President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.
I would like to begin by congratulating all of you, all school and university students of Russia and all teachers on the beginning of a new school year.
On September 1, we are here in Sochi, our Olympic dream city, city of hope and victory.
The Sochi Olympic heritage is already being used for the benefit of the nation, its development and its future. Apart from modern roads, power stations and hotels, social and, of course, sports facilities, we have created an educational centre for children here. We have named it Sirius – after the brightest star in the sky – because here we have and will continue receiving enthusiastic children, interested in what they are doing. These are children who have demonstrated skills in various fields: in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, ice-skating, music, painting or hockey. Their first success has been made possible by their own talents and the help of their teachers.
We are proud of our national recreation camps Artek, Orlyonok and Okean. However, Sirius is primarily an educational centre, although, as you may see, we have created wonderful leisure conditions here as well. There is no other such centre in the world where children interested in science, the arts and sport can study and train together.
The best teachers and coaches in Russia will be working at Sirius, outstanding scholars, university faculty members and school teachers will lecture here. Both the children and their teachers and mentors will have an opportunity to learn something new here.
Sirius is to become a key link in our national system of support for talented active children. It is to serve as a beacon for all the regions and set the standards for schools with an in-depth study of certain subjects, for educational establishments existing at leading universities, for ballet and art colleges, sports and music schools.
We hope that you will find like-minded people and make friends here. We want you to be proud of each other’s achievements in science, creative endeavours and sport, to expand your horizons by communicating with each other, sharing knowledge, skills, outlooks and opinions.
We expect Sirius alumni to stay in its field of vision for a long time. This applies to your further education and your practical activities, you future work.
I hope that when you return home you will retain the atmosphere of friendship obtained at Sirius and will reaffirm your striving towards your goal, achieving greater success in the name of your chosen field – be it science, sport or art, and in the name of our wonderful Motherland. I am certain that your vigorous search and your team spirit will attract your peers. I hope you will maintain close ties with each other and establish a Sirius community of true patriots and professionals, working for the benefit of this country.
Now I suggest we talk about what today’s school students can do for Russia, to help it move forward with confidence.
Friends, I propose we begin with the most complicated issue – your choice in life. It often takes a lot of effort to understand what you really want, what you are good at. The sooner you make this choice, the better, because you will have more time to achieve things. Any success, be it scientific discoveries, economic, cultural or sports achievements, is directly linked to talent, education, hard work and persistence.
This country has always staked on those who did not fear to take on responsibility. Many of such people were young, daring and independent. Such was Peter the Great and his like-minded friends, who set a new vector in Russia’s development. Peter was only 11 when he formed his so-called Toy Army. This seemed to be only a game. Then at the age of 16, he set up on Pleshcheyevo Lake what we would now call a shipbuilding laboratory. And just a few years later the Toy Army grew into the victorious and stalwart Russian guard, and the tiny fleet – into the Russian Navy. Peter’s young associates became army commanders, administrators and industrialists; they built plants and shipyards, developed science. Peter himself travelled all over Europe, sending talented young men there so they could see the world and return home filled with knowledge and impressions to build a new country, but one that would be their own rather than a copy of some other land.
Russia became stronger through the efforts of those who worked to move it forward and multiply their predecessors’ achievements. The development of science always merited special attention. In 1725, the Science Academy and the first University were set up in St Petersburg. Moscow University was founded 30 years later and it accepted all young people regardless of class, as long as they were talented and wanted to learn and to be of use to their country.
Mikhail Lomonosov played an enormous role in the development of education in Russia. He was not only a polymath scholar, a poet, historian and artist; he was also a devotee and creator of the foundations and traditions of Russian science.
A lot was done to strengthen our Fatherland during the reign of Catherine II. She conducted many progressive reforms, including the creation of the Russian system of school education, the opening of the first public libraries and 17 regional printing shops. Books, magazines and newspapers came to the provinces, playing a great role in the dissemination of knowledge. Historian Nikolai Karamzin wrote that there was hardly another country in the world where the number of people who loved to read grew as quickly as it did in Russia; even the poorest subscribed, while the illiterate wanted to know what was in the papers.
I am going into such detail about the educational traditions in Russia for a good reason. Science, education, culture, literature and our great Russian language create a solid foundation on which a truly strong state is built.
True, there were also tragic pages in this country’s history. The riots, revolutions and civil wars of the past teach us how destructive any division is for Russia. They prove that only unity of the people and public accord can lead to success and ensure independence, help rebuff any powerful and treacherous enemy.
