Taking part in the event were students majoring in mathematics and IT who won national and international mathematics Olympiads and competitions for school and university students, such as the IMO, the IMC, and the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC).
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with university students to mark Russian Students Day
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.
Today, in line with an ancient tradition, we mark Tatyana’s Day, also known as Russian Students Day. I would like to convey my greetings to undergraduate students, medical residents, post-graduate students, and of course school pupils who are only preparing to enrol at universities. It goes without saying that my greetings also go to well-established adults. After all, the memories of student camaraderie and the marvellous university years stay with us forever. It is not surprising that even many years after graduating, today’s researchers, doctors, engineers and specialists in various fields stay friends and meet up with their peers to share memories of the wisdom and advice they received from their professors and mentors.
It is thanks to this generational bond that Russia keeps moving forward, achieving scientific and technological breakthroughs, including in mathematics and digital technology. In fact, Russia has built a solid track record in these disciplines and has firmly established itself as a frontrunner.
Today, we have here with us students who achieved outstanding results in mathematics by winning national and international competitions. They already undertake research projects, publish scientific articles, and teach mathematics at schools.
There is no doubt that hard work and talent enabled you to achieve these outstanding, remarkable results. I am certain that unique mathematics teaching methods developed by Russian physics and mathematics schools over decades played an important part.
The effort to build these institutions into an integrated system started back in the Soviet era thanks to such prominent researchers and teachers as Alexandrov, Kolmogorov, Lavrentyev, Ovchinnikov and Petrashen.
Russian students are regular winners of physics and mathematics contests thanks to our schools with advanced physics and mathematics programmes. An entire network of these schools was created in the Soviet Union. The victories and triumphs of Russian school and university teams demonstrate that it was the right decision at the time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, all your teachers, other tournament participants, coaches and mentors for your results. You have done a great job to achieve these results. Well done! What else can I say?
Like all people with a passion and true professionals, I think you understand and know better than anybody else that mathematics is not just an abstract area of science. Mathematics is a science of the future and a tool to develop new technologies and the most advanced industries.
This includes Big Data and its use in industrial production, finance, healthcare, genetics and so many other fields. Mathematics is also becoming a reliable helper in humanitarian sciences, including history and linguistics. And, of course, it is based on mathematical methods that modern software and AI solutions are developed.
Therefore, it is our principled task to ensure that mathematics and computer science studies are accessible, from an early age, so that any school student could study these subjects at an advanced level if they wish.
I would like to add that more than half of state-funded places in universities are distributed among mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, technology and other programmes that involve in-depth studies of mathematics.
Of course, we will continue to work on scientific and technological projects, including in cooperation with leading experts from different countries.
Therefore, I would like to invite you and your professors and teachers to the International Mathematics Congress to be held in St Petersburg this summer.
I would like to conclude my opening remarks by congratulating all Russian undergraduate and postgraduate students on International Students’ Day and to wish you success in your studies, research, creative projects, sports and, of course, I wish you to have reliable friends and love. I want to stress that loyalty to the student fellowship is extremely important. Congratulations.
Vladimir Putin (on the International Congress of Mathematicians): First, I would like to say that I could not but support the initiative of St Petersburg State University to host this international congress – as an alumnus, former professor and former deputy rector of the then Leningrad State University. This is a great initiative. A similar congress was held in Moscow in 1966, I think. Indeed, now it is St Petersburg’s turn. You noted that the purpose of the congress is to stress the importance of mathematics as a science for Russia and the entire world today. In fact, not just to stress its importance but to spark more interest in math, to attract more young and talented people that the country needs for development.
We know that math is a backbone science for many industries, from artificial intelligence and Big Data to, oddly enough, humanitarian fields. I just talked about this in my opening remarks: without mathematics, it would be difficult today to process the enormous amount of archive materials, and it would be impossible to digitise many things. Statistics is essential for the humanities. Therefore, as one of our outstanding scientists said, mathematics can be found everywhere. Everything is mathematical to one extent or another.
By supporting this initiative to host the International Congress of Mathematicians in Russia, we are pursuing the goal of attracting young and talented people to this field, as I said. I hope the congress will help us resolve this particular problem. In addition, the congress will highlight the role of Russia and our brilliant scientists in the development of mathematics in the world.
So let’s use our past experience in hosting major international political and sporting events to organise this event to the highest standards. Of course, I do rely on you and your colleagues to participate. For my part, I would be happy to attend and welcome the Russian and foreign participants. But I need to check my schedule first. I will try to arrange that.
