President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear ladies and gentlemen!
Today we celebrate the Day of National Unity for the first time. While this is a new state holiday, its meaning and value have deep spiritual and historical roots.
Almost four centuries ago, at the beginning of November 1612, Kuzma Minin and Prince Pozharskii led their home guard army to liberate Moscow from foreign invaders. This marked the end of the Time of Troubles in Russia, and of civil strife and conflicts connected with that period.
This was a victory of patriotic forces, a victory for the project to strengthen the state by uniting, centralizing and joining forces. These heroic events mark the beginning of the spiritual revival of the Fatherland and the creation of a great and sovereign power.
Undoubtedly, it was the people themselves that defended Russian statehood. They showed true civic consciousness and the greatest degree of responsibility. They acted not because they were compelled to by a higher authority, but because they followed their hearts. Thus people of different ethnic origins and creeds united to determine their destiny and that of their Fatherland.
The call “all for one and one for all” by a citizen of Nizhny Novgorod, Kuzma Minin, reflects the best traits and qualities of Russian national character. Our people were always able to rally together in times of peace and of war, observed a tradition of mutual aid, sharply felt and responded to each other's wants and needs.
I am convinced that it is far from accidental that Russia became famous for its outstanding philanthropists and extraordinary examples of voluntary, disinterested service for society and people.
Today there are many representatives of religious confessions, organizations of civil society and philanthropic organizations in this hall. It is pleasant that you are reviving the well-known Russian tradition of philanthropy through concrete deeds and actions, rather than simply through words.
In 1856 the historian Mikhail Pogodin wrote about Russian patrons of the arts “if one were to add up all of their donations in this century, one would arrive at a figure before which all of Europe should kneel”. We all know Eliseev, Shchukin and Bakhrushin, and the Morozov, Tretyakov and Mamontov dynasties. These people founded theatres, schools, hospitals and museums. They did a great many kind deeds and consciously helped the development of national culture and education. Their contemporaries saw them as examples which to imitate and their descendants recollect their selfless deeds with gratitude.
Already in Russia's recent history there are many examples of philanthropic projects. They are aimed at strengthening the nation's physical and spiritual health and preserving our culture's invaluable treasures. Today, I would especially like to point out the work of the Russian National Military Fund which supports servicemen, veterans of the Armed Forces and of special services, and that of the organizers of the Lifeline, which helps sick children. Undoubtedly, the fact that Russian business is actively and eagerly participating in these programmes is an indication of its increased civil and social responsibility and the revival of the best principles and traditions of business ethics.
And certainly, one must speak about the charitable and educational activities of all Russian faiths without exception. We know how sincerely you conduct your selfless work, provide people with spiritual support and give them force and hope.
More than anything else, it is doing good that unites a nation. I expect that the media will pay more attention to people who manage philanthropic organizations and donate their time and the fruits of their work for the good of society. I am convinced that from this day forth, in 2006 and the coming years, this wide partnership — a dialogue between the state and philanthropic organizations — will receive a new impulse.
Once again I congratulate you on the national holiday, the Day of National Unity, and I propose a toast :
To the revival and strengthening of the best traditions of civil solidarity, mutual aid and charitable activities!
To peace and prosperity on Russian soil!