President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr President, dear friends,
This is of course an unusual event. Not that Russia is an honorary guest of such a major event in Paris – it is unusual that the President of France gives so much personal attention to it and has invited us here to the Elysee Palace.
It seems to me that there are several reasons for this, above all the love and interest that the French President has in Russian culture and Russian literature, because President Jacques Chirac – although this was many years ago – personally translated Russian classics.
And today in discussing the development of the common humanitarian space in Europe, such an attitude towards developing our relations in the humanitarian sphere has a serious influence on building new relations on the European continent.
I think that there is another reason for this warm attitude to Russian culture and Russian literature. I believe that Russia has made quite a serious contribution to the development of the French language, and in advancing and popularising French culture over quite a long time, given that for almost 150 years since the end of the 17th century, the entire Russian elite was bilingual: they spoke French just as well as their native language.
The interaction of two cultures has played, and continues to play, an enormous role in the development of European culture and the European humanitarian space.
Many generations of Russian citizens have been brought up not just on Russian classics, but on European classics, in the widest meaning of this word, and not least on French classics. It’s unlikely that you could find an adult in Russia today who did not read the novels of Jules Verne or Dumas in their youth. It’s hard to imagine a person in Russia who does not know the names of Victor Hugo and other leading cultural figures of France, such as Balzac for example. And we know how people in France feel about Pushkin and Dostoyevsky.
I am simply certain that the people in this hall today, the authors represented at the book fair, are developing the tradition of Russian literature, But I am sure, the works represented here reflect the contemporary state of development of our country, the current mood and feelings of the Russian people in a new democratic Russia.
I want to wish you all success, and once more thank the organisers of this fair, and thank the leadership of France and President Jacques Chirac for the enormous attention and support that the French leadership is giving to the development of bilateral relations, including in the humanitarian sphere.