RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Putin at] Meeting on establishing cultural and educational centres in Russian regions” – KremlinRu

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(Kremlin.ru – January 8, 2019)

Vladimir Putin held a meeting on the creation of cultural, educational and museum centres in Vladivostok, Kaliningrad, Kemerovo and Sevastopol.

The President set the goal to create theatre, concert, museum and educational centres in the Russian regions in his Address to the Federal Assembly in 2018, with details codified in the Presidential Executive Order On National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation Until 2024. The meeting was attended by members of the Government, regional leaders, and cultural and art workers.

Before the meeting, Vladimir Putin studied models of the cultural and educational centres under construction. In particular, the President examined the projects of the Kaliningrad Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Higher School of Music and Theatre Arts, museum and theater education centres, a cultural centre in Vladivostok, an educational centre on Russky Island and a dance academy in Sevastopol.

The President was also shown a computer simulation of the future development of the arts quarter in Kemerovo. Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Governor of Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov, Governor of Primorye Territory Oleg Kozhemyako, Governor of Sevastopol Dmitry Ovsyannikov, Governor of Kemerovo Region Sergei Tsivilov provided details and updates on the projects.

Remarks at meeting on creating cultural and educational centres in Russian regions

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.

As you know, a very important goal to create theatre, concert, museum and educational centres in the Russian regions was set in last year’s Address to the Federal Assembly.

Valery Gergiev is “to blame” for this because he actually got quite involved in the Far East and Vladivostok, at my request. And Mikhail Piotrovsky also spoke repeatedly about trying to do exhibitions in different regions, including exhibits in the vaults. But, unfortunately, the regions generally lack appropriate facilities for working at the proper level. This is where the idea came from – the idea of creating cultural and educational centres in the regions.

These large centres of public life and education should be accessible to people of all ages, both older and younger generations, according to their interests and needs. It is especially important, of course, to keep in mind young people. Cultural centres should include concert facilities, museum and exhibition areas, and provide premises for branches of our leading theatres, museums, and art schools.

The development of such centres has been designated as one of the priorities of the Culture national project. We thoroughly discussed the general guidelines for the forthcoming work in December at the Council for Culture and Art. All the substantive proposals made at that meeting will definitely be taken into account, especially since their authors will become direct participants, partners of the programme for establishing such centres.

Once again, I would like to emphasise their enormous significance: to uncover the cultural and educational potential of our regions, to form a modern cultural space across the Russian Federation, that is, to ensure the harmonious development of society and the self-realisation of its members.

This self-realisation phrase is certainly a cliché. But what is it really about? It is about the lives of our people, of Russian families living in various regions. What does it mean? An opportunity to see the world’s masterpieces kept in our leading museums, a lot of them in the storerooms, to see performances with leading actors, because they will have the opportunity to stage productions and participate in them.

It also means education, teaching children – something entirely mundane at first glance. It is one thing when a family has such an opportunity, potentially, or at least an understanding that this is possible; it is quite a different situation when this is missing. The project changes life in the region in a fundamental way.

The demand for real high culture is certainly growing every year, and this trend, of course, needs to be supported. A rich cultural life, bright creative events, and opportunities to reveal their talents should be available to everyone in any region of our country.

We have already decided on the cities where the first cultural and educational centres will be built. These are Kaliningrad, Kemerovo, Vladivostok and Sevastopol.

Today I propose discussing some practical issues of the project’s implementation. It is important that from the very beginning, from the first steps we take into account all aspects: technological, organisational, financial, architectural, construction and, of course, staffing. First of all, I would like to hear about the progress on each of these projects. The governors have just told me about it in general terms. Now I think we have an opportunity to discuss this in greater detail. I would like to hear what has been done, whether there are unresolved issues and problems, if there is anything that hinders overall progress and even accelerating work, whether additional support is needed from federal agencies and, finally, when the opening of these centres is planned. I am interested in the timeframes and deadlines.

I believe it is important, when creating cultural centres, to think outside the box. Uniformity certainly has a place, but there needs to be some golden mean without getting overly involved, because each region has its own needs in terms of the size and type of exhibition and theatre facilities, and its own demand for the development of art schools. It is absolutely necessary to take into account the opinion of the people living in each specific region.

All the details need to be taken into account at the design stage, prior to the start of construction, so that later on, you will not have to convert and rezone the finished facilities. Unfortunately, this happens, I have repeatedly encountered this, though not in the sphere of culture, although even here, this problem arose during the renovation of the Bolshoi Theatre, during the construction of its new stage. Therefore, we need to know now how each cultural centre will be used, and to think through their future maintenance, and sources of funding. I would like to hear specific proposals here today.

Staffing these facilities is, of course, of fundamental importance – I have already spoken about this, building strong teams to work at the new cultural centres. We will need whole teams of talented administrators, qualified specialists and, importantly, like-minded people. I am sure this is possible. I hear and know that there are various doubts on the matter. I heard similar doubts expressed when we decided to create a network of high-tech medical centres in the regions. They said the same thing to me: this will not work, there are no people, and no one will go there. But they did. From St Petersburg, from Moscow, from Novosibirsk, and some even returned from abroad.

When opportunities are created, I mean in terms of salaries, equipment, the right cohort, and support provided – everyone works and works very well. Moreover, healthcare immediately reaches a new level in the regions where the new centres open, because other medical institutions start pulling up to this level. This is extremely important. I am sure that we will succeed in this area as well. We just talked about what the Mariinsky Theatre does in Vladivostok. A wonderful production was put on by a young company, with Valery Gergiev’s help. This will happen everywhere, I do not doubt that for a second.

With that in mind, here is what I wanted to say about the regional cultural centres: this project should not come at the expense of financial or human resources of local cultural institutions. It is unacceptable to push them to the margins. The new cultural centres are designed to enrich and complement the cultural life of the regions, to work in close partnership with regional and local museums, theatres, and art schools. They have great potential, and they should have every opportunity to grow themselves.

Let us get to work.

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Vladimir Putin: The questions that have been raised here are not idle. This applies to follow-up as well, because issuing money upon receiving a corresponding request is indeed part of the Finance Ministry’s job. The issue was about the fact that there was additional oversight of the spending of these funds in accordance with the estimates. This must be done by all means.

Even though the regions are ready to assume some of these responsibilities, it is important that the head institutions have timely access to additional funds for maintaining these branches in a timely manner. This is important.

Finally, it is critical for the head institutions to treat these branches as part of their own body, as it were, and take an active part in creating and accepting them. This needs to be taken seriously.

This is, in fact, a work-related meeting, but it is held during the holiday season which is still on in Russia. We are discussing ways to promote culture in the regions, and I think we are acting in line with the Christmas holiday spirit.

I want to thank you all for what you have already accomplished, and I want to note that the goal of our meeting today is to not only give additional impetus to this work, but to make it systematic and to monitor what is done. I hope this will be done on time and at the highest level of quality.

Thank you very much.