Vladimir Putin: Dear friends, colleagues, citizens of Russia.
I congratulate you on this national holiday – Day of the Russian Constitution.
Every year we mark it not only out of respect for the country’s basic law. We do it more out of respect for ourselves, for the rules and norms of life which we, the people of Russia, have achieved through much suffering and which we ourselves defined. To live by the Constitution, by the law, is not just a necessity or a civic duty, it is the privilege of a free people. People who know the value of their rights and who recognise the same rights for others. Only in this case are we not individual citizens, but the Russian people. Not a population, but a civil society. Not a geographic space, but one nation, a power that holds us, people of Russia, together.
On Constitution Day, we are particularly aware of the magnitude of our common responsibility to Russia, especially the responsibility of those who work for the state. Those who must keep the state machinery in working order and prevent it from running down, stalling or idling. And, last but not least, who guarantee that this sophisticated and costly vehicle does not cut political corners, that political shadow players and gamblers do not take over its controls. Only when the Constitution is firmly in control – and only under these circumstances – will the authorities never dare to conduct experiments on people, or on the state. And every one of us – whether a judge, a civil servant, or a politician – knows full well what he serves, and realises that the freedom and dignity of our citizens is a matter of national security.
Dear friends, seven years have passed since the adoption of the basic law – a fleeting moment in Russian history. But it has been packed with enough events to fill a century for others. It was this Constitution that largely determined Russia’s new image. It was criticised – and sharply – even before it was adopted. And through all the following years there were demands to re-carve, review and recast it. There were claims that it catered only to short-lived political interests, and so had no outlook or future prospects. But time has put everything in its place. Our Constitution has not only reflected the spirit of long-awaited change – it has also provided a strong basis for the country’s steady development.
For a good many years we have been mastering this vital democratic instrument, learning to make effective use of it, improving state machinery, and cementing the country’s common legal and economic space. The point I want to make is this: all our federal reforms, as you well know – both the rebuilding of the Federation Council and the establishment of federal districts – clearly fit into the regulatory framework of the Constitution. We were simply obligated to come together, we are obligated to put our state together, and we will do it.
The New Year is just over two weeks away. We have done a good deal in the outgoing year but there is still more to do to make the life of our people better still. Russia is entering the new century and the new millennium on a rising wave. In doing so, it is guided by the basic principles of democracy and the country’s Constitution.
And I would like to propose a toast: “To the Constitution of the Russian Federation! To the welfare of Russian citizens! To the prosperity of our great country!”