President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, friends,
I would like to welcome all the participants in the World Russian People’s Council.
The Council was established in 1993. We remember that time as a very difficult turning point for the country. The Council managed to unite around a common set of goals representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious organisations, political parties and movements, cultural workers, scholars and scientists, entrepreneurs and people of different beliefs, views and ethnicities who were nonetheless united in one important respect, in their firmly rooted patriotism.
First of all, I want to thank you for your support and contribution to strengthening the Russian state, civil peace and accord, and consolidating society, and for the help you always offer to your compatriots and everybody who is part of the big Russian world.
I know that many representatives of the World Russian People’s Council are currently in Donbass and Novorossiya as volunteers and members of military units, protecting our brothers and sisters, millions of people in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, alongside their brothers-in-arms. I sincerely value the help that the World Russian People’s Council provides to the front and the families of our fallen heroes. They fought for us and for our Motherland. They will rest in peace and remain in our memory for eternity. Let us observe a moment of silence.
(A moment of silence.)
Friends, our fight for sovereignty and justice is, without exaggeration, one of national liberation, because we are upholding the security and well-being of our people, and our supreme historical right to be Russia – a strong independent power, a civilisation state. It is our country, it is the Russian world that has blocked the way of those who aspired to world domination and exceptionalism, as it has happened many times in history.
We are now fighting not just for Russia’s freedom but for the freedom of the whole world. We can frankly say that the dictatorship of one hegemon is becoming decrepit. We see it, and everyone sees it now. It is getting out of control and is simply dangerous for others. This is now clear to the global majority. But again, it is our country that is now at the forefront of building a fairer world order. And I would like to stress this: without a sovereign and strong Russia, no lasting and stable international system is possible.
We know the threat we are opposing. Russophobia and other forms of racism and neo-Nazism have almost become the official ideology of Western ruling elites. They are directed not only against ethnic Russians, but against all groups living in Russia: Tatars, Chechens, Avars, Tuvinians, Bashkirs, Buryats, Yakuts, Ossetians, Jews, Ingush, Mari and Altai. There are many of us, I might not be able to name every group now, but again, the threat is directed against all the peoples of Russia.
The West has no need for such a large and multi-ethnic country as Russia as a matter of principle. Our diversity and unity of cultures, traditions, languages, and ethnicities simply do not fit into the logic of Western racists and colonisers, into their cruel plans for total depersonalisation, separation, suppression, and exploitation. That is why they have started their old rant again: they say that Russia is a “prison of nations” and that Russians are a “nation of slaves.” We have heard this many times throughout the centuries. Now we have also heard that Russia apparently needs to be “decolonised.” But what do they really want? They want to dismember and plunder Russia. If they cannot do it by force, they sow discord.
I would like to emphasise that we view any outside interference or provocations to incite ethnic or religious conflict as acts of aggression against our country, and an attempt to once again wield terrorism and extremism as a weapon against us, and we will respond accordingly.
We have a large and diverse country. This diversity of cultures, traditions and customs creates greater strength, a tremendous competitive advantage and potential. We must continuously strengthen it, treasure this diverse accord, which is our common asset. I would like all the regional governors to focus on this, and I count on the authority of the pastors in our traditional religions and the responsibility of all political forces and public organisations.
I believe we all remember, and must remember, the lessons of the 1917 revolution, the subsequent Civil War, and the disintegration of the USSR in 1991. It may seem like many years have passed since then, but people of all ethnicities living today, even those born in the 21st century are still paying now, decades later, for the miscalculations made at that time – indulgences in separatist illusions, the weakness of the central authority, and a policy of artificial, forced division in this large Russian nation, a triune of Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. The bloody conflicts that emerged after the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union not only continue to smoulder but sometimes flare up with renewed energy. These wounds will not be healed for a long time.
We will never forget these mistakes and should not repeat them. I would like to emphasise once again – any attempt to sow ethnic or religious discord, to split our society is betrayal, a crime against all of Russia. We will never allow anyone to divide Russia – the only country we have. Our prayers are for this, our homeland, and they are expressed in different languages.
I would like to recall for this audience the words of St Gregory of Nazianzus: “Honouring your mother is a sacred thing. But everyone has their own mother, whereas the Motherland is our common mother.”
Your Holiness, colleagues. The theme of this Council session is “The Present and Future of the Russian World.” The Russian world embraces all generations of our predecessors and our descendants that will live after us. The Russian world means Ancient Rus, the Tsardom of Muscovy, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and modern Russia that is reclaiming, consolidating, and augmenting its sovereignty as a global power. The Russian World unites all those who feel a spiritual affinity with our Motherland, who consider themselves Russian speakers, and carriers of Russian history and culture regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
But I would like to emphasise that the Russian world and Russia itself do not and cannot exist without Russians as an ethnicity, without the Russian people. This statement does not contain any claim to superiority, exclusivity or chosenness. This is simply a fact just like our Constitution’s clear definition of the status of the Russian language as the language of a state-forming nation.
Being Russian is more than a nationality. By the way, this has always been the case throughout our country’s history. Among other things, it includes cultural, spiritual, and historical identity. Being Russian is, above all, a responsibility. To reiterate, it is about the enormous responsibility to safeguard Russia, and this is what true patriotism is all about. As a Russian, I am here to say that only a united, strong, and sovereign Russia can guarantee the future and independent development of the Russian people and all other peoples who have lived within the borders of our country for centuries and are united by a common historical destiny.
What does sovereignty mean for our state, for each family, and for each person? What is its value and true essence? Primarily, it is freedom. Freedom for Russia and our people and, therefore, for each one of us, because in our tradition, a person cannot feel free unless his loved ones, his children and his Fatherland are free. Our soldiers and officers, men and women of our country, are defending this genuine freedom.
