President Vladimir Putin:
Mr President, Mrs Prvanova, dear friends,
Today marks the start of the Year of Russia in Bulgaria. I would like to say first of all that it was with special feeling that we carried out the preparations for this event, and that we sought to make it as sincere and open as we could. These feelings are what distinguish the unique traditional friendship between our peoples, whom history have made so close. Our forefathers laid the foundations of this friendship and our common Slavic roots and spiritual traditions have given it strength.
True feelings of friendship have at all times been the hallmark of the relations between our peoples. This is a treasure upon which no price can be put and which time cannot erode, for it has been sealed by ties of blood and comes from the heart.
It is important to remember this at such an important time for Bulgaria – the 130th anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation and the restoration of its statehood. A monument to the Heroes of Plevna stands at the very centre of Moscow, and a monument to the Unknown Soldier and the Tsar-Liberator stands in Sofia. These are more than just monuments in memory of our common struggle. (The President mentioned that 400 monuments in Bulgaria commemorate these events). This is the testament of those who fell at Plevna and the Shipkin Heights, a testament that calls on us to value our fraternal feelings as the most priceless common heritage we have.
The President mentioned Russia’s attitude towards Bulgaria’s choices regarding the country’s security and other important issues linked to its development. Naturally, we respect these choices. Modern democratic Russia can have no other attitude towards the choices of other peoples. The most important thing is that they prove beneficial.
In this respect, we are pleased to see Bulgaria’s achievements today. We know that you are also showing interest in Russia’s growing successes, all the more so as they enable us to take important steps forward in developing our business partnership, above all with regard to the big strategic projects, some of which the President has just mentioned.
Humanitarian ties have always been a fertile area of our relations and this remains the case today. Our centuries-old spiritual ties, high awareness of our two countries’ national interests and the mutual respect between our peoples will all help to develop a successful partnership between Russia and Bulgaria in new conditions, and the exchanges we organise through the national years in each other’s countries will help our peoples in their sincere desire to learn more about each other’s life today, the life of our respective countries.
We know that we have many friends in Bulgaria. Our goal in preparing the Year of Russia in Bulgaria was to show you Russia’s life today. No matter what the changing times, we still feel the need for friendly contact. Of course, we also want to help our young people to feel the kindred ties that have formed over the centuries to bind our peoples together and to develop new and solid ties of their own.
I am sure that we can make use of the experience we have already built up to reach a new and higher level of intergovernmental and, most important of all, direct human relations and contacts.
Dear friends, we have many more joint projects and initiatives ahead. May the Year of Russia in Bulgaria open the doors to them, getting as many of our citizens as possible involved in our contacts. May this event be a memorable and vivid celebration for our peoples. And of course, we are all looking forward to the other part of our exchange – the Year of Bulgaria in the Russian Federation.