Prior to the meeting, the President toured the exhibition, Ukraine: Seminal Tipping Points, unveiled at Manezh as part of the 18th public exhibition and forum, Orthodox Russia for National Unity Day, which included photographs, videos and films, geographical maps and archival documents encompassing the long historic road from the formation of the Old Russian state to current developments.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Your Holiness,
Representatives of religious organisations of Russia.
We are meeting on National Unity Day.
I congratulate you and all citizens of our country, all the people of Russia on this holiday, which marks our common heartfelt devotion to Russia, our love for it, the unity of the multiethnic people of this country both in times of trial and in resolving large-scale development goals – these have always been the key moments in our history.
You know well that the origins of the holiday go back centuries, to the feat of the people who themselves rose up to fight for their country, cleared it of strife, betrayal and humiliation, united to end the Time of Troubles and restore legitimate authority and our unified statehood.
The key events, when people of different ethnicities and faiths united to save and benefit the Fatherland, reverberate and run through all of Russian history. We understand and honour the invaluable experience of our ancestors, their traditions and their precepts.
The history of our country is continuous, a constant stream. We must consider it in its entirety, with all its extremely complicated and even controversial periods.
For the state, the authorities, society and its citizens, it is crucial to have objective, complete knowledge of our past, both the distant past and the near and recent past. Everything here matters, especially today. This means there is a growing need for the work of highly professional historians, scholars, university professors, and schoolteachers.
I would like to emphasise that it is unacceptable to repeat the mistakes of the Soviet period when scholars’ conclusions were often adjusted to pre-set templates. Templates in general are not good, but in history they are especially bad.
Something similar is happening now in some countries in the West where much is determined by today’s radical-liberal agenda. To suit it, key historical events are presented in a completely distorted, inverted form, and the truth is cancelled.
Such a deliberately perverted attitude towards history, its loose treatment distorts people's consciousness, erodes values and undermines their footing in life. It is known that if someone wants to deprive a state of sovereignty and turn its citizens into vassals, they begin by rewriting the history of the country, depriving people of their roots, condemning them to oblivion.
We know that such approaches, unfortunately, work and lead to tragedy for the people. Such attempts have been used against Russia too, and they continue today, but we have firmly and quickly put up barriers to them. After all, Russian history and culture are the basis of our national identity, our mentality, traditional values, the upbringing of the younger generations and, most importantly, the foundation of our Russian statehood.
Our position on the preservation of historical memory and thus our sovereignty irritates some countries in the West. As a matter of fact, this has been the case for centuries. And today there are ongoing attempts to pull the ground from under our feet. These attempts, of course, cannot change the past; they are doomed to fail. It is impossible to deprive our country of the victories our ancestors achieved.
However, it is a point of honour for the state, society, and certainly for historians to defend our true history and our heroes, to raise the quality of history education. Notably, this subject is now taught to all university students and not just those majoring in the humanities. It is also important to competently and consistently work on history education beginning with families, kindergartens and schools.
You have probably looked at it already, and now I have seen this exhibition [Ukraine: Seminal Tipping Points] with the young people I met this afternoon at the flower laying ceremony at the monument to Minin and Pozharsky. The content of this exhibition confirms the accuracy and relevance of Nikolai Karamzin's conclusion that the present is a consequence of the past.
For decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine experienced direct, overt interference from Western countries in its internal affairs. Actually, they tried to do the same in Russia, but, unfortunately, in Ukraine they managed to instill in the minds of millions of people the pseudo-values that led to the fact that they created an anti-Russia on this territory, sowing hatred, raping people's consciousness, depriving them of their true history. Everything was done to reshape the consciousness of millions, and they very skillfully tried to light the fuse to cause the fall of our country.
Today we can see that one of the halls of the exhibition shows just how professionally this work was approached in some Western countries, they had worked on it for decades at the level of serious scientific centres with strong funding.
The clash with the neo-Nazi regime – Russia's clash with the neo-Nazi regime that developed in Ukraine – was inevitable, and had we not taken action in February, it would have been the same, only from a worse position for us. The situation in Ukraine was brought on by its so-called friends to the point where it became deadly for Russia and suicidal for the Ukrainian people themselves. And we see this even in the nature of the hostilities – it is amazing what is happening there; it is as if the Ukrainian people do not exist, they are thrown into the furnace, and that is it.
It is Ukraine and the Ukrainian people that have become the first and the main victims of breeding hate towards Russians and Russia. Meanwhile, everything is exactly the opposite in Russia, and you are well aware of that – we have always treated the Ukrainian people with warm respect. It has been like that despite today’s tragic confrontation.
Again, we took responsibility in order to prevent a much more difficult situation. We remembered and still remember what happened in 1941 when, despite intelligence reports on an inevitable attack against the Soviet Union, the necessary defence measures were delayed, and a heavy price was paid for the victory over Nazism.
Indeed, now it is also not easy; it is bitter because in fact the people are fighting each other. In fact, the confrontation is within the same people, just like after the 1917 upheavals when the people were set against each other.
Back then foreign powers were lining their pockets on our people’s tragedy. They did not care a dime about either the White or the Red armies; they were pursuing their own interests as they weakened and tore apart historical Russia. And today they are absolutely ruthless to the Ukrainian people as they send non-stop supplies of weapons and mercenaries there. They are promoting their geopolitical objectives at the expense of the Ukrainian people with goals that have nothing to do with the interests of the Ukrainian people.
Efforts to weaken, tear apart and destroy Russia are also ongoing. They underlie the developments in Ukraine. We will never let this happen. We will defend our Fatherland the way our heroic ancestors did.
Before we move on to our conversation, I would like to note that the Russian Historical Society has marked the tenth anniversary of its reestablishment this year. It is gratifying that our hopes for this have been fulfilled. Members of the Russian Historical Society, including major academic institutes, universities, museums, archives, libraries and many highly-respected historians, are making a great contribution to promoting general Russian history, the culture of history and knowledge.
The Russian Military History Society, which will also mark the tenth anniversary of its re-establishment, is also conducting meaningful, useful and important work.
Once again, my congratulations to all of you on this holiday.
Thank you for your attention.