Following the Council meeting, the President met with Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Welcome to the meeting of the Council for Interethnic Relations.
My colleagues and I have come to the North Caucasus Federal District. Incidentally, we will be able to talk with each of you after the event or hold some of these meetings tomorrow to calmly discuss the situation in each constituent entity of the Russian Federation.
Today we will be talking about the State National Policy Strategy. It was adopted over 10 years ago. We never slacken attention to its implementation, and we understand that the current circumstances call for updating it.
We are aware of the aggressive external pressure being put on Russia and our society. We have to deal with nearly all instruments in the enemies’ arsenals, including economic, miliary, political and information tools, as well as formidable anti-Russia propaganda. The attacks on our history, culture and spiritual values never ease up, just as the attempts to undermine the unity and fraternal relations among our peoples.
Our adversaries have decided that Russia’s multi-ethnicity is a tender spot, and they are making every effort to divide us. I would like to say a few words about this. The adversaries I have mentioned, as you know from your own experience, stage provocations within ethnic communities, establish socio-political associations, allegedly on behalf of Russian peoples, which represent only themselves and other stoolpigeons, and shamelessly declare the need for the so-called decolonisation of Russia.
Incidentally, they are talking their own talk, because they are the countries that used to have colonies and that are now pursuing a neo-colonial policy. That is why, when they talk about us, they think about themselves, believing that we are just like them. They say that Russia must be divided into dozens of small states, and it is clear why – so as to subsequently bend these states to their will, exploit them and use them for their own mercenary purposes. They have no other goals.
The people behind these kinds of concepts are accustomed to following Western ideological blueprints steeped in racist neo-colonial approaches and assertions of some kind of exceptionalism of some nations and inferiority of the others and the habitual division of nations into the first, second and third grades. I think they even have the top grade which sees itself as superior compared even to their allies.
To reiterate, they continue to operate on the premise that Russia’s cultural and ethnic diversity is a weak spot. However, life – you and I are well aware of this, dear friends and colleagues – and the challenges we have run into have proven that, on the contrary, it is Russia’s strength, a special kind of all-conquering strength.
The gracious and sincere relations between the peoples of Russia have been formed over many centuries. Without a doubt, many things have happened over the millennial history of our multiethnic nation just like things happen in any family, including disagreements, falling-outs and differences. This is life. But this is the way the Russian family of peoples took shape – gradually, over a thousand years.
From generation to generation, our forbearers worked together for the good of our common and vast Motherland and multiplied the spiritual heritage of a single state with the diversity of their languages and traditions, and formed its unparalleled multiethnic and multi-religious culture.
Our state was built around values of multiethnic harmony. This is the bedrock foundation underlying our consolidation, which is only getting stronger in the face of external aggressions and threats. Our adversaries, that I mentioned earlier, people with neo-colonial mindsets – halfwits, in fact – are unable to realise that diversity makes us stronger. They are counting on an outcome which they are trying hard to achieve, but in vain. I said earlier that people who are guided by neo-colonial ideas are halfwits, and they would come in second in a contest of halfwits. Why second? Because they are halfwits. (Laughter.) They fail to understand that faced with external aggression and external pressure, our multiethnic nation is only getting stronger.
It is not by chance – I want to emphasise this – that almost all the peoples of Russia have joined the ranks of the fighters in the special military operation or volunteered to help on the home front. As of now, representatives of over a hundred ethnic groups living in Russia have been decorated with high military awards.
We are all proud of our heroes, and together we support our service people, both in word and deed, and this unity of actions and thoughts among millions of people is undoubtedly making us stronger, more resilient and better.
There is more trust between people now and mutual assistance has increased. Our unity has become stronger and more reliable. Our inclusion and responsibility for Russia and its future is also deeper and more conscious now.
