Region for a national scale project, the Russia Museum and Park.The President headed the Russian Geographical Society’s Board of Trustees in November 2009. The organisation has around 13,000 members in Russia and abroad and has sections in 80 of the country’s regions.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues, good afternoon.
You will recall that when the Russian Geographical Society’s Board of Trustees met in April, we agreed to hold an informal extra-mural meeting, and this is what has brought us here to Valaam today.
I think this is a unique location and, as is traditionally said on such occasions, it is symbolic that we are meeting here. The Russian Geographical Society, after all, is about much more than simply organising expeditions, about much more than geography. As the great explorer and public figure Pyotr Semyonov-Tian-Shansky said, it is about facilitating the study of our ‘native land and its people’ in the broadest sense of the expression. Certainly, the Russian Geographical Society has a part to play in helping to preserve the historical, cultural, and moral foundations of our life – the things that make up our national identity.
We should also remember the close historical connection between our venue today, the Valaam Monastery, and the Russian Geographical Society. One of the first small monasteries located here, the Monastery of the Resurrection of Christ, was built here at the turn of the twentieth century using money donated by Russian Geographical Society member Innokenty Sibiryakov, who invested a large part of his fortune in research and exploration projects.
He founded 70 personal scholarships. It was also his money that funded Russia’s first higher educational establishment for women – the Bestuzhev Courses, and the opening of Russia’s first women’s medical school. Sibiryakov’s words, “My millions are the fruit of others’ labour, and I would feel wrong to keep that fruit for myself”, are well known. He was an exceptional person who truly accomplished much indeed.
The work of Sibiryakov and other outstanding philanthropists has not only inscribed their names in history but has become an example of selfless service to one’s fellow citizens and country, a model for future generations, and an example we are following today in our efforts to revive the traditions of patronage and philanthropy.
Incidentally, I know most of the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees’ members are not just trustees on this board but are also engaged in a wide range of other public work. I know that many of you are acting on your own initiative and doing just the kind of work that Sibiryakov did, instituting scholarships, carrying out other philanthropic activities, helping children, building ‘Austrian Villages’ and so on. I am aware of this work and want to thank you for it. The Russian Geographical Society’s Board of Trustees is keeping faithfully to the spirit and letter of the traditions I mentioned just now, supporting genuinely useful initiatives of importance for society.
We will look soon at the state of progress on three projects that were made possible in large part thanks to your help and are being carried out through grants from the Russian Geographical Society.
The first of these projects is archaeological excavation in the area where the Kyzyl-Kuragino railway line will run. Before the construction work gets underway there, we first should give researchers the full chance to preserve unique ethno-cultural heritage in the area. Young volunteers from around practically the entire Russian Federation are working in the field there for the second season now.
The second project is about cleaning up the environment in our Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land. We had conducted preliminary studies over some 18 months, and just few days ago saw off the first practical expedition that will start the actual clean-up of the archipelago. Of course it would be only fitting, probably, for the Russian Geographical Society to monitor this project’s progress.
Also in the Arctic is the third project we will look at today, the Arctic Floating University research and educational expedition. Its participants have already gathered important information for Roshydromet [national weather service], enabling them to make forecasts for the coming winter with maximum accuracy. There is no need to remind you how important this is for Russia at the practical level. Given its practical use, it would be good to make this expedition an annual event.
I also note that our meeting today will see the presentation of a big new initiative, namely, the Russia Museum and Park – a truly national project that will include exhibits from every region of the country. It will give the chance to see the different regions’ nature, traditions, and cultural heritage, and see scaled-down versions of unique architectural monuments. It will be a kind of ‘Russia in miniature’, where visitors will have the entire Russian Federation before their eyes.
Many countries have already carried out such projects. They have not just entertainment value but also serve more serious purposes, educating and informing. Incidentally, there were plans to build just such a park under the Russian Geographical Society’s patronage in the Vsevolozhsk county near Leningrad in the 1930s, but unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II and then the Great Patriotic War prevented these plans from going ahead.
It would be good to carry out this project now, all the more so as Russia, with its unique nature, centuries-old history, and its ethnic and cultural diversity really does have many interesting and useful things to show our citizens and also our visitors from abroad.
Sergei Shoigu will tell us more about this project. Mr Shoigu is here today not just as President of the Russian Geographical Society, but also as Governor of Moscow Region, and it is Moscow Region that is behind this initiative.