The meeting focussed on issues pertaining to ensuring freedom of art, preserving and using material and non-material legacy of the peoples of Russia in education and mentoring, on the development of the Russian and national languages, literature, and the creation of information environment favourable for character building.
Also, the President announced that he has signed an Executive Order approving the Basics of the State Cultural Policy. According to Vladimir Putin, the document “reflects the attitude to culture as a mission, as a public good and historical legacy, as a system of values and moral ideals.”
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Excerpts from transcript of joint session of State Council and Council for Culture and Art
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We are holding a joint session in this format for the first time, just ahead of the New Year, and so I want to begin by wishing a very happy 2015 to the heads of regions, members of the Council for Culture and Art, staff at relevant agencies and our experts. I wish you health, success and all the very best.
Time flies quickly. It feels like it was just recently, at the beginning of this year, that we declared 2014 the Year of Culture; but today, we will be discussing its results. It was full of various events, festivals, openings, artistic evenings and meetings, including, first and foremost, in the Russian regions, where this topic got particular attention.
The work on the Basics of the State Cultural Policy became a priority. This year, we held three meetings of the corresponding working group, the latest of which was in mid-December. Overall, the discussion of this draft document was open and broad. Various professionals actively engaged in this process, including workers in culture and the arts, educators, researchers and public organisations. But what’s most important is that thousands of citizens took part in this work. This was a truly public discussion, and the debates were intense and heated.
The draft Basics were built on a new ideological platform and proposed rethinking the role of culture, which in recent times has often been perceived simply as part of the social block of issues or as the work of cultural establishments. But most often, it is perceived as the services, leisure or entertainment sector. Of course, this narrow, sectorial approach does not correspond to the nation’s development goals, society’s needs, or the needs of our time. We have talked about this on many occasions.
We have discussed what kind of cultural policy Russia needs, and we also discussed its goals, essence and objectives. The subject of culture’s importance was also reflected in the May 2012 executive orders.
Last year, at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, we had a separate discussion on preserving and not losing our cultural and national identity; many of those present took part in it. And you recall how much this discussion resonated, as did the topic overall.
The recent Address [to the Federal Assembly] spoke to our need for a strong spiritual and historical foundation, the need to preserve our national origins.
We need serious research work, real projects on preserving monuments, developing museology and educational tourism. We must do this throughout our entire nation: in Chersonese and in major centres of the Russian statehood such as Vladimir, Pskov, Novgorod and other ancient cities. This is a common task for federal and regional authorities.
I repeat: it is important that preparations of the Basics of State Cultural Policy do not begin from a clean slate, but from a common understanding that culture is a multidimensional living system, a powerful factor in society’s development and economic growth, and even in ensuring Russia’s security and sovereignty, in that culture feeds the nation, forms it and unites it.
The Basics of State Cultural Policy have been drafted and were approved today. They reflect a view of culture as a mission, as a public good and historical legacy, as a system of values and moral ideals.
This comprehensive understanding of culture also represents a radical change in the very priorities of state policy. The processes of educating citizens, especially children and youth, take the forefront. Increased attention is given to their spiritual, creative development, patriotic education, and to the creation throughout entire Russia of a high-quality cultural environment, accessible benefits of culture and equal conditions for creative work.
So it is only logical that issues pertaining to the implementation of the Basics of Cultural Policy are being examined today at a joint session of the State Council and the Council for Culture. As I said in the beginning, we are meeting and working for the first time in this format, because the success of decisions taken at the federal level largely depends on how they are implemented on a local level.
Preparing the text of the Basics is an important but preliminary step. We will need to act to bring culture to the height of its public purpose. We must ensure that it truly becomes a natural regulator for day-to-day life, determining people’s behaviour and actions, influencing their attitudes toward their nation, families and education of children.
We will need more than one year to tackle these challenges. And everyone needs to get involved in this work: society, the authorities, cultural establishments, schools, universities, creative unions, educational and academic communities. We need to put in a maximum amount of will power, effort, responsibility, talent and creativity in order to achieve concrete, tangible results.
To implement the Basics, we first need to develop a Strategy of the State Cultural Policy. And here I want to stress that the regions need to be guided by the Basics’ provisions already now and actively engage in the development of the Strategy.
One important thing here, colleagues – and I want to stress it – we must not get buried in the papers. Because if we focus only on the Basics and the Strategy, we will be writing and writing forever. We absolutely need to work and certainly remember what we are doing, what we are aiming for, and not just focus on epistolary work – writing letters to one another – but instead, actually carrying all of this out.
I will touch on the main topics and problems that need to be taken into account in developing the Strategy, as I said.
First, we need to gradually take the existing system of cultural management to a new level. After all, the effect of cultural policy covers a very broad range of areas: education, mentoring, creating an information environment, strengthening interethnic relations, professional art, literature, folk art, and international humanitarian cooperation. This list is certainly far from complete. And many things here are closely intertwined, and each requires the solution of a whole set of problems, including organisational and financial ones.
There is an obvious need to create a supra-departmental coordination structure. Moreover, to ensure the provision of resources for implementing the Basics of Cultural Policy, we will need to establish a Russian Cultural Development Fund. At the same time, I stress that we are not talking about breaking the existing management system. On the contrary, we need to use its experience and opportunities as much as possible.
The second important area is the quality legislative support for cultural policy objectives. I will note that the very notion, in the broader sense set out in the Basics, has not yet been laid into the legislation. Of course, we need to do this right away.
I feel the Strategy should define the stages of implementing the cultural policy. And in accordance with these stages, timely amendments should be made to federal and regional legislation.
At the same time, we should train highly qualified staff. This is an absolute priority during the first stage. After all, effective management of the Basics implementation is possible only when there is a deep understanding of their goals, special features and trends. Here, we need not only competent managers but also genuine culture devotees – those who are deeply concerned about its development.
