TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of the Russian Literature and Language Society

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Kremlin.ru – May 26, 2016)

Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the Russian Literature and Language Society’s Congress.

The Russian Literature and Language Society was established in 2016 to consolidate the efforts of scholars, teachers, cultural figures and the global public to preserve the leading role of Russian language and literature in educating young people, strengthening the common cultural and education space, and developing the best traditions of Russia’s liberal arts education, and cultural and educational activity. The Society is presided by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

Speech at the Congress’ plenary session

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, friends, colleagues,

This is not the first time we are discussing Russian language and literature, although these subjects perhaps deserve even more attention and greater effort in their favour. After all, what we are really talking about here is the preservation of nothing less than our very national identity, how to preserve what makes us unique, our own character and traditions, and how to preserve the historic continuity and the links between the different generations. In other words, for Russians, this is a question of being and remaining Russian.

This is not the only area in which the Russian language has a role to play. In a country with as many faces, peoples and as much beauty as ours, the Russian language also helps to create a united Russian nation and serves as a language of communication between our different ethnic groups.

Following the Russian Literature Conference in November 2013, the state authorities and public organisations began taking concrete steps to preserve and develop the Russian language, revive interest in reading, support Russian literature, and, of course, bolster the humanitarian dimension in the education system.

Writing essays has been returned to the school programme and Russian language and literature are once more studied as a separate subject. Work has been organised to develop a common concept for teaching Russian language and literature, and national teachers’ organisations have become noticeably more active too.

The Year of Literature last year was a success, and the central event, the Books of Russia festival on Red Square, is now an annual event. I have no doubt that the Russian Literature and Language Society’s efforts will give yet further impetus to supporting and developing Russian language and literature.

As the successor to the Society of Amateurs of Russian Literature, established in 1811, the Society’s mission is to bring together professionals, experts, teachers, parents, and cultural figures to provide a platform for developing common approaches to promoting Russian language and literature, supporting young and talented writers, and addressing the issues facing language and literature education.

This covers not just providing public and expert evaluation reports of textbooks and teaching materials, but also taking part in drafting state education standards for Russian language and literature, drawing up relevant teaching programmes, and setting the lists of literary works that our young people should definitely read.

We have well known public organisations that have just such experience. It’s enough here to recall the Russian Historical Society and the Russian Geographical Society, which have played a positive part in drafting educational concept documents in their relevant areas.

Colleagues, I hope very much that the Russian Literature and Language Society will also become a key player in carrying out State Cultural Policy, the basics of which were approved in 2014. After all, Russian language and literature hold a central place in this document. You can count on the state authorities’ fullest support in this work.

It is fitting in this context to recall that master of the Russian language, Alexander Kuprin. He called the Russian language “our people’s history” and “the road to civilisation and culture”, and believed that its “study and preservation…is not a vain pursuit born out of idleness, but an urgent need.” This is a just and profound assertion.

Let me say again that preserving our language, literature and culture is a question of national security and preserving our identity in a globalised world.

Russia has gone through radical upheaval of its traditional foundations in the past and has always drawn strength by returning to its spiritual and historical values, and Russian classical literature and the literary language have always been and will remain at the foundations of these values.

We need these foundations not only so as to understand each other at the level of simple communication and immediate needs, but also so as to have a link with our people’s history and culture and a sense of being part of our homeland’s destiny. This is what unites people as a nation. We must do all we can to ensure that classical and modern literature and good language skills are an integral part of our country’s life. In essence, we need to make this good manners, the thing to do, make it fashionable, so that all of society will take part in preservation and development effort.

We can resolve these tasks only though consistent work and carefully planned large-scale programme in which not only the relevant state bodies but also, most importantly, our public take part.

In this respect, the Russian Literature and Language Society has a particular role to play. It should become a powerful centre for educational and scholarly work, carry out projects in the education sector, the media and the arts, and support citizens’ initiatives.

In this context, it would make sense to examine the best world practice and traditions in this area and study the experience of our colleagues from Britain’s Royal Society of Literature, The Italian Cultural Institute, Spain’s Cervantes Institute, Germany’s Goethe Institute, and China’s Confucius Institute, including in promoting their national languages and cultures abroad.

Let me say once more, Russia’s literary heritage and uniquely expressive and multifaceted Russian language are our national treasures and we feel deserved pride in them and have a duty to preserve them.

Colleagues and friends, I hope very much that the Russian Literature and Language Society will become one of the most active and engaged participants in this important work for our country and for our people’s lives. I wish you good luck in this work from all my heart.

Thank you very much.