President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends!
Today, here, in this auditorium, we will hear heartfelt and wise lines, poems, and songs by our national poet Rasul Gamzatov.
A faithful son of the ancient Avar people, the soul of Dagestan and all of Russia, he has been a bright star in Russian culture. Through the years, eras and generations, Gamzatov’s work carries the light of kindness, creativity and love, and like a tuning fork, attunes people’s feelings to an understanding of what is truly significant and important in our lives.
September 8 marked the 100th birth anniversary of Gamzatov. I can only thank fate for meetings with this truly great man, for the opportunity to listen to his imaginative, rich, and true folk speech, admire the depth of his thoughts and his filigree, life-loving humour.
I remember the 80th birthday of Rasul Gamzatov. Many sincere and enthusiastic words were addressed to him, to which the poet said that he treats anniversaries with irony, because, in his opinion, “an anniversary is an exaggeration of merit.”
But I believe it is impossible to exaggerate the merits of this poet, translator, publicist, writer and public figure, just as it is impossible to overestimate the creative, educational, and civic contribution of Rasul Gamzatov to Russian and world literature and to the promotion of humanism and friendship between nations and our traditional values.
Kornei Chukovsky called Gamzatov an “inquisitive sage” who tried to learn “the full meaning of things.” This is probably his most accurate characteristic. Rasul Gamzatov’s legacy goes far beyond the boundaries of art: it is more like a manual for life, where you can find answers to the most acute, most sensitive questions.
The scale of his artistic thought is just amazing. He glorifies nature, humanism, patriotism; he turns to history and the past as lessons to learn, and instructs young people to remain faithful not only to the ways of their fathers, but also to their courage, conscience, and honour.
And of course, we hold Gamzatov’s legendary Cranes and other piercing poems about frontline soldiers, the generation of winners, and the Great Patriotic War infinitely dear.
No matter what Rasul Gamzatov wrote about, the source of his enormous soul and poetry was always his native Dagestan. He loved it selflessly, and I know that this love is mutual.
Gamzatov inspired Dagestanis to both labour and military feats. This was the case in 1999, when together, as a united country, we rebuffed the aggression of international terrorism. I will never forget those days, months and weeks, the courage of the people, their firm determination to defend their home and our entire Fatherland. The entire country will remember the Dagestan of that time. (Applause.)
Gamzatov’s poems, like our entire culture, literature, and great history, inspire us today, as the fate of Russia is being decided, as we defend everything dear to us, our future, truth and justice.
I know that Gamzatov is much more than a national hero for his fellow countrymen: he is someone beloved, so the poet’s 100th birth anniversary is celebrated by many in Dagestan as a family holiday.
At the same time, while dedicating hundreds of his poems to the mountains of the Caucasus, he considered Russian Field to be the best song about Russia. He even suggested making it the national anthem of Russia. He did not separate himself from the country and often introduced himself as “an ambassador for our great country,” adding “representing all its ethnic groups.”
Do you remember his famous line? “In Dagestan, I am an Avar, in Russia, I am a Dagestani, and abroad I am Russian.” Here it is, Gamzatov’s formula for Russia, which is unique in its language, ethnic diversity, and strong unity of original cultures, which in each century gives birth to brilliant, outstanding talents.
In one of his interviews, Rasul Gamzatov noted that “statesmen are often quoted” while it should be better the other way around, for “statesmen to quote poets.” And he, a great thinker, was certainly right. His poems are a collection of truths, a universe where good reigns, a story about the true purpose of humanity.
Of course, we can all relate to his lines that “there are only two worthy purposes” that should motivate a man to action. One is love for a woman: the keeper of the hearth, mother, wife, daughter, and the other:
Love for the native land
Which is in our flesh and blood
And became an ever burning star.
These feelings guided the poet, too. Gamzatov always wrote only about what he knew, understood, loved and felt. He lived and worked with an open heart to people. This sincerity gives his words, beliefs, and legacy that special power over which time shall have no dominion.
Thank you for your attention. Have a good evening.