Vladimir Putin: Dear friends,
We are again gathered here today, this time on the occasion of the joyful celebration of Christ’s birth. We have celebrated it worthily, in the same way as we rang in the year 2000.
Availing myself of this opportunity, I wish to do justice, on my own behalf and on behalf of those present here and all Russians, to the efforts of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who has made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and said a prayer for Russia and its great people.
I would also like to remember today Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, who together with the Patriarch, together with clergymen and together with the ordinary people of Russia celebrated this event in the Holy Land and used his presence there to call attention once again to Orthodoxy, to our country, to Russia.
And, of course, I extend my deepest gratitude to all Orthodox clergy, who during these months and days have been together with their congregations and shouldered the difficult job of giving mercy and assistance to them in all villages, towns and cities of Russia.
Russia is entering the new millennium as a spiritually revived state. But, when speaking of Russia’s revival, one should remember that it is not only the revival of Russia’s economic or industrial might, not only the modernisation of its army or economy and not even the modernisation of the country’s political system. First and foremost it concerns the revival of spirituality. This means uniting the nation in the name of the country’s dignity and prestige, uniting it on the basis of human and humanistic principles, whose historical and logical continuation is the primacy of rights and freedoms, above all human and civil rights. It is obvious that only moral people opt for moral authority, one that is fair, decent and responsible.
The 1990s in Russia was a time when the state and church started establishing relations of an entirely new kind, based exclusively on respect and cooperation. The state and religious associations now successfully cooperate with each other. And no one today attempts to dispute the principles and traditions established in this country and based on the Constitution of Russia. Nor is there any interference by secular authorities in the internal affairs of religious confessions, or vice versa. It is these new standards of life, as well as the untiring efforts of the clergy, that have largely helped to keep civil and inter-faith peace in this country. I address my gratitude to you all – representatives of all faiths – I thank you very much and bow down to you.
But we have no right to forget that the Christian commandments of kindness and mercy, the ideals of love and compassion for thy neighbour, permeate all of Russia’s culture, including the works of its greatest thinkers and writers. Other traditional religions, which have co-existed on Russian soil for centuries, teach the same. Millions of Russians practise different religions, but all of us share one future, one motherland and one country: Russia. This is our uniqueness, our wealth. Russia’s whole historical experience has proved that it is these values that are lasting. No one can ban or abolish them. No one will ever stop us from making full use of the ample possibilities offered by a multi-faith and multi-nation state. This is why we greatly appreciate the disinterested participation of the church in the affairs of charity and enlightenment and – what is particularly important for Russia today – in bringing peace.
In conclusion, I would like to say that we have a lot of common work to do in the future, work that is mundane and secular, social and public. And I think it is our shared conviction that this work should be aimed at achieving very simple and understandable things. It should be directed towards ensuring a materially and spiritually fulfilling life for our fellow citizens, ensuring that society keeps its spirit of mutual assistance and love for thy neighbour. This is the true guarantee of our future, the future of this country and of each of its citizens.
Season’s greetings to you all! Merry Christmas!