Question: National Unity Day is a relatively new holiday. And so everyone assigns his own significance to it: some people are celebrating the end of the Time of Troubles, others are celebrating the military victory of the militia over the interventionists, and for a third group it’s a day of spiritual and political unity for the Russian people. Today is also the feast day of Our Lady of Kazan. What does this holiday mean to you? What will you be toasting when you first raise your glass?
Vladimir Putin: You have already listed all the possibilities. Of course this is a new holiday, as you say. But the idea that it represents is extremely important. In the life of every people, in the course of history of every nation, the business of the Crown, heads of state, military and public figures is important, but in the final analysis, definitely, the last word, the crucial word belongs to the people. And the actions of a nation’s leaders can only be effective if they succeed in uniting the vast majority of its subjects or citizens in support of the decisions they propose for the development of the country. And only by uniting on the basis of common values, by forgetting, at least for a time, political differences and uniting and combining efforts can one achieve results. I repeat, first and foremost results relating to the development of one’s own country. It is well known that a particular person, the people, and the state best reveal their capabilities in critical situations. Psychologists confirm this. And that is what happened when the interventionists were kicked out of the Kremlin (as you just reminded us), when our people held out and were victorious in the Great Patriotic War, and when the national economy was rebuilt in 1945 after its destruction by the occupiers. In fact, this has often happened in the history of Russia and of other peoples.
Only by uniting forces can one succeed in developing one’s country and ensure that it occupies an appropriate place, a worthy place in the world. Therefore the idea behind this holiday is, I think, very important and should be supported.
The fact that we have come here today to this monument and laid flowers is a sign that the young people of our country also understand this and will act accordingly in future. This is precisely what I wanted.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, 4 November reminds us of the history of the very difficult and sometimes tragic relations between Russia and the West.
During the years of your presidency, Russia’s foreign policy has become independent and more active, and one gets the sense this made a lot of people in the West unhappy. What exactly do you think concerns our Western partners?
Vladimir Putin: The world around us is neither homogeneous nor hostile. This is where I would like to begin, in response to your question, and what I would like to stress. Moreover, I am deeply convinced that the vast majority of people in the world have a positive view of our country, and some even look at Russia with a hope, see it as a defender of their interests: a number of small countries, small nations feel pressured by large countries and are having trouble defending their own interests. And Russia has played and will play this sort of positive, stabilizing role in the world.
As for the fact that this makes people unhappy, well, yes, of course, some may not like it. Because there are not only those who sympathise with us; there are those who want to build a unipolar world and manage all humankind. That has never happened in the history of the planet and I think it never will.
There are people who really get bananas (sorry for the youthful slang, but you know what I have in mind). Some repeatedly argue for the need to partition the country, and up until now they are trying to spread these notions. Some say that we have too much natural wealth and that we have to share it (by the way, they themselves don’t want to share with anyone). We must bear that in mind too. We must take the world as it is. We are disposed to pursue a prudent, balanced policy whose main goal is to create conditions for the development of our own country. Because, as you well know, in today's world attempting to resolve in isolation issues related to the development of science, education, and health care is impossible. We are an organic part of the modern world and we will continue to be.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we know that you play sports. How do you manage to find time for sport with all your work?
Vladimir Putin: I worked out certain rules for myself. There are things that I absolutely must do, no matter what happens: a lot of work, not much sleep, not in the mood – it doesn’t matter: I have to get up and do something. I recommend this approach.
Question: It is very important to develop the economy, it is very important to develop the country's security, but the most important thing is people's confidence in themselves. I think that our country will only move forward at a greater pace when everyone feels strong and understands that everything depends on them. How do you feel about this?
Vladimir Putin: That is absolutely correct. Of course to accomplish this we must do everything in our power to make people feel proud of their country. It seems to me that during recent years we have done quite a bit in this regard. Just look at our fans. Even if the team does not always play well, no one hides the Russian flag anymore — on the contrary, they raise it higher and higher. This shows that the overwhelming majority of our citizens have come to realise that we live in truly great country that has excellent prospects. And once again I would like to repeat: if we manage to forget our political differences and unite around core values, then of course success awaits us, that is a certainty. [Pointing to the surrounding cadets] Especially as the country will have such defenders.
Question: I would like to know how much free time you have after work?
Vladimir Putin: I have some. Everyone knows that the wealth of a society is determined by the amount of free time people have. (A number of experts believe this, but I won’t mention their names here – they are not in fashion now.) In this sense I can’t say that I’m a very rich man, since I really don’t have a lot of free time, but I try to make sure I have some. As I have already said to your colleague from the Suvorov school: I play sports, listen to music, very rarely go to the theatre, read something (I love history, and recommend it to you). Actually, our holiday is linked to a very dramatic page in the history of our people. So it is very useful to know how our country was formed, where the beginnings of Russian nation are, how it evolved, what Rus actually stood for, and where this name came from. And of course understanding all this should be a way of looking into the future. Thank you for your interest in this holiday.