The entire nation rose up whenever there was a need to defend this country. Wherever did the enormous spiritual strength and readiness to sacrifice come from? It all grew from a sincere love for this country that came from the heart. These patriotic feelings are passed on from generation to generation, and one feels this especially strongly when May 9 comes, the day of our Victory in the Great Patriotic War: we seem to hear the hearts of all beating as one. This is an unprecedented unity of veterans, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. This year the Immortal Regiment movement also united us all: tens of thousands of your peers came out with portraits of their loved ones who defended this country against Nazism.
During the Great Patriotic War children and teenagers would study, work at plants and fight within partisan groups, they ran off to the frontlines, becoming ‘adopted’ by the units, they worked and fought for the victory alongside adults. And despite the terrible hardships, they dreamt of their future. Thus, as a youngster the great Russian singer Galina Vishnevskaya survived the siege of Leningrad. She recalled how she was swollen from starvation, but her dream of becoming an opera singer kept her alive. Many of you know what great heights this remarkable woman reached.
After the war, the country’s schools of higher learning were filled with people from the frontlines. They wanted to learn, to become experts and build a peaceful life. Among them was future Nobel Prize winner Nikolai Basov, whose name is familiar to those of you who like physics, just like the name of Academician Alexander Prokhorov, who had also gone through the war and became one of the founders of quantum electronics and laser physics. Today their discoveries are used in medicine, industry, biology, communication systems – just about everywhere. These were great world-scale achievements of our science, and only brave enthusiasts with deep knowledge could achieve such breakthroughs.
Sergei Korolev designed his first airplane when he was 17. Many of you here are 17. Then he got interested in jet propulsion and the ideas of the great Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky – the founder of theoretical astronautics. Back then many found what he was doing flippant, unrealistic. He had to make his way past misunderstanding, mockery and scepticism of his aspirations and plans. However, in a matter of years Korolev became the head of our space programme and put together a unique team of researchers, designers, engineers and workers. Together they turned into reality the dream of all mankind – man’s first flight into space. This was an outstanding event, the whole world was rejoicing. My peers and I were only children then, but the joy and pride for our Motherland has remained with us to this day. When they asked Sergei Korolev how he managed to beat competition in the space race from other countries, who were also very talented people, he said, “How could I give up my dream?”
Breakthroughs in many areas were made possible by the strengths of our fundamental science. Teams of mathematicians and physicists generated ever new ideas and ran complicated calculations. Something that used to seem removed from reality and of little practical use would later lead to truly revolutionary technological change and breakthroughs. Incidentally, the success of our rocket and nuclear projects was referred to as the result of achievements by the three K’s – Academicians Keldysh, Kurchatov and Korolev. They were not only great scientists, but their outstanding scientific research was eventually linked to the solution of large-scale practical issues; they had scientific foresight and knew how to single out what was most important – often things situated at the junction of different sciences.
Thus, mathematician Mstislav Keldysh saw prospects for a major scientific discovery in semiconductor physics. A team led by the future Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alferov were conducting this research. Support by Mr Keldysh played a decisive role in his life, while Mr Alferov’s fundamental discoveries formed the basis of present-day mobile telephone communications and telecommunications. Mr Alferov will correct me if I am wrong, he should be here somewhere. Let us welcome him. (Applause)
Friends, every generation has its own priority targets. Your parents and the older generation in general were to take on a significant turning point in history – the establishment of a new Russia. I believe today you find it difficult to even imagine the complexity of the challenges and the drama of those times, though it was only a short while ago. The political organisation, social structure and economic and public life were all subject to change. These changes had to be accepted; one had to find the will and the strength to become actively involved in building a new life. Your parents and grandparents dealt with this mission honourably. Today many of them are still going strong, working to enhance the foundation that you will be always relying upon.
Now you are to achieve new milestones, solve ever more complex tasks and meet major challenges. You have to be ready for this. The strength and advantage your generation has is that you are open-minded, freethinking and can come up with nonstandard solutions.
I will only provide one example that gives us reason to be proud of our national defence industry – this is the creation of the latest Iskander missile system. Its most important control element was designed by young people under 30. They set up their own team, took on the responsibility, said they could handle the job. People believed in them, and they found an original solution that no so-called mature team was able to come up with.
The young are taking on complex jobs nowadays and are making significant progress in various fields: from unique biological research to breakthroughs in medicine. They implement social projects, set up their own businesses and work in production. It is very important that you too are trying to use your knowledge in practice: you are constructing robots, working on space technologies, creating technologies for the automobile and electronic industries; you conduct complex experiments in chemistry and physics.
