TRANSCRIPT: “Dmitry Medvedev attended the Global Forum “Solidarity with Russia”

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru – August 29, 2016)

The Global Forum “Solidarity with Russia” has been organised by the Russkiy Mir Foundation to discuss current issues and to consolidate Russians living abroad. Delegates from over 90 post-Soviet and foreign countries include heads of compatriot associations and organisations, Russian and foreign public organisations, businesses, research and education communities and Russian language media outlets.

Excerpts from Dmitry Medvedev’s remarks:

Over 300 people, nearly all of them Russian citizens, representing more than 30 million Russians from 100 countries, have convened in this hall. We need and appreciate your proposals, at the least many of them, and so we should consider creating mechanisms for representing Russian compatriots at public organisations in Russia. Our compatriots living abroad should be more actively involved in expert and advisory councils at the State Duma and the Federation Council, as well as in the work of large public organisations such as History Society, Russian Philology Association, human rights organisations and, last but not least, the Civic Chamber.

The world is experiencing one information revolution after another. The speed with which information is spread and its absolute accessibility are unprecedented. In this context, we want the chorus of Russian voices to be heard and our views on current developments known in this global world. Russian-language media are of crucial importance in this. According to various estimates, there are over 3,000 Russian-language outlets in 70 countries, and I am referring only to the so-called traditional media. We appreciate the contribution of all those who write and speak Russian and try to tell the objective truth about Russia, without embellishing our realities but also without creating any new Russian bogey men.

In 2013, a new nomination was added to the list of Government media awards – Best Foreign Russian-Language Media Outlet.

Of course, we should highlight the work to preserve the legal status of the Russian language in the post-Soviet states and to promote the use of the Russian language by young people. We have the necessary resources for this, including the Russian Language Federal Targeted Programme, which we have extended to 2020 despite the economic downturn, the concept for state support and promotion of the Russian language abroad, and lastly, the Russkiy Mir Foundation.

As before, our most important task is protecting the rights and interests of Russian citizens abroad. This is primarily a task of the state addressed by the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). There is a special Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots and, of course, there are public organisations. Importantly, they should operate as a united force where the case in point is helping our citizens, be it protecting a mother who is unable to take her child from a foreign country, or authorities forcibly converting Russian schools to a different language of instruction (I emphasise, forcibly), or assisting our citizens who were unfairly convicted in foreign countries.

Russia is a strong and influential nation and we must protect our people, our citizenship, and our history and culture. I will say perhaps a high-sounding thing, but it is very important. I would like you, just as all other citizens of this country, to feel every minute that the Russian Federation will always stand by you, that it is a country that has never left, nor will ever leave its people in the lurch, the way it was in South Ossetia and Crimea.

At the same time, you are a powerful force yourselves, with whose opinion foreign governments cannot but reckon. The World Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots has operated since 2007 and around 100 countries have local organisations of compatriots that host conferences of Russian communities. You are helping to implement major projects. I will not name all of them but will only mention one of the latest major interstate projects, namely the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Centre on Quai Branly in Paris, France. Its construction began in July 2014 and it will open its doors to visitors in October of this year; it will have up-to-date venues for concerts, films and exhibitions. The Centre will also have a large educational space with instruction programmes in Russian. And, of course, its centrepiece and gem will be the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Other organisations have a special role to play in consolidating the Russian diaspora, such as the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad. We will mark Solzhenitsyn’s centenary in 2018. We started building Russia’s first museum of Russia abroad at the House of Solzhenitsyn. This means that the archives and cultural relics of Russian émigrés should return home.

Compatriots, we are also waiting for you in Russia. To this end, we have launched a state programme to assist the voluntary resettlement of compatriots living abroad to Russia. This year we marked the arrival of the 500,000th compatriot under the programme. Over half of the returnees are people from Ukraine’s zone of hostilities who fled their country out of fear for their lives after surviving incredible hardships or losing their relatives. They pin their hopes on Russia, on its support, assistance and protection. We are helping them and provide them with the main things they need in this situation – shelter, medical assistance and jobs – and their children, with modern education.

We also need to support the children of our compatriots living abroad. I would like to use this occasion to tell our young compatriots that they should know, wherever they live, that they have a homeland that is waiting for them. This is why we have launched the Hello, Russia and New Generation projects under which about 1,000 young people from 47 countries have visited their homeland, Russia, this year.

Of course, we would like young compatriots not only to visit Russia but also to study and work here. However, under our education system they need to pass the Unified State Exam before entering a Russian university. We have started working to establish a network of places where young people can sit for the Unified State Exams outside Russia, primarily in the CIS. Nearly 2,000 school graduates in 51 countries passed this exam thanks to the assistance of the Education Ministry, Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russkiy Mir Foundation.

The President has approved the Russian Schools Abroad concept for children. It gives our young compatriots an additional opportunity to receive an education in the Russian language. Not just schools but also kindergartens have been established in many countries for children of bilingual and even trilingual parents.

As you know, we will have parliamentary elections on 18 September. We have combined electoral districts in Russia and foreign countries to enable all Russian passport holders around the world to take part in voting, including at Rossotrudnichestvo and Russian culture centres. For example, Russians in Austria will vote together with Tatarstan, those in Bulgaria together with Moscow and the Moscow Region and St Petersburg, and those in the UK together with the Tomsk Region.

The election campaign cannot be comprehensive without debates. We have provided venues for this abroad, in particular, at Rossotrudnichestvo missions, which are willing to consider civil initiatives in 93 countries. They are also willing to become dialogue venues for compatriots living abroad and for Russian tourists who are travelling abroad on voting day.