President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,
First of all, I would like to thank all cultural workers for the tremendous spiritual and moral support of the Russian people during these difficult times.
Despite all the difficulties and restrictions that our museums, theatres, cinema and libraries have been dealing with because of the epidemic, you have been working hard and proposing totally new creative formats. With your art and talent, you have been creating an atmosphere of unity in our society, strengthening our confidence in the fact that life goes on and everything will get back to normal, no matter what.
Today we will definitely talk about the problems that the cultural sector is facing. We will discuss both urgent measures of support and strategic and long-term steps for stable development in the future.
Another important issue that requires the attention and involvement of the professional community is the legislative implementation of the new Constitutional norms, related first of all to culture and education.
Council members, cultural workers were among the most proactive participants in the discussion of the Constitutional amendments. I am confident that they will readily join parliament members in their work on respective bills.
Among other things, legal formalisation is necessary for such terms as the state’s responsibility to preserve, support and develop the culture and traditions of the Russian people, help our compatriots living abroad and preserve our common cultural identity.
And of course, one of the essential tasks for the state is to preserve the unique heritage of our country.
Here, I would like the Government, the Ministry of Culture and the regions to particularly note the earlier instruction which requires strict accounting, certification and protection of historical and cultural monuments. This instruction must be performed in full. We need to decide what additional reserves would be required for this.
It is equally important to tackle the problems that have emerged after the majority of powers that have to do with the cultural heritage conservation were transferred to regional governments.
It is obvious that, unfortunately, Russian regions do not always have the resources for the appropriate upkeep of local historical and cultural landmarks, which means we will probably need to adjust some of the legislative provisions. This also applies to the regulation of matters relating to the organisation of supervision over cultural heritage sites.
At present, the preservation of federal landmarks is the responsibility of supervisory bodies led by the regional authorities. But experts, your colleagues, believe this sometimes creates risks and conflicts of interest. This is probably the case. Introducing state control over the quality of preservation of landmarks that are assigned to different agencies and have different forms of ownership can be a solution to the problem.
Also, there have been repeated reports of problems arising in the course of activity involving existing or newly identified cultural heritage sites. I am referring, among other things, to difficulties with the proper arrangement of archaeological research, primarily, of course, at the sites of large infrastructure projects, as well as problems with staffing restoration projects, historical and cultural expert commissions.
Russia has always had rich traditions of training such unique specialists; we have old and famous schools. But, unfortunately, they are less and less in demand. This, of course, largely happens because the current rules of working with cultural heritage sites do not include a requirement to hire qualified specialists. There is no strict requirement. This means that just about any construction company with an appropriate licence can join the development of such sites. Moreover, their licences are issued for an unlimited period.
All this is fraught with poor-quality work, but worse still, with irrevocable loss of the most valuable landmarks in our historical and cultural heritage. Here, of course, decisions need to be made that will drastically change this situation.
This is important, considering the heated public debate caused by the transfer of several state-owned institutions that act in the cultural sector as customers ordering construction, restoration and renovation works, to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities.
We will certainly discuss this today; but I would like to note from the outset that the establishment of a single state contracting authority in the construction sector is, of course, motivated by the need to ensure more cost-effective budgetary spending for capital construction projects. Of course, you realise this. And I would like to add that contractors should not be dealing with cultural heritage matters.
To make strict order in the construction sector also an efficient tool for preserving historical and cultural landmarks, it is crucially important that we initiate clear and responsible inter-agency cooperation. And we need to draft adequate requirements for working with cultural and historical landmarks in collaboration with professional associations.
I suggest that we also discuss intangible cultural heritage matters, including our unique and universally recognised system of music education that has always played a tremendous role in humanitarian and creative education and in unlocking the talents of children.
Over 8 billion rubles are to be spent on equipment for music schools and art schools under the national Culture Project. It is also necessary to put in order school buildings that need renovation.
I know that our colleagues suggest formalising the special status of music and art schools, specialised schools and higher education institutions throughout the Russian education system. Of course, it would be useful to hear your opinion on this matter, too.
And here is one more thing: please pay attention to the format of our meeting. Unfortunately, it appears that not everyone wishing to take the floor will be able to do so. I will do my best to give the floor to everyone wishing to speak. Here is the long list of extra speakers who would like to take the floor following the main speakers who have registered in advance. We will try to let as many colleagues as possible take the floor. I kindly ask you to be brief, get to the point and state the gist of the matter.
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Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. I see that you are going through this and take it all to heart, and all these problems are not only your own and not just your team's problems. I understand that you are concerned about the future of independent theatres and not just the theatres but the people who are the very essence of theatrical activity – the creative people in various areas. I have written this down. We will definitely discuss this with our colleagues from the Government and consider what can be done in addition to the support measures that are already being taken.
In general, I would like to apologise to those who did not have a chance to speak. I have to leave for the next protocol event. I would like to thank you all not only for today's participation in our event, in our meeting, but also for what you are doing in very difficult conditions. We better understood how difficult things are thanks to your speeches today.
I still hope that, despite the difficulties, we will all move forward together, joining our efforts, we will keep what we have always been proud of in the fields of theatrical arts, music, education and staff training, and we will provide support for holding major international events, and we will do it all at a very high level worthy of Russia.
Thank you very much.