Remarks by Vladimir Chizhov at the 13th European Russian Forum

Dear Ms Ždanoka,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear compatriots,

First of all I would like to extend my warmest greetings to all friends and colleagues who gathered in this room today and fulfil a mission the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov entrusted me with – to read out his address to the organisers and participants of the 13th European Russian Forum.

The Minister’s address

It is true that the finest minds of our nation have been dwelling on the issue of “Russian identity” throughout all its history.

From time immemorial, the Russian nation was endowed with a greatest uniting power, ability to carefully preserve, multiply and creatively absorb the best from the ethnoses living together with it in peace and quiet. The great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky deliberated a lot on its “panhumanity”, putting the idea the following way: “The supreme and most characteristic trait of our nation is its sense of fairness and its longing for it… It cohabitates with everybody and accustoms itself with everything… It has an instinct of pan-humanity”. The unity of peoples with Russian identity has always been based on a solid foundation of the Russian language and culture as well as the sense of deep belonging with the fate of the Motherland that enabled consolidation to overcome difficulties and hardships during various tragic periods of history.

In this regard the tragic events of the 20th century were quite remarkable having left an indelible mark both on our self-perception and perception of us by other nations. They included forced massive emigration of some of the best representatives of Russian intelligentsia following the fratricidal civil war, and the cruellest war in human history that took 27 million Soviet lives. And the collapse of the USSR that Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly referred to as the greatest tragedy for the Russian nation meaning its colossal humanitarian repercussions – 25 million ethnic Russians finding themselves separated overnight from their historic Motherland against their will. Therefore, I would like to remind you as well that the Russian nation is the largest divided nation in the world, and we are still living the consequences of that tragedy everywhere.

The fight for Soviet geopolitical legacy that followed the break-up of the USSR continues to this day, with its main tools borrowed from the kit of Cold War times being Russophobic propaganda, slander against the Russian nation and revision of its role in world history.

We have to state with regret that a number of EU Member States are consistently and deliberately squeezing the Russian language out of all spheres of social life, having made it their official policy. Thereby – however strange and inconsistent it would seem – in the European Union that brings ideas of liberalism and diversity to the world, fundamental rights of Russian speakers are infringed on a regular basis. Besides, states patronised by the EU adopt laws that flagrantly violate linguistic and educational rights of national minorities enshrined in multilateral conventions. All this is presented of course as measures to protect state languages of these countries that, according to their newest mythology, suffered from the heavy legacy of the USSR. In this regard I would like to recall that as it is unacceptable to strengthen one’s security at the expense of security of others, equally one cannot affirm its identity at someone else’s expense. I am convinced that the identity of a nation is based on creativity rather than negation and destruction. This lesson has yet to be learned by those building their identity in the 21st century on barbarian principles. This is the only name I can find for the genuine “witch hunt” worthy of McCarthyism times against courageous defenders of infringed rights of Russian-speaking population in Europe.

We cannot also ignore facts of discrimination against Russian-language media in the EU. I am referring to their persecution on the pretext of countering an inflated threat of Russian disinformation. The European Parliament has elaborated a substantial number of resolutions promoting the worst tools of censorship and pressure on Russian-speaking journalists. Sometimes the situation reaches the level of the absurd – Russian cartoons for children and humour shows are declared tools of “Kremlin propaganda”. Another, no less alarming message is the increasingly repeated call to start actively looking for a “fifth column” allegedly engaged in practice, lacking confirmation even by EU evidence, of external intervention in EU democratic processes. It is a road to nowhere. One can only hope that common sense will finally prevail.

We consistently draw the attention of relevant EU bodies to the facts indicated above. Unfortunately, in response they are often wickedly referring to the exclusive competence of Member States on these issues. And everyone in this room knows how they implement it.

The Victory over Nazism in 1945 is a key historic event that has been anchored in Russian national conscience and become an essential integrating factor for the modern Russian nation. Thereby, we perceive in a particularly acute way attempts to rewrite history, its outstanding example being the recent European Parliament resolution “On the Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe” that equated Nazism to Communism. Harmful connivance to the policy of glorification of Nazism and its supporters, marches of veterans of Waffen SS legions convicted by the Nuremberg tribunal, glorification of Nazi collaborators, “war” against monuments to heroes who sacrificed their lives to free Europe from Nazism are extremely dangerous for modern European societies. I would like to recall that in 1930s Germans failed to notice how in quite a democratic way they slipped into National Socialism. Next year will mark an important date – the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. I urge our European partners to honour in a dignified way the memory of fallen heroes and liberators of Europe.

Dear friends,

There is no doubt that today we are facing a most important task of preserving the Russian national identity, capability to remain a nation with its own character and traditions, particular features, historical continuity and a bridge between generations. The Russian language, with its charge of creation and unity, must remain a language of cross-national communication in Russia and beyond.

A joint search for answers to joint challenges rather than aggravation of existing splits is key to success of any interaction. And this is exactly the aim of the comprehensive programme of the Forum – drawing attention to issues of concern to the wide-ranging Russian community in Europe. We hope that the ideas voiced here will be heard and make their contribution to normalising Russia-EU relations. We cannot allow the dangerous inertia of confrontation to overlap common sense and impede development of our interaction meeting the interests of every nation in Europe without exception. The Russian world and Russian culture are always open to cooperation, interaction and prosperity for all.

I would like to wish the Forum’s participants success in their deliberations and creative ideas.

Thank you for your attention.