President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear friends!
It gives me genuine pleasure to welcome the members of this distinguished forum here in Russia. The forum’s main theme is the quality renewal of humanitarian and cultural cooperation in the CIS, and this is in itself an important subject and one that is very relevant today.
Your road to this significant event that is taking place today has been long and difficult. This is the first such large-scale event of its kind in the last decade. The intellectual and creative communities were most sensitive to the transition-period difficulties our countries have gone through, and your problems were not just of a material nature but also arose out of concern for the future of our peoples and for the historical and cultural heritage of this immense area of civilisation that is ours.
But much has changed over this time in the CIS and new opportunities have now emerged for devoting greater attention to science, education and culture. The CIS countries have begun to see these areas as a key resource for the modernisation and far-reaching development of their national economies and social sectors.
I am convinced that by bringing together here the competitive advantages that each of our countries has, we will achieve tangible benefits for everyone, and this is why renewed scientific, educational and cultural cooperation could become one of the breakthrough projects for the CIS, giving new impetus to all the integration processes underway and helping us to develop universal models for our relations that meet today’s demands.
In this context we are, naturally enough, counting on a direct dialogue with the various groups within the creative community, and with the business community, and we are counting on your initiatives and your resources in the ongoing work between society and the state.
I would like to point out in particular here today that the Agreement on Humanitarian Cooperation signed in Kazan last year was concluded largely thanks to your support, and I am sure we must also all work together now on ensuring its practical implementation.
Your authority and the influence you have on the minds and hearts of our peoples is a real strength, a great strength that works profoundly and sincerely towards uniting our peoples, for the benefit of us all, and in the interests of the CIS in general.
Your human and professional ties have remained strong despite all the difficulties of the past years. They have practically never been broken. This is to the great personal merit of the members of the science, culture, information and education communities.
Not for a single day were the contacts between you broken off. You supported each other with dignity throughout difficult times for our countries and unfailingly helped each other not only in word but often also in deed. Perhaps this is why the humanitarian sector has remained one of the most dynamic and lively sectors in our common space. You have managed to carry out joint projects and have created new organisations and unions.
The Eurasian Association of Universities, the Confederation of Theatre Performers, Artists and Cinematographers and the Eurasian Libraries Assembly – these are just some of the organisations working successfully in the post-Soviet area. Furthermore, recent years have seen the expansion of bilateral cultural and educational ties and the mutual organisation of national events.
All of these aspirations to unite reflect entirely the spirit of the modern era and are a part of the open dialogue between cultures. Your dialogue that is taking place here today at this forum marks the start of events celebrating the Year of the CIS.
The development of economic knowledge, competitive products and intellectual and spiritual values determine the pace of development in the modern world, and in this context the humanitarian dimension is becoming an ever-greater priority in the work of leading international and regional organisations. The market for education, scientific and cultural services is considered one of the most promising sectors of the global economy.
As you know, we here in Russia, for example, have been working over the last few years with our European colleagues, with the European Union, to realise an initiative to create a common scientific, education and cultural space. This will open up new opportunities not only for our citizens but also for partnership with our colleagues throughout the CIS.
We in Russia will continue to expand the opportunities for students from the CIS countries to study in our universities. Just recently, at our last State Council meeting, we spoke about this matter and decided that we will work together, at federal level and in the regions, to support our common future – our talented and creative young people.
This clearly requires us to develop new organisational forms and new multilateral cooperation mechanisms. The experience of influential organisations such as UNESCO and other international and non-governmental organisations will be useful to us in this context.
I think it is deeply symbolic that after a long hiatus this forum is meeting in the year marking 100 years since the birth of Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachev. This great thinker and humanist’s ideas are now more relevant today than ever.
He called on people to “place more trust in true academics and true cultural figures”, to work together to preserve cultural diversity and not allow uniformity to take over. He said that the twenty-first century should become a century of humanities and humanitarian culture.
Today, when the world faces the real threats of terrorist and extremist ideology, humanist values are one of the main means by which we can oppose this evil.
The spiritual unity between our peoples and the close cultural ties we share have always strengthened peace and harmony throughout our vast space and helped us to stand firm and emerge victorious in the Great Patriotic War. Today they form the foundation upon which we can build a world of freedom and justice.
You have a particularly keen understanding of the importance of preserving these humanist values that we all share. This is vitally important for our multiethnic Eurasian space.
I hope that your forum’s decisions and recommendations will have a considerable impact on developing integration in a whole number of areas and will help to expand diverse humanitarian ties in new conditions.
Allow me to wish you every success from the depths of my heart. Thank you.