Remarks by State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, Deputy Chairman of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad, October 26, 2017
Dear conference participants, compatriots,
I am happy to welcome you on behalf of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad. It may be symbolic, but our conference is taking place at the House of Russia Abroad, established at the initiative of its longtime director Viktor Moskvin and under his supervision, for preserving the memory of Russian emigrants and for expanding ties with compatriots abroad. This hospitable venue is not named after Nobel Prize winner, writer, public and political activist Alexander Solzhenitsyn by pure coincidence. His creative work is widely known all over the world. His epic novel “The Red Wheel” about the Russian Revolution and Russia’s destiny occupies a central place among his works. He worked on this novel almost all his life. This unique work contains hundreds of documentary recollections about that turbulent era and those tumultuous times.
Today, years later, we can say with all responsibility that the Russian Revolution ranks among the main events of the early 20th century, and that it was a dramatic and largely tragic period in Russian history. A century has passed since revolutionary soldiers and sailors seized the Winter Palace. Much is forgotten over the whirlwind of years, and those who witnessed those events are no longer with us. However, we know that the revolution affected most families in Russia. Each of us keeps the legends of the lives of ancestors and their deeds during those distant years. He or she is proud of them regardless of what side they were on.
All of us have assumed the following responsibility: in the name of future generations, we need to learn the lessons of 1917, to preserve objective and truthful memory of the revolution years, to ensure the consolidating nature of the studies of our common history that can help unite people and consolidate the Russian diaspora abroad. By forging a respectful attitude towards history, we need to end the civil war in people’s minds.
Soon, the first and so far only museum about Russian diaspora and our compatriots abroad will open at the House of Russia Abroad. The exhibition will feature tens of thousands of items, including archived documents of famous writers, politicians, public activists and thinkers who emigrated during these troubled years. Cooperative efforts have already accomplished a lot for preserving Russia’s cultural and historical heritage and for returning the names of hundreds of compatriots abroad to today’s generation. The House of Russia Abroad is playing a great role in this respect. I would like to note that we have always provided effective support for it, and we will continue to do so in the future.
Speaking of the 1917 Russian Revolution, we cannot forget the Soviet Union’s dissolution in the 1990s. At that difficult time, millions of Russian citizens found themselves abroad through no fault of their own. Objectively speaking, it is these people who support interstate rapprochement between the CIS countries, within the Eurasian Economic Union, and who also strive to preserve their identity, their national and historical roots. Naturally, we want to meet their desires halfway.
In the 20th century, Russia had had more than its share of discord, divisions and disagreements. Today, our role is to make our weighty contribution to the unity of Russia’s entire multiethnic nation and all Russian citizens, regardless of where they live.
Dear conference participants,
About 30 million Russian compatriots now live outside Russia as a result of 20th century upheavals. They are scattered in all regions and corners of the world, and many of them try to maintain ties with Russia and to preserve their identity.
If we look to the past and recall the development of cooperation between the Russian Federation and our compatriots abroad, then I would choose 1994 as a reference point. It was then, during the initial years of asserting Russia’s state independence, that the first regulatory documents on the foundations of Russia’s policy with regard to compatriots were adopted. At that time, the main objective for their support and protection were charted, and the current Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad, that I mentioned, was established. Today, this commission works under the supervision of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The results of this work are obvious. I will only mention a few examples. In the past ten years, several World Congresses of Compatriots Living Abroad, as well as a number of world thematic conferences, including youth conferences, have taken place. The World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad is confidently expanding its activities. National coordinating councils have been established in over 90 countries at the initiative of Russian compatriots. Each year, various ministries and departments hold several hundred major events abroad and in Russia with the Commission’s support.
Compatriots everywhere are becoming more interested in diverse cooperation with Russia. Today, we see cooperation with the Russian diaspora as partner-like and, certainly, voluntary, and we are open to cooperation with everyone.
We are grateful to our compatriots for preserving a profound inner bond with Russia on their own initiative, for cherishing its culture and spiritual traditions and for feeling involved in its destiny and concerns. We praise the contribution of compatriots to preserving and developing the Russian language and for defending our common cultural and civilisational values. In the current complicated international situation, we feel solidarity on the part of our compatriots who express an interest in supporting Russia, and this is becoming important for consolidating Russian compatriots abroad.
We are focusing on work with the Russian diaspora’s youth. This year, we held several dozen important youth meetings, including those at the national and regional levels. This helps promote the continuity of generations in every respect, to raise young compatriots with a spirit of love for their Motherland and to make them feel responsible for it. We want our young compatriots to feel involved in the cause of reviving a prosperous democratic Russia and to objectively appraise and respect the achievements of previous generations of Russian citizens for our country’s spiritual and cultural development.
I would like to specially thank our young compatriots for being involved over the past few years in preparing and holding events dedicated to Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War. We are grateful to those who honoured veterans living abroad and who participated in such events as The Immortal Regiment and The St George Ribbon, who fought attempts to distort the past and downplay the decisive role of the Soviet Union’s nations in defeating Nazism.
The broadest strata of compatriots, including the older generation, view picturesque cultural programmes as most attractive. For example, there are Russian communities in the United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, Belgium and many other countries. This year’s Rendezvous with Russia festival, dedicated to the 300th anniversary of Russian Emperor Peter the Great’s journey through what is now Belgium gathered over 3,000 people. The famous Maslenitsa (Pancake Week) festival on London’s Trafalgar Square attracts thousands. The Sabantui festival on the Champ de Mars in Paris attracted about 20,000 visitors.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that we praise the fact that most our compatriots are Russian ambassadors of goodwill. They know a lot about their Motherland, and they can spread objective information about it. Russian compatriots represent our basic values, including openness, friendliness, responsibility and justice, to the entire world. More information in this category is spread with modern technology and the internet. We value the activity to expand benevolent and warm relations with the populations of their home countries. In our difficult times, it is hard to overestimate the peace-loving and humane spirit being instilled by Russian foreign communities in the life of their home countries. Our diaspora is called on to provide a new impetus to strengthening our country’s international prestige and influence, and this reflects Russia’s unique stabilising and balancing role in the development of world civilisation. This is particularly important in the current situation of unpredictability and greater turbulence.
We intend to discuss many issues at the upcoming international conference titled 100 Years of the Russian Revolution: Unity for the Sake of the Future, due to open on October 31 in Moscow. Conference delegates will focus on consolidation issues and strengthening ties between compatriots and their historical Motherland, the role of youth in preserving the identity and unique nature of the Russian community abroad and the role of media outlets during the rapid development of new technologies.
We are interested in further expanding our ties with the rest of the world; the creative potential of our compatriots needs to be unlocked to the greatest possible extent, and their contribution to the development of Russia needs to expand.
I wish you every success and all the best.