Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 37th meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, November 24, 2021
I am glad to welcome the participants in this in-person meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation. Meeting face-to-face is always much more effective. We hope that the in-person format will become regular in the near future.
During the previous meeting, we discussed a number of issues related to the Russian regions’ participation in the work of international organisations. We note that the regions are invariably and increasingly interested in cooperating at the CIS and EAEU platforms. The regions are also more pro-active in participating in and joining the activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Today, we will hear about the results of the SCO Member States’ Heads of Regions Forum, which has just been held.
We will also have to discuss matters related to the development of cultural ties between the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and our foreign partners. Humanitarian cooperation is an important area of our work. It is of special significance for shaping an objective perception of our country abroad and for maintaining trust and mutual understanding at the level of civil society. Russia has a huge cultural potential and it is necessary to make active use of this, given the inevitable growth in international demand for Russia’s cultural products. Cultural diplomacy is our valuable foreign policy resource.
Today, it is not easy to work internationally in any format. We are witnessing persistent attempts to destroy the cultural and civilisational identity of peoples in different parts of the world. The use of internet technologies, including social media, is creating serious challenges. We must take all the factors of this kind into account in our everyday work.
Strengthening cooperation with our next-door neighbours – the CIS countries – should remain an overriding priority in the cultural and educational spheres. We think it useful for the Russian regions to join the initiative to create a system of schools with teaching in the Russian language and on the basis of Russian educational programmes. In the CIS, 2023 has been announced the Year of Russian as a language of interethnic communication. It is essential that the regions of Russia become active in helping to draft an event plan for this Year and to subsequently implement it.
There is a high demand for Russia’s increased cultural presence in states located in the Asia-Pacific Region, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Playing an important role are educational exchanges and cooperation, including along regional lines, with graduates of Russian and Soviet universities. A number of constituent entities are active in tapping this potential.
We have a stake in promoting non-political cultural and humanitarian contacts with states in Europe and North America.
Russian communities remain vehicles for the Russian language and Russian culture abroad. The 7th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad was held in October 2021, with its decisions facilitating further consolidation of the global Russian World as the Russian cultural identity space. We will continue to do whatever is needed to help Russian compatriots to preserve their cultural, spiritual and language identity and maintain contact with their historical homeland. We will do whatever is necessary to defend their interests in keeping with the laws of their countries of residence.
Public organisations and associations are making a tangible contribution to promoting Russian culture in the world. Many interesting projects are being carried out at the regional level. It is important to make this work consistent. The Russian Foreign Ministry will do all it can to help domestic NGOs develop their international contacts.
The practice of conducting large thematic events with foreign partners, such as days, seasons and cross years of culture, has proven highly effective. Despite the sanitary restrictions, the Year of Germany was a success in Russia in the past two years. The Year of Interregional Cooperation with France is progressing well. The Cross Year of Museums with Italy was launched last September. The Year of Knowledge with Britain and the Year of Science and Education with the Republic of Korea are scheduled for 2022-2023. All these events create wonderful opportunities for active participation by the Russian regions. We will welcome not only the involvement of regions in the existing programmes but also their own initiatives.
During the pandemic, there is growing demand for advanced information technology in promoting our cultural achievements. We are pleased to note that many regions have promptly launched online projects for theatres, museums and art galleries. Record visits to these websites show that we are open to the world and reflect the interest of millions of foreigners in Russia’s enormous heritage.
Russia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, and this is helpful. We are always willing to share our unique experience of the centuries-long peaceful coexistence of dozens of ethnicities in one territory. The UN-announced International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) creates a wonderful opportunity in this respect.
It is also important to make the most of UNESCO’s unifying potential. Fulfilling an instruction of President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Russian experts continue working to reveal unique cultural and natural sites in Russia with a view to presenting them for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will hold its 45th session in Kazan in June 2022. It is timed to the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
UNESCO will start planning its calendar of memorable dates for 2024-2025 in 2022. By tradition, our regions take part in preparing applications. Thus, the calendar for 2022-2023 includes such dates as the 150 birth anniversary of Fyodor Shalyapin, 150th birth anniversary of Sergey Rakhmaninov and 200th birth anniversary of Alexander Ostrovsky.
In 2023, UNESCO will open one more contest for joining its Creative Cities Network. It already includes 246 municipalities from 80 countries. The participation of Russian cities in this project (Ulyanovsk, Kazan and Kargopol are already taking part in it) is producing good results and should be expanded. We will actively support applications for the contest.
The active involvement of the Russian regions is enriching domestic cultural diplomacy, strengthening its historical foundation and opening up new broad vistas for it. It is vital for regional governors to adopt a proactive approach to resolving tasks in this area. We will do everything to support your initiatives and are willing to cooperate in a variety of ways. We are interested in hearing your recommendations and proposals on improving our common work.