TRANSCRIPT: [Putin and Patriarch Kirill at] Monument to Vladimir the Great opened in Moscow on Unity Day

Patriarch Kirill file photo

(Kremlin.ru – November 4, 2016)

Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia opened a monument to the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles, and Christianiser of Russia, on Borovitskaya Square.

The monument was erected at the initiative of the Russian Military-Historical Society and the Moscow City Government. It was sculpted by Salavat Shcherbakov, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation.

The opening ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Government members, deputies, members of NGOs, and representatives of science, culture and the arts.

Following the opening ceremony, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia consecrated the monument.

Earlier, the President and the Patriarch laid flowers at the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square.

Flowers were also laid by Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gaynutdin, Chief Mufti and Head of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar, Head of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church Korniliy, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow Paolo Pezzi, leader of traditional Buddhist Sangkha of Russia Bandida Khambo-lama Damba Ayusheyev, and activists of Russian youth movements and members of non-governmental national and cultural organisations.

The President also visited the Orthodox Russia exhibition and forum at the Manezh central exhibition centre where he toured the exhibit, Russia – My History: 1945-2016.

The 15thOrthodox Russia exhibition and forum runs from November 4 to 22 and continues the cycle of My History exhibitions devoted to the founding of the Russian state. The President’s tour was led by Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk.

Оpening ceremony of the monument to Vladimir the Great

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

Welcome and congratulations on the opening of the monument to Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles. This is a major, significant event both for Moscow and the entire country and for all Russian compatriots. It is symbolic that the opening is being held on Unity Day here, in central Moscow, by the walls of the ancient Kremlin, the very heart of Russia.

The new monument is a tribute to our prominent ancestor, an especially revered saint, national leader and warrior, and the spiritual founder of the Russian state.

Prince Vladimir went down in history as a unifier and defender of Russian lands, and a far-sighted politician who created the foundations of a strong, unified, centralised state, which eventually united different peoples, languages, cultures and religions into one big family.

His epoch was full of achievements, and the Baptism of Rus was of course the most important, defining and essential of them. This choice was the common spiritual source for the peoples of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and laid the foundations of our moral standards and value priorities which continue to define our lives to this day.

It is this solid moral foundation, unity and solidarity that helped our ancestors overcome difficulties, live and achieve victories to the glory of the Fatherland, strengthening its power and greatness from one generation to the next.

And our duty today is to work together to confront modern challenges and threats, while relying on spiritual covenants and the invaluable traditions of unity and harmony, and to preserve the continuity of our thousand-year history as we move forward.

Dear friends,

Congratulations on Unity Day! I wish all Russian citizens success and wellbeing.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Mr President, distinguished guests of this solemn ceremony,

Holy Prince Vladimir was very pragmatic in his choice of faith. He sent his ambassadors to understand how people serve God in different places. This is proof of the Prince’s profound sincerity, his aspiration to approach the most important issue – the choice of a faith – as honestly and impartially as possible.

We live in a world today where truths are being eroded. The relativity of the truth is the cult which many people now follow without even knowing it themselves. This is the quasi-religion of the present: everything has a right to exist, because there is no unshakable eternal truth.

If Vladimir thought the same way as many our contemporaries, he would have never made his choice. He would have either remained a pagan or become a Christian individually, without bringing Christianity to Rus. There would have been no Rus, no Russia, no Russian Orthodox power, no great Russian Empire, and no modern Russia.

But he was not seeking luxuriant church services or the spiritual comfort which religion often affords. He was seeking the Truth, with a capital T, and he discovered and loved the figure of Christ and came to know him in the Sacred Baptism as the light, truth and life.

Economic and political difficulties exist in every society. But the loss of spiritual identity condemns a country. It is doomed no matter how powerful it may have seemed. Therefore, choosing a faith for Vladimir was tantamount to choosing the destiny of the people he loved.

If Vladimir had no personal experience of love for Christ and was guided by exclusively political or other reasons, the people would not have believed him. Vladimir was not a political schemer, a cunning or two-faced person. He was always consistent and sincere – both when he made mistakes and did lawless things, and when he discovered the fullness of the truth in the Orthodox faith and became a saint.

This monument is a reminder to each person who beholds it: “Are you as sincere in your faith, in your love for the Fatherland and its people as Holy Prince Vladimir? Or do you want to distance yourself from everyone and everything for personal benefit and self-interest?”

But a Christian is someone who follows Christ always, not just when it is easy and convenient. The hearts of real followers of Christ cannot help but bleed for their family, city, country and the entire world. The greatest calamity of the present has nothing to do with economic or political crises, it is the acute, chronic shortage of love for each other, for our Creator and for all of his creations.

No one can revisit the choice of Prince Vladimir without destroying one’s own civilisational identity. To say that Vladimir did something wrong is to fall asleep in the shade of churches and wake up in the forest near a fire, not knowing how to read and write. Unfortunately, this choice is made by those who want to return to the debris of pagan ignorance and replace the light of the truth with the darkness of pre-Christian life.

Vladimir was known as the Fair Sun among his people, and only truly beloved figures are given such names. He was not afraid of abruptly changing the direction of society’s development because he loved the people and believed that he would be understood and followed.

He did not try to calculate all the risks and dangers of changing the faith, because this was not a tactical or a strategic decision for him, it was a decision about attaining the truth for himself and his people forever. And the truth is not accepted based on a calculation. In that case it ceases to be truth.

In his decisiveness, devotion to Christ and consistency in following the Gospels, Vladimir resembled the apostles, although there was a thousand-year gap between them.

If we think that today there are no choices left for us like the one Vladimir made, then we are sadly mistaken. Our choice might not be as colossal and notable but its consequences are no less so. Each day we choose who and what we live for, what we fill our lives with. This is a choice of faith on which not only our destiny, but the destiny of the whole world depends.

The monument to Prince Vladimir is a symbol of the unity of all peoples to whom he is father. These are the peoples of historic Rus who currently live within the borders of many countries.

A monument to a father can be anywhere his children live, there is nothing contradictory about it. But it is bad if the children forget they have the same father.

Head of the Solzhenitsyn Foundation Natalya Solzhenitsyn: Mr President, Your Holiness, friends,

The monument to Prince Vladimir is not just another landmark for our city that will attract people to pose for photographs against its background. It is also a challenge, a question addressed to each and every one of us: how do we look against his background?

The 20th century was a century of great ordeals for Russia. Two world wars with a civil war, collectivisation and the GULAG in between. But the 21st century does not spell quiet either.

Where can we draw strength not just to survive but to be worthy of our ancestors? Everybody says in unity and concord. But we should admit that after the stormy 20th century and an uneasy transition to the 21st century we do not have unity and concord on many vital issues.

The assessment of our past is among the major controversies. In this respect it would be appropriate to address Prince Vladimir, who is an example of the transformative power of Christianity still aflame throughout centuries. He looked back at his life, condemned what was wrong and dark in it, took everything good that was bestowed on him, and resolutely turned towards the light.

We should do that too. It means to respect our history, to take pride in our nation’s achievements, its heroes and its righteous. But it also means to have honesty and courage so as to condemn evil, not to justify it or to sweep its memory under the carpet away from view. We will not achieve purity in our house that way.

Vladimir’s Baptism of Rus gave it the faith that taught: God is in the truth, not in the power. Let us be adherents of this testament. Let us preserve the high traditions and pure spirit. The worthy future of our Fatherland depends on them.

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[featured image is file photo]