And I think it is clear why this is happening. It is clear to everyone, not only to the experts, respected as they are, not only to the leaders – in this case, the heads of the regions. No. Ordinary people also realise that only unity can make us strong and invincible. And being strong is what matters most because our very existence depends on it. And everyone, I want to emphasise this, everyone feels and understands this – with their minds, hearts and souls.
That is why in today’s situation, we are seeing an absolutely obvious consolidation of our society.
The extent of identification as Russian nationals (where a person primarily identifies as a citizen of Russia, as opposed to a representative of a particular ethnic group), has been growing in recent years in direct proportion to the mounting pressure on our country.
The stronger the sanctions, the nastier the slander, the higher this manifestation of general consolidation. Over the past five years, this measurement has grown by a third, and by the beginning of 2023, it exceeded 94 percent. According to unbiased statistics, in 2017, 63 percent identified primarily as Russian, and in 2022, 94.2 percent.
That is, again, the vast majority of people primarily identify as citizens of Russia, putting their national affiliation, and inclusion in Russian society before that of a certain ethnic group.
The amendments to the Constitution, including those made thanks to your contribution, colleagues, have formalised the protection of the cultural identity of all peoples of Russia and the preservation of our country’s language and ethnocultural diversity. It is important that this is based on our common values and principles, and on the firm belief that we are all different. Yes, we are different, and each of us has his or her own hometown. But we have a common, united, powerful and large Fatherland – Russia, a tower of strength to all of us with its great diverse culture, great history, language diversity and the great Russian language, which is formalised in Article 68 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation as the state language with a unique function of interethnic communication.
This is what I would like you to keep in mind when we adjust the provisions of the State National Policy Strategy.
I would like to ask the Government, the Council for Interethnic Relations and the experts concerned to adjust the strategy’s provisions to the task of strengthening the common Russian civic identity.
Another issue that is important because of its influence on the standards and quality of interethnic relations in the country is migration. There are many related problems, which we understand and know about. Yes, there are many problems, but I will not enumerate them now. Every one of them is essential and extremely acute. And our adversaries are trying to interfere in this sphere as well, and to create additional problems for us. This is strange, considering that they have more than enough problems of their own and are unable to settle them.
Those who move to these countries and live there do not feel like citizens of these countries. They live there for years without learning the national language. It is strange, but it is a fact.
Nevertheless, they are also trying to create more problems for us, poking everywhere to aggravate the existing problems. But we know about these problems, and we know what we need to do about them. We must keep working on them, no matter how difficult they may be.
A special interdepartmental working group has been created following the Interior Ministry Board meeting held in March, and in six weeks, it is to submit its proposals on dealing with several serious issues. They should be added to the strategy, primarily when it comes to a comprehensive system of socio-cultural adaptation for foreigners.
I must say that it is easier for us than in other countries of the world. It is difficult but still easier to work in this area because most of the people who arrive in Russia are immigrants from the former Soviet republics. They have some knowledge of the language and understanding of Russian culture. Our task is to work at distant approaches, right in the countries where most of the migrants come from. We will talk about this.
The main point is that the leaders of these countries are prepared to work jointly with us in this area. I am referring to the opening of Russian schools and closer ties with our public organisations and national associations. We have many opportunities to address this issue effectively enough. In our migration policy, we must of course proceed primarily from the interests of our citizens as regards security, the social sector and the labour market. It is very important to adopt a flexible, well-balanced approach that promotes the country’s development and economy rather than creates risks.
Our doors are open to the specialists needed by the domestic economy, primarily to our compatriots, to people close to us in terms of culture, language and religion. They are open to those who suddenly found themselves, overnight in 1991, outside the borders of a big and once single country but have always considered Russia their historical homeland.
Respect for our traditions and observance of the standards and rules of Russian society is an absolute demand for all those who come to us to work or study. Regional nuances matter a lot in this respect. It depends on where the migrants go – to Moscow, the North Caucasus or somewhere else. They must know general Russian rules and the norms of the regions where they go. This is mandatory.