A free nation that understands its responsibility before current and future generations is the only source of power, sovereign power, which is called upon to serve all people, rather than someone’s private, corporate, class, or even foreign interests.
A truly free person is a creator. We will support everyone’s aspiration to be useful to the country, society, and people. This is what sovereign development in the national interests is made of.
We are faced with the daunting task of developing vast areas from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Our economy, industry, agriculture, innovative industries, creative industries, and national businesses must increase their capacity multiple times over.
I am now reaching out to entrepreneurs who I know are many in this audience. I would like to thank you, friends, for your coordinated efforts. We have thwarted the unprecedented economic aggression of the West by uniting the efforts of the state and business. Its sanctions Blitzkrieg has failed.
Russia will step up support for sovereign national entrepreneurship. We have fundamentally new tools being developed for that right now. Invest in Russia, create new jobs, expand production, and participate in personnel training. If you do that, the national economy will grow, creating more success and opportunities for your companies. By focusing on strengthening sovereignty, national businesses are growing stronger and more sovereign themselves as they shed dependence on the components of the current world order.
The sovereign development of the country, its economy, business, the social sector should bring well-being to all people, all Russian families, and, thus, be fair. This is not about a primitive one-size-fits-all approach. Justice means primarily decent living conditions, modern facilities for culture, healthcare and sports in all regions of the country. This means a qualified and well-paid job and high public prestige for workers, engineers, teachers, doctors, artists, cultural figures, entrepreneurs, every responsible specialist and master. Justice means equal, broad opportunities for study, for a start in life and self-fulfilment for youth.
The West is now pursuing a “cancel culture” policy, but this is, in fact, a renunciation of humanitarian education. As a result, both culture and education are becoming primitive. Many traditional subjects are simply being thrown out of Western academic programmes and replaced by some gender or other similar sciences – pseudo sciences, of course. In the meantime, we need a real breakthrough in cultural life. And we have a lot to learn in this respect from our predecessors that set the tone for the entire world in both traditional and, by the way, avant-garde art. I am convinced that the country’s sovereignty and strengthening its role in the world are impossible without a flourishing, distinctive culture in all of its manifestations.
And, of course, we should take all the best achievements made by the domestic and global systems of traditional education. Importantly, our schools and universities must be modern and open to all advanced ideas.
We need an integral holistic approach to education with family, education, national culture, children’s, youth, sports and military-patriotic organisations, large-scale mentoring movements; and let me add, the wise word of our spiritual clergy harmoniously supplement each other. The latter is simply essential.
Yes, the Church is separate from the state and the Patriarch [Kirill] has told me more than once that despite this fact we have developed unique relations between the Church and the state. I would like to note in this context that the Church cannot be separated from society or from people. I fully agree with this. And this is why I would like to emphasise again the importance of the participation of representatives of all traditional Russian religions in the education and upbringing of our youth, and of course, in the consolidation of spiritual, moral, and family values. The involvement of the clergy from all traditional religions is an enduring value.
Your Holiness, friends,
You know that the Executive Order declaring next year – 2024 – the Year of the Family in Russia has already been signed. And I would like to say that this decision is indeed based on the position of the absolute majority of our society. I am sure the World Russian People’s Council unanimously supports it as well.
Here is what I would like to say and make clear. We will not overcome the daunting demographic challenges facing us solely with money, social benefits, allowances, privileges, or dedicated programmes. True, the amount of the budget’s demographic spending is extremely important, but that is not all there is to it. A person’s points of reference in life matter more. Love, trust, and a solid moral foundation are what the family and the birth of a child are built on. We must never forget this.
Thankfully, many of our ethnic groups have preserved the tradition of having strong multigenerational families with four, five, or even more children. Let us remember that Russian families, many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had seven, eight, or even more children.
Let us preserve and revive these excellent traditions. Large families must become the norm, a way of life for all Russia’s peoples. The family is not just the foundation of the state and society, it is a spiritual phenomenon, a source of morality.
All levels of government, our economic, social and infrastructure policies, education and awareness-raising, and healthcare should be engaged without exception in the work of supporting families, mothers and children. All public organisations and our traditional religions should focus on strengthening families as well. Preserving and increasing the population of Russia is our goal for the coming decades and even generations ahead. This is the future of the Russian world, the millennium-old, eternal Russia.
Your Holiness, friends, we have many ambitious goals before us, and fulfilling them requires a truly concerted effort, which we are ready for. We have become stronger. Our historical regions have returned to Russia. Society is rejecting everything superficial and turning to true and genuine values.
Pyotr Stolypin emphasised that law based on national power takes precedence. Together, we have shown such national strength and national will, the determination to uphold our fundamental interests, the fundamental interests of the people of Russia, to be guided not by someone else’s borrowed views, but by our own sovereign worldviews, our understanding of how the family and the entire country should live, and to build Russia for ourselves and our children.
I would like to thank you again for your support and patriotism and, of course, to congratulate you on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the World Russian People’s Council.
I would like to address special words of thanks to its head, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
I am aware of your tireless work, Your Holiness, to bring about the spiritual revival of Russia and of the importance and influence of your position. I want to emphasise this. Under your leadership, the Russian Orthodox Church, clergy, and laity do much to implement social, charitable, and volunteer projects. I am also aware of the support provided to our servicemen and their families and how eagerly our soldiers and officers on the frontlines seek out the Patriarch’s words.
I am pleased today, at the World Russian People’s Council, to congratulate you on being awarded the 2023 Presidential Prize for your contribution to strengthening the unity of the Russian nation. You have my deepest respect. I wish the Council every success in its work.