The Strategy’s third objective is creating conditions for developing public-private partnerships, social and creative entrepreneurship for charity and philanthropy as well as generally involving citizens in the implementation of the cultural policy.
I will note that while various methodological suggestions are welcome and won’t hurt, we can only achieve success and results through daily, committed work with public organisations and professional associations, provided that we hear other people and pay close attention to their suggestions.
For example, right now, there is high demand in areas such as local history. There are many substantive, exciting projects. They should certainly be supported, as should citizens’ desire to participate in ethnographic and archaeological expeditions, in work to preserve objects of cultural heritage.
Respect for culture often begins with an introduction to the history and traditions of the area or region where a person lives. I think it would be useful for each region to put together its own “cultural package” that would include, for example, certain tourist routes, student visits to specific museums and theatres, etc.
Many Russian regions already have good experience doing this. There are also successful interregional programmes. It is enough to mention the “Golden Ring” project, which joins several Russian regions, several of Russia’s federal constituent entities.
There can certainly be far more such comprehensive tourist routes, of course. For example, in the Russian North, in the Caucasus and Northwest, in the Far East and Siberia. Thus, we should all get to work. The regions with well-developed cultural environment should serve as role models, and their best practices should be broadly implemented throughout the nation.
Colleagues, today I would like to touch on the sensitive topic of freedom of creativity. This is a right guaranteed by our nation’s Constitution. And we all know that culture can live and achieve its heights under two key conditions: staying true to historical traditions and, of course, giving broad freedom in creativity, thought, and spiritual development.
Nobody, no government, can dictate to an artist, a writer, a film director, or actually to any person what kind of creative work should gifted people do and in what way. Often, they see something that was once considered unacceptable and today is a standard in their own new way. Anyway, you understand what I’m talking about. And we must treat this particular quality of being ahead of the times carefully and with respect.
Of course, we need to take into account the fact that today, society has set a moral requirement of a sort to all those engaged in cultural activity. It can be explained because often, creative freedom is turned around with pseudo-cultural substitutes, simply in an attempt to earn more. But indeed, there is nothing unusual or new about this.
All these problems are identified in the Basics of the State Cultural Policy and they need to be thoroughly analysed by Strategy developers, who must propose a set of effective measures by engaging all of the creative, educational and intellectual resources. I suggest giving these issues our necessary attention today as well.
And a note on another topic. During discussions of the Basics, calls for cultural self-isolation were decisively rejected. In this respect, I want to stress that Russia was and will certainly be an integral part of global civilisation.
Our multi-ethnic culture has always been characterised by openness and friendliness. It has always responded to global trends in art and enriched itself and largely formed these global trends.
We not only value these traditions, but will also do everything possible to develop and enhance them. We need to remember to expand our cultural influence on the world and we should not isolate ourselves. We must not forget what we have done for the world culture and remember what we can still do. And this means we should also strengthen Russia’s influence as a global power.
In light of this, I want to remind you that next year has been declared the Year of Literature in our nation. It is very important for Russia to restore the high value of good books and foster interest abroad in Russian classic literature, as well as modern authors.
Colleagues, I have defined only a few of the challenges and problems that we must discuss. I suggest that we should get down to work.
Colleagues, I will not summarise today’s meeting, as it is impossible to summarise efforts to develop culture. This is an endless process.
The whole idea of 2014, declared the Year of Culture, was to draw the attention of state, municipal and regional authorities and of all of society to this important area, which is probably the most important component of our national identity.
By way of technical remarks, I would like to say that our colleagues from the State Duma always draw attention to issues that concern society in one way or another. One major issue is to make sure we stop – as soon as possible – resorting to any form of ideologisation regarding our history and culture.
Undoubtedly, every stage of our state’s development had its positive and dark sides. We have to analyse them impartially, as seen by the modern man and use this to make sure nothing holds us back. Naturally, here we have to properly assess and draw the required attention to the activity of our outstanding compatriots of the past.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s and Turgenev’s anniversaries were mentioned here. In this connection, I would like to stress that both Solzhenitsyn and Turgenev spent a considerable time abroad. Solzhenitsyn was expelled, while Turgenev simply liked to spend the cold time of the year in warm places. This is neither good nor bad – this was their life.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn drew attention to the problems of our society not because he was hostile. On the contrary, he was a patriot, he wanted to keep his country from falling apart, but it did fall apart because back then we did not pay attention to the things he focussed on. One should be attentive and fair to everything.
Speaking of anniversaries, I would like to say that on March 7, 2014, I signed an Executive Order to celebrate Ivan Turgenev’s 200th anniversary in 2018. This is merely for your information. We treat all our outstanding compatriots in the same way.
Something I would like to single out and support here is that we have to pay attention to the Soviet period as well. Everything you said here about the achievements of the Soviet era was absolutely true and we should not use ideological reasons to defile any of the achievements of our country and our people during that very important period of our history.
Mr Zhirinovsky’s speech was brilliant as usual. (Addressing Vladimir Zhirinovsky) You gave me a brochure on how to speak Russian properly. I have read it, thank you very much. I agree with what you said. We need to avoid the excessive use of the Latin alphabet and foreign words, and here I am mainly addressing regional authorities.
You know, sometimes, when you come to a place, you immediately see the level of culture of local officials. Wherever you look, you see the names of companies and stores and advertising written in Latin letters. What country is this? There should be moderation in all things, including the use of foreign terms and words and so forth.
I would like to thank you all for our joint work. In conclusion I would like to stress that the fact that we met today and talked about these things does not mean that this work is over, that we are turning a new leaf and do not have to think of how to develop culture. On the contrary, let us consider 2014 as the beginning of our further joint work in this crucial area for our state.
Thank you very much.