The State National Policy Strategy should, of course, be adjusted in connection with the incorporation of the new regions into Russia. The Kherson and Zaporozye regions and the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics are as multiethnic as other regions. In addition to Russians and Ukrainians, some Belarusians, Greeks, Tatars, Armenians, and Jews, to name a few, also live there. They have felt the consequences of aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and the hostile policy pursued by the regime that seized power in Kiev following an armed coup in 2014. Of course, there were elections there later. We know and have heard all this, but the state coup was the initial source of power in Kiev. We do not and will not forget about this, either.
I am aware of the fact that many leaders of Russian national cultural organisations in this audience have established contact with their colleagues in the new regions.
The programmes for the socioeconomic development of the new Russian regions include isolated sections that bring together all activities aimed at strengthening common civic identity and ensuring interethnic and interreligious harmony. These activities should be specific and measurable in terms of quality, and be clearly tied in with the State National Policy Strategy’s goals.
These goals are being addressed on the ground, and success largely depends on direct dialogue between society and the state and the continual interaction of representatives from interethnic and ethnic-cultural associations of the country and the authorities at all levels.
The Assembly of the Peoples of Russia is being called on to ensure this dialogue. Creating branches of this national organisation in each region would be the right thing to do.
I would like the heads of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation to help them in their work, to use the experience of the Assembly participants in addressing current and future issues and bring in experts who can objectively evaluate the initiatives that qualify for grant support under the state programme titled “Implementation of the state ethnic policy.”
In order for the revised State National Policy Strategy to work in full force and bring actual results, I would like the Government to focus on the following.
First, to identify effective mechanisms and criteria for evaluating the strategy’s effectiveness and to make arrangements for delivering an annual state report on the progress of its implementation.
Second, to check the quality of the state information monitoring system in the sphere of interethnic and interreligious relations and early warning of conflict situations.
As of today, all it does is record past events, whereas it should keep track of the potential hotbeds of tension and potential risks, and not only collect data about extremist appeals or conflicts based on ethnic or religious grounds, but also send signals to law enforcement agencies and regional authorities for them to promptly respond in order to prevent undesirable excesses.
Let’s get to work.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, we have discussed a very important issue, one of the key issues of our life and our existence as a state. It has been voiced several times that our eternal, as I would call them, geopolitical rivals, adversaries are trying and will keep trying to destabilise our country from inside by using their agents in Russia as well as those taken abroad for the sake of preserving them, and also by using various fringe political figures.
As for the so-called fringe figures, it may safely be said, by recalling one of the greats, that they are very far removed from the people. And that’s good, thank God. But we must be aware that they do exist and will be used again for the purposes of those who are trying, as I have said, to destabilise us; they will be used in the fight against Russia. This fight will unquestionably go on. Our geopolitical adversaries have been doing that for centuries, they are doing it now and will certainly do it in the future. As they say in such cases, nothing new. It is good, on the one hand, but on the other hand, they will improve this tool, and we must be aware of that.
The most important thing for us is to grow stronger internally, to strengthen our statehood, the foundation of our home and our future. This foundation is inter-ethnic accord. It is absolutely clear for such a multi-ethnic country like Russia. This is the basic condition for the existence of Russian statehood. Everyone must understand that, and nobody must ever use this theme for political gain or for their fleeting political interests, if they are Russian patriots. If they are really patriots of the country.
Today we have reviewed the State National Policy Strategy. It is just a document. It is actually a theory. But theory, as is well known, is dead; only the tree of life is evergreen. We need this theory, this Strategy to be closely intertwined with the roots of the tree of life and to strengthen these roots. Only then will we be absolutely confident and truly invincible. I am sure that will happen.
I would like to thank all of you for what you have been doing in this area, to thank you for your participation in today’s event and to express hope that we will not only make adjustments and amendments to the State National Policy Strategy, but also make it a priority in our practical life.
Thank you very much. All the best to you.