Vladimir Putin (on choosing between research and a career in the corporate world): You know, no matter where you live, you will earn a better living in the corporate world compared to those who dedicate their lives to public service, military careers, art or science. It has always been this way no matter where you look. Everyone must choose what they want to do in life, where to pursue success and where you can unlock your potential. This is an extremely important decision; in fact, this is what matters the most, I believe.
Of course, people can and must be creative in the corporate world, but it is also clear that this is a choice each person must face. That said, you are right: a talented person who achieves good, outstanding results in a certain field can expect to earn a decent living, provide for their family, and it is up to the state to provide the necessary support.
This is what we are trying to do. The system of grants for young researchers has been effective, in fact. I will not go through all the available opportunities, but you probably know them. It goes without saying that only creative, productive people can be part of this framework. A meeting we had in Sochi with your colleagues comes to mind. These were participants in a congress for young researchers, and I agree with what they said back then. We will do our best to make sure that people who achieve tangible results in research are the first to get state support.
There are also everyday concerns we need to keep in mind at all times. Housing is of course the most important of them all. There are many opportunities here, including housing certificates, subsidised mortgages, as well as employer-rented housing. We will keep working on all these tracks to build a multifaceted framework for supporting young researchers. I think you and I can agree on that.
In your remarks, you mentioned remote work. There is no doubt that it is essential that we offer young people an environment in which they can do research and at the same time work for our high-technology companies, eager as they are to recruit people like you. All we need is to find an adequate interface between research and practice.
I must say that our high-tech companies have been doing this for some time now and have been dedicated in their efforts. In fact, they were quite successful on this front. They have been creating departments in universities for their future employees. Of course, we need to work even closer with them to ensure that they create an enabling environment so they can achieve better results in their hands-on activities and be more competitive in Russia, as well as globally by leveraging the potential of young promising and interesting people like you.
We will work on all these matters. If you have any ideas inspired by your personal experience on ways of arranging all this, please share them with us, and we will definitely take them into consideration when taking decisions on these matters at the Government level.
Vladimir Putin (on early career guidance): You raised a very important question. Early career guidance is extremely important because it helps students choose a profession to which they are ready and willing to devote their whole life, and in which they hope to achieve personal success. As I have said many times, and we all understand this, personal success of each individual means success of the country as a whole.
This is certainly a very important task. It is necessary, in part, to find mechanisms and methods for this early career guidance. In this context, Olympiads are, of course, very important, as well as follow-up support for their winners. They should be able to understand how the world works, what high tech is and what is more suitable for them: either science and scientific research or practical activities.
As I have already said, our companies are quite good at creating their departments at the country’s leading universities to train their future specialists. We will certainly continue doing this and will fully support such undertakings of Russian high-tech companies.
The same applies to Olympiads. I believe the first one took place in Moscow in 1935. Now there is a whole network of these regular competitions. Our schoolchildren and students take part in international competitions with great success. Last year, they even set a record. I recall they won 31 medals. This had never happened before, even in the entire successful history of our students and schoolchildren participating in international Olympiads. Naturally, this shows that much is being done to prepare specialists at schools and universities. The results of these Olympiads and our successes there are clear evidence of this.
We will continue doing this. In effect, you raised an issue that we are already focusing on. We will continue working on it.
Vladimir Putin (on developing the Olympiad movement in the regions): You have touched on an important issue. I just covered it myself. Of course, training specialists throughout the country, not in just two or three centres across our vast country, is a critically important task.
You mentioned Sirius. You know, the idea to create Sirius came to me based on the fact that – I also mentioned this today – an entire system of physics and mathematics schools was created in Russia, even earlier in the Soviet Union. These schools were a very good basis for training specialists in many areas of natural sciences. But, of course, they needed support. One of the purposes of Sirius is to create a network like this throughout the country in order to support teachers and talented youth. Sirius has already created, I think, over 80 sites in the regions, and another 40-plus should be created by 2024.
Regional administrations and regional management teams have a critical role to play in this regard. But I have to say that, overall, we see that our colleagues in the regions are interested in supporting this work and we will incentivise them in every way to do so.
You also mentioned other opportunities that – every cloud has a silver lining – the pandemic has brought up, such as online training and advanced training, including for teachers. We will move forward in all these areas, including extended learning centres, associations, groups, and so on. This is how we will work.
In fact, you mentioned every area that we need to focus on. We are doing this and will continue to do this in the future.
Vladimir Putin: It is impossible to imagine advances in applied science without fundamental science. Of course, state support is critical. The fundamental sciences should be, and I want to assure you, will be the centre of attention on behalf of the state.
Once again, happy Students Day and happy Tatyana's Day, and all the best.