Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
I visited Kabardino-Balkaria yesterday, and I am very glad I went there. Not that we can name it among the most prosperous parts of Russia, but now I have firsthand knowledge of its public mood and, after I spent a day to see the fruit of the republican leadership’s work, I know now that Kabardino-Balkaria can, in some aspects, set an example to many other Russian regions, especially in the South.
I am sure you can guess what we discussed yesterday. I think those same issues will come on the agenda of our expanded-attendance discussion today. Above all, we must take stock of the economic development of the North Caucasus and the entire Russian South.
Political stability must also come under discussion. I want to say from the start that the democracy of public rallies, so characteristic of the early 1990s, is over. We achieved a great deal in those years. Now, we must proceed from those positive achievements to creatively develop our state. It is high time to put an end to the public opinion of the North Caucasus as something conflict-ridden, as a hotbed of confrontation. I think we should have done that long ago. We can succeed at that, I am sure. The situation in Kabardino-Balkaria convincingly proves that we will.
We talked a lot yesterday about the versatility of Russian culture. At my latest meeting with Balkar spokesmen, they called to preserve multi-lingualism. An extremely complex and deplorable process is underway in the whole world as many nations are losing their cultural identity. Several languages die every year. Humanity is losing them. In that sense, Russia is a unique place. We possess an inimitable cultural wealth, and we must preserve that treasure. Clearly, ethnic minorities’ culture and languages will not survive without direct state support. Whatever we might say about the benefits of the market economy, direct support is indispensable here. It is the Government’s duty to make it explicit.
We can launch such a policy now that our economy is growing. This policy does not require much, but we must at least announce that the state is paying due attention to those issues.
I would like to finish off by what I started it with – economic development and the domestic political situation. Seven regions of the Southern Federal District will elect their leaders this year. That will be a severe test of the North Caucasus and the entire nation. I have no doubt that the electorate will make the right choice in favour of those candidates who are guided by national interests and not by personal ambitions. I am sure the people will elect the candidates who are determined to improve the situation in their regions and consolidate everything positive that Russia possesses. I am sure this will have an extremely beneficial influence on Chechnya. Whatever might be said in the past and even now, there are people in Chechnya who hold community interests far dearer than their own ambitions, and are not afraid to get under militant fire.
I am sure, if this year’s South Russian election campaigns go well, and if we rely in them on the values of the progressive democratic society, that will greatly improve the situation in Chechnya.
I will have a special talk with the head of the Chechen Administration about the situation in that republic.