Meeting with public representatives on patriotic education for young people 2012-09-12 20:00:00 Krasnodar Vladimir Putin met with public representatives to discuss issues concerning moral and patriotic education for young people. Participants of the meeting included cultural, science, and sports figures, members of volunteer groups and Cossack and religious organisations, and state officials. Before the start of the meeting, Mr Putin visited the Krasnodar Presidential Cadet Academy, where he looked around the facilities, including a number of classrooms, a stadium, gym, and ice rink. * * * Speech at meeting on patriotic education for young people President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends and colleagues, Today, we are meeting in this expanded format to talk about a very important issue, a problem that has long been brewing and is often discussed, but I do not recall having had a systemic discussion on it like this one. It is the issue of our young people’s patriotic education. In fact, this discussion concerns what is most important – the values and moral foundations on which we can and must build our lives, educate our children, develop society, and ultimately, strengthen our country. The way we educate our youth will determine whether Russia is able to preserve and enrich itself – whether Russia can become a modern, promising, effectively-developing nation, but at the same time, whether it can maintain its national features and prevent losing its identity in a very complex modern setting. As demonstrated by historical experience, including our own, cultural self-awareness, spiritual and moral values, and value codes are an area of fierce competition. Sometimes, it is subject to overt informational hostility – I don’t want to say aggression, but hostility certainly – and well-orchestrated propaganda attacks. These are not irrational fears, not my imagination, that is exactly how it really is. At the very least, it is one form of competition. Attempts to influence the worldviews of entire ethnic groups, the desire to subject them to one’s will, to force one’s system of values and beliefs upon them is an absolute reality, just like the fight for mineral resources that many nations experience, including ours. We know how the distortion of national, historical and moral consciousness has led to catastrophe for entire states, to their weakness and ultimate demise, the loss of sovereignty and fratricidal wars. We cannot build a healthy society and a successful country based on an “each man for himself” mentality, following the primitive instincts of intolerance, egotism and dependency. We must build our future on a strong foundation, and that foundation is patriotism. However long we may discuss what could serve as a foundation, a strong moral basis for our country, we will not be able to come up with anything better. It means respect for our history and traditions, the spiritual values of our peoples, our thousand-year culture and unique experience of coexistence of hundreds of ethnic groups and languages in Russia. It means responsibility for our country and its future. The very history of Russia’s multi-ethnic statehood is the evidence that true patriotism has nothing in common with the ideas of racial, ethnic or religious exceptionalism. The feeling of patriotism, a system of values and moral reference points is vested into an individual during his or her childhood and youth. Here, of course, families and the entire society play an enormous role, as do the educational and cultural policy of the state itself. It is imperative that we fully use the best experiences of educating and enlightening our young people from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. No doubt, we should not idealise anything or repeat anything in the form that it took in previous times, in previous decades and centuries, and we certainly should not automatically take any formulas or clichés from the past. Here, I want to particularly stress that so-called “official patriotism” built on isolation will lead to the opposite effect than the one desired. It does not strengthen the value-based foundation of society; on the contrary, it weakens it, deprives it of its inner immunity to various types of destructive ideas. We need truly viable types of work to teach patriotism and civic consciousness, on the basis of public initiative, the traditional religions, the work of youth and patriotic organisations, historical and regional clubs, and other similar organisations. In other words, it is imperative to effectively build a partnership between society and the state. Just now, I was speaking to the Culture Minister about the idea of creating a military history society in Russia; it worked quite effectively in previous times, so let’s talk about it later and continue this work in Moscow. I think that this is a good idea; it was brought up a long time ago but we have only been discussing it recently on a practical level during the celebration at Borodino Field. Colleagues, there are a few other topics I would like to discuss with you today. First is shaping a system of values among young people, a moral foundation on which we can build the entire legislation, political culture and public administration, on which a society of conscientious, responsible citizens can grow. In the modern world, children do not just learn in school. The moral and ethical climate of our society overall depends greatly on what they see, hear and read. I believe that the