Vladimir Putin: I want to stress that all the activities and all these events are of course to be attributed to the policy pursued by the President of Tatarstan aimed at strengthening the inter-ethnic harmony in the Republic of Tatarstan and in the Russian Federation as a whole. They are connected with the strengthening of inter-ethnic harmony; with the needs and problems of our citizens both inside the country and with our fellow countrymen abroad; and of course with the future of national and cultural development; the increase of business and humanitarian cooperation both between the peoples inside the Russian Federation and among all those people who consider Russia, the Russian republics and Russian regions to be their historical homeland. I would like to stress that these are the fundamental values of our country. We will do everything to foster them, to cultivate and welcome all those who share our views and convictions and work together with us to achieve these goals.
The past decade has seen a veritable resurgence of the national traditions not only of the Tatar people, but of all the peoples of the Russian Federation, and an awakening of their interest in their own history. The non-governmental organisations, academics and public figures of Tatarstan have taken an active part in these processes. Russia, where Slavic and Turkic peoples have historically lived side by side, has always been and remains a centre that attracts and brings together many cultures. Herein lies the strength of Russia and our immense potential that we must develop.
In that respect the experience of Tatarstan where people have always lived according to the traditions of good-neighbourliness, mutual understanding, respect and tolerance, is very important. The strength of that tradition is a key factor in the development of the republic today. And not only the republic but the whole multinational Russian Federation. Almost two-thirds of the Tatars live outside Tatarstan, and the Tatarstan President told me as we were coming here perhaps even more than two-thirds. That is why your work to deepen relations with the Tatar communities in the Russian regions and outside the Russian Federation is so interesting. These contacts help to preserve the national and cultural identity and the language, implement educational and humanitarian programmes and provide the basis for modern business projects.
Having said that, the Government must pay equal attention to all groups of Russian fellow countrymen regardless of their ethnicity. Today all the government bodies, including the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, have standing instructions to pay special attention to work with fellow countrymen, to render them every assistance through information, organisational, legal and administrative means.
I would like to remind you that there will be a national population census in Russia this year. It is a major government project. This work makes it pertinent above all for the government representatives to show a maximum of correctness and tact. Proceeding from the results of the census we will adjust the government policy in the field of promoting national cultures, preserving national languages and traditions. I would like to stress that this is a very special heritage of Russia. I am sure that there is no other country in the world with such a diversity of cultures and languages. This is undoubtedly a strength of our country.
I know that one of the key tasks of the Congress is to promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious accord. Good relations among peoples have taken centuries to shape. And it is important to preserve that heritage. But it also needs to be protected against those who, in pursuit of their selfish ends, manipulate extremist and nationalistic slogans and try to sow mistrust, aggressiveness and intolerance. I very much hope that our fellow countrymen who live in countries with a stable political system will introduce the spirit of humanism into the work of the Congress. Obviously, society itself must develop immunity to these diseases. Much will depend on the responsibility of non-governmental organisations, prominent members of the intelligentsia, the clergy and the business community. The government is ready to engage these partners in a permanent dialogue; a dialogue in the interests of social and political stability. This is what ordinary citizens expect from us.
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There is one other exceedingly important matter and that is the interaction between the state and religion, and the attitude of the state to the church and religion in general. At present we have nothing except religion to bring universal human values to everyone. There is nothing wrong with that, so if somebody is trying to drag people away from churches, mosques and synagogues, I think that is a mistake. It is my personal opinion because the state, including myself as the head of state, has no right to interfere in religious activities.