It is very good that your generation knows the significance of sport in life. Sport is again popular among young people – this is great. Physical fitness makes your spirit stronger and helps you overcome difficulties. When our athletes at international competitions fight to the end, striving for victory, defending Russia’s honour – this unites the entire country, the people, all of society, and we admire their courage and feel proud for this country. There are many outstanding athletes here today, let us also welcome them. (Applause) This feeling we have for our Motherland, it is natural, it is warm, it is like a filial affection. It is a concentration of both a deeply personal feeling and the realisation of the enormous significance of certain events and achievements.
We are proud of the great contribution by Russian composers, musicians, writers and artists to the development of world civilisation and culture. There is no need to list their names now – we all know and revere them, and not only in this country, but also people around the world. Their creativity has made Russia famous, has influenced the minds and hearts of people and the formation of the national cultural and value-based environment. This is very important as only a society with clear moral values and a strong spiritual position and support is capable of creating and developing harmonious society, is capable of harmonious technological progress. Only such a society can use scientific achievements to the benefit of humanity rather than to its detriment.
Friends, I don’t know how often you have frank conversations with your parents and teachers, but I am convinced that such conversations are necessary. We, adults, also need your support and trust. It is very important to understand each other, including on matters that pertain to the current situation, to the country’s future. It is easier to resolve problems together, including those related to making moral choices. This is something we have to do all the time. Both in society and in friendships, people are judged not by their career, success or wealth, but by their deeds, their cultural level, their decency, their relations with their family, their children, parents and friends. Each of us chooses what to do, how to achieve the goals we set ourselves.
For my generation all this was of great importance, we also had what was called the street, the back yard, the apartment house we all grew up in. We spent a lot of time at these ‘informal’ locations, in todays’ terms. True, we had plenty of our own problems there, but this environment taught us friendship, mutual assistance, taught us how to tell good from evil. Treachery and betrayal were the worst, the most despised things. We argued, discussed the things that were going on at school, as well as films and characters from books.
Now life has changed cardinally, of course, but true values never change. These are honesty, patriotism, a sense of conscience, love, kindness, courage, honour, generosity, responsibility and a sense of duty. I am certain that they matter for you too, as much as how much benefit to our Fatherland your talent can bring and how well you can use the knowledge obtained.
Numerous achievements of your peers show the opportunities Russia offers to people with education, those who are goal-oriented and out-of-the-ordinary. Thus, a student team from the St Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics has for several years now been winning world championships in software engineering. Moreover, university stars stay in Russia after graduation and find jobs at Russian high technology companies, create their own start-ups or teach at their university. This applies not only to those who apply their talents in technology or production, but also people of the arts: there are many gifted, talented young people working at Russian theatres, in the film industry and literature. They tour the world a lot, but they all have a common homeland – it is Russia.
Friends, people often ask: what will this country be like in 10–15 years? At least they ask me that all the time. I will say frankly that this primarily depends on you, on how you live your lives during those years. We do not see you as observers who will have everything ready for them. No, we see you as direct participants in building the future, the country you live in and your children will live in.
The world is changing rapidly, competition is growing. Using a sports metaphor, ever more states are ready to fight for the title of champion. The stakes in this historical marathon are very high: whether we would produce our own unique technologies and share our breakthrough knowledge with the world, whether we will be able to make the environment safer and more comfortable to live in, will we be proud of achievements in national art, of our sports records – or whether we will be jealous of others’ triumphs. Finally, whether we would be able to meet the global civilisational challenges and ensure the leading role and sovereignty of our nation. Answers to all these questions form your agenda, your action plan.
On many occasions Russia proved its leading role in science, the arts and sport, primarily because people set themselves ambitious targets, did the impossible and moved towards victory despite any difficulties. You have to dream, to make ambitious plans, to achieve more and do something nobody has ever done before. This is the most difficult part, but this is the essence of progress, of development.
Behind every victory, there are always doubts, mistakes and failures, which is natural. Here it is important not to step back, not to give up. The main success factor is faith in one’s own ability, in oneself. Each of you has to find who you are and what your place in life is. Then you will become a united team, the best in the world. I am certain that this is how it will be. Behind you are your parents, your teachers, mentors, and your homeland – Russia. We will be next to you, we will help and admire you, we will work for you and with you for Russia.
I believe in you, in the success of each one of you. You can, you must and you will win.