established requirements for advertising, media, Internet content and networks spreading print and video materials must be subject to serious, heightened attention from lawmakers and the public. I will say immediately that I have always been against any kind of ideological censorship which kills creativity and progress. I am talking about something different – about clear rules and responsibilities, as well as priorities and principles for cultural policy. For example, what the state should and must support, what it should fight against, what society should stand against, as well as the creative, cultural and educational public projects the state should cherish and nurture. Naturally, in recent years, we have been doing a lot in so-called grant support for various areas, for cinematography and other areas, and this is the mechanism for meeting the needs of the state. So if the state pays for something then it certainly has the right to steer the recipients of that money toward the needed corresponding finished product. One of the most important tasks for both the government and society is certainly to protect children from pornography, propaganda of violence, cruelty, amoral and indecent behaviour. A whole set of decisions has already been made regarding this. I would really like to hear your opinion as to whether we are going over the top or not doing something sufficiently, as well as your overall thoughts on how we should proceed in this area. Second is improving our education policy. People are rightly saying that true patriotism is educated patriotism. True patriots are people who know how they can serve their Fatherland. Studying fine, acquiring more knowledge, educating oneself today — this means being ready to give one’s knowledge and expertise to one’s country tomorrow. That is why we are giving such great importance to the future of our educational system, its purity, its honesty and modernity, not just its curriculum, but also the moral education it provides. Schools and universities essentially shape new citizens, forming their consciousness. They pass on the memories, values, and culture of earlier generations, determining the ideas and the vision of the future that will move society forward through several decades. It is imperative that we recommit to the absolute value of high-quality education and eliminate anything that contorts students’ motivation toward real education and undermines their belief in the value of knowledge, talent, fairness and the ability of education to serve as a basic social ladder in order for our nation to develop, which means that it is a very high priority for the state and society’s joint efforts. Thus, I propose that we also talk specifically about the educational system’s role in providing a moral education, as well as joint approaches to teaching basic subjects like history, the Russian language, literature, the culture of Russia’s peoples, and the basics of our nation’s traditional religions. Third, another issue for discussion is everything that pertains to military and patriotic education. I already mentioned the events in Borodino commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle at Borodino Field. One way or another, you certainly see them, and some of you are even participating in these events. In this regard, I would like to say that I have met many times with participants of military history societies and young people seeking and identifying soldiers who perished in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. This work unquestionably deserves various forms of support. These people, first and foremost young people, are truly carrying out very useful, necessary, noble work. These civil initiatives should certainly receive all kinds of support. This fully applies to the young generation’s military training and increasing the social prestige of military service. Just now, the Defence Minister and I visited the Cadet Academy here in Krasnodar. What can I say? It was great! It was really good: the work is well-organised and the infrastructure is at the most modern level. I think that many of our educational institutions would be jealous of this Cadet Academy. This is essentially the direction we must aim toward. I think we must give our highest attention to issues of preparing young people for military service, particularly educating future officers. We will do everything to develop the system of cadet academies and Suvorov military academies, and support the activities of organisations engaged in pre-service training, including within the framework of the Cossack movement. It is fitting to say this here, in Krasnodar, our country’s Cossack capital. In this regard, I would like to draw the Defence Minister’s and other colleagues’ attention to the need to develop technical sports. In recent years, we have been talking about and developing both grassroots sports and high-achievement sports, but we have forgotten about technical sports. Still, they are the ones closely associated with patriotic education and preparation for service in the Armed Forces. Fourth, a nation has no future if its citizens, particularly the youth, do not care about their own health. We often ask, ‘why do we have short lives, why is our life expectancy so low?’ Naturally, this has to do with social issues first and foremost, issues of health maintenance, diet, rest, law-abidance on the roads and traffic accidents – all of this is true. But promoting healthy lifestyles and caring for one’s health also play an important role. There are many questions, but the answers to these questions are not all pleasant. It is time for our society to overcome its irresponsibility and, without putting this too harshly, at the very least, surpass its careless attitudes toward its own health. Everyone knows that our victories at the Olympic and Paralympic games, as well as other major competitions, filled us with strong patriotic feelings. In this sense, sports are certainly one of the most important factors promoting the teaching of patriotism. But at the same time, we are to offer all possible conditions for developing grassroots sports and, in particular, student sports. I believe that this is very important, and here, we are clearly not doing enough. In my view, the competitive spirit between schools, universities and technical colleges is not sufficiently developed. It exists, but it is not enough. In conclusion, I would like to say the following. We certainly count on the young citizens of Russia. Who else could we count on when they are our future? We count on their ideas, energy, ambitions, desire to reach their goals, and on their intention not to wait for someone to improve the life around, but to work now and achieve success. Patriotism is not just about nice words. Patriotism is, first and foremost, about actions. It is serving one’s Fatherland, one’s nation, Russia and its people. That should always be remembered. Let’s now proceed to discussing specific issues. <…> Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, let’s wrap this up. In conclusion, I would like to say that someone called this event a meeting earlier but it is not a meeting. A meeting is a formal event focused on a specific sector. What we have here today is a gathering of like-minded people who have met to discuss an issue that has great importance for our nation. It is made up of many diverse components, and your reports have touched on all of them: education, lifelong learning, the media, the armed forces, religious organisations, health, sport, and so on, and so forth – all of those things are ultimately connected with patriotic education. Mr Lanovoy [a famous Russian actor] has rightly criticised the current state of affairs, though, in fact, everyone criticised it one way or another. What has brought it about? The issue was completely ignored for twenty years. And why? In the Soviet times, the CPSU ideological divisions were in charge of this work, and they permeated the entire state structure from top to bottom; it was one of the party’s key activities. Everything was ideology-driven. Today we do not have a monopoly on ideology, but we have thrown out the child along with the water: we have stopped to pay any attention to patriotism. Simply no one does anything about it. In the Russian Empire it was the domain of the church, the Orthodox priests, the Islamic clerics; it was the work of synagogues and datsans. Today we have the separation of the church and state, and the church’s efforts in this area do not have any support from the state. The result is that no one does any systematic work in this sphere. That is the main problem, because there are many patriotically minded people who understand importance of the subject, but their efforts are not structured. That’s the biggest problem. There is a point someone mentioned earlier and I want to highlight it: We even seem to be embarrassed to do this work. It is considered a merit to throw mud at our homeland. Everyone, or many people revel in it and the reaction is ‘cool’ and ‘he’s not afraid of anything!’ What’s there to be afraid of? It’s not 1937 and there’s no punishment for that. What we have is a substitution of values, to some extent. Many people engage in such “heroic” actions but there’s nothing good about it. This work is not easy, and the biggest pitfall is to make it an official policy. That will kill our ultimate goal in the bud, right from the outset, the way it unfortunately happened in the Soviet Union. People are so tired of direct and dull propaganda that they no longer trust it. And in this business what is very important (as mentioned earlier) is to have honesty, openness, and, ultimately, effectiveness. These are extremely important things. If we do not achieve these standards, the result will be either non-existent or negative. There can be no set pattern; it does not work and it is counterproductive. I want to emphasise that only highly intelligent people can be involved in this effort. People who are well educated and who realise what the lack of this work leads to – to dire consequences for our homeland and our people. But this must be done skilfully; that is an essential component of patriotic education. I want to thank you for this meeting today and for your continued efforts in this area. It is clear that the state is not doing enough but such meetings can help the authorities to develop a policy. We are gradually moving in that direction but I want to stress once again: it should not be ideology-driven. It must contain elements that unite us all: people of different nationalities, religions and political persuasions. There are issues that unite us: all of us want to live well, we want our children to live well in the future and we want our homeland to be strong. There is nobody who is opposed to this. The question how to achieve this goal is certainly justified but it loses all meaning if we lose our homeland. This is the most important thing, and it is something that unites us all. Thank you for your time.