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Reception to mark National Unity Day

November 4, 2017, The Kremlin, Moscow

At the reception in the Grand Kremlin Palace, Vladimir Putin greeted all Russians on National Unity Day and presented the Presidential Prize for contributions to strengthening the Russian nation’s unity and the Order of Friendship to foreign nationals for their efforts in strengthening peace and mutual understanding between peoples.

The Presidential Prize for contributions to strengthening the Russian nation’s unity was established in 2016 and is awarded for activities aimed at consolidating the multiethnic Russian people and harmonising interethnic relations. Vyacheslav Mikhailov, Chair of Ethnic and Federative Relations at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, is the 2017 Prize winner.

The President also presented the Order of Friendship to a number of foreign citizens for their outstanding services to strengthening peace, friendship and mutual understanding between peoples, to preserving and popularising the Russian language and culture abroad.

The state decorations of the Russian Federation were awarded to Rafael Guzman Tirado, Professor of Greek and Slavic Philology, University of Granada, Kingdom of Spain; Anja Kopac Mrak, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the Republic of Slovenia; Tomislav Nikolic, President of the Republic of Serbia (from May 31, 2012 to May 31, 2017), Chairman of the National Council for Coordination of Cooperation with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China; Gilles Remy, CEO of CIFAL, the French Republic; Cavit Caglar, Chairman of the Management Board, Nergis Holding, Republic of Turkey; Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Special Representative of the French Government on relations with Russia, the French Republic; Zoran Jankovic, Mayor of Ljubljana, Republic of Slovenia.

* * *

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen. I extend my greetings to you on National Unity Day, a holiday that is rooted in the past. Four centuries separate us from those dramatic events when the people rose up against unrest and anarchy, prevailed over internal strife and the external threat, and defended the nation’s dignity and independence.

Loyalty to the Fatherland back then united people of different walks of life, ethnicities and religious affiliations. Their wisdom, will and powerful unity saved Russia and paved the way to strengthening its might.

We have a great number of examples of such invincible unity throughout our history. Unity and patriotism have been the most reliable support for the people both in times of trouble and in solving large-scale development tasks.

A solicitous attitude towards our Motherland, care for it, loyalty to sincere friendship and rejection of any external pressure are the pillars of Russian statehood, our genetic and cultural code. National Unity Day marks the great probity of love for one’s Fatherland, pride in it and respect for it.

Each nation teaches the world its own lesson and builds its unique legacy. For Russia, such an invaluable legacy is many centuries of peaceful cohabitation of different ethnicities. There is just no other country as large and multi-faced as ours. Preserving the diversity of the peoples of Russia, their ethnic and cultural identity is of key significance to us, as are traditions of mutual trust, concord and closeness. These foundations permeate the unity of the Russian nation with special inner power.

Friends, the Presidential Prize for contributions to strengthening the unity of the Russian nation will be presented today. The winner is Vyacheslav Mikhailov, a prominent theoretical and empirical scholar who has done a great deal for the establishment and development of Russian federalism, for enhancing the country’s sovereignty, and was among the initiators and active participants in drafting the fundamental documents on the evolving processes of the Russian identity.

Mr Mikhailov, I thank you for you stance, for standing up for the interests of our country both in science and in public, civic service.

I would like to express my appreciation to our foreign friends who are present here and who were awarded the Order of Friendship. Your sincere, warm attitude to Russia is manifest in concrete actions, deeds and doings. We are aware that it is not always easy: you have to overcome various stereotypes and prejudices. It makes us appreciate ever more your selfless activities, your openness in your commitment to truth and justice, your efforts on preserving the historical memory, reinforcing cultural, business and personal ties with Russia and its people.

Friends, let me once again offer all of you my sincere greetings on National Unity Day!

Head of the Department of Ethnic and Federative Relations at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vyacheslav Mikhailov:

Mr President,

Thank you for this prize. I am grateful to those who nominated me for it and supported me, as well as my mentors, teachers, and colleagues at the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

I admit that I'm flattered to be the second to receive the prize after the wise Magomedali Magomedov from Daghestan.

Mr President, your prize, For the Contribution to Strengthening the Unity of the Russian Nation, is special. It is unique in that its name contains a goal which easily translates into a national idea.

We remember that in the first years of your presidency, speaking in Chuvashia, you said that we had every reason to speak of the Russian people as one nation, and we must preserve and strengthen our national and historical unity.

Mr President, you may be the only top public official in the history of our statehood, who has not demonised either the tsarist or the Soviet periods. On the contrary, you have restored the historical continuity of the times, opened the way to reconciliation for those who fought civil wars, former class enemies and political opponents. You work to create the image of Russia as a harmonious, complex, and blossoming civilisation that combines ethnic, cultural, religious, and ideological diversity. You have provided a powerful impetus to returning to the origins of Russian philosophy and the creative heritage of Russians abroad. This is why you are rightly called the unifier of generations.

Mr President, I congratulate you on Day of National Unity and I wish you good health and new great achievements in glorifying our Motherland and the entire Russian nation.

Thank you. I bow low to you.

Professor of the Chair of Greek and Slavonic Philology at the University of Granada (Spain) Rafael Guzman Tirado: Mr President! Dear friends,

It is a great honour for me to receive this state decoration today, on the occasion of Russia’s National Unity Day.

I would like to say that I began my carrier as a teacher of English, but when I heard the sound of the Russian language, I fell in love with the it and the Russian culture. I have continued to teach Russian to Spaniards up to this very day.

I see this high decoration as recognition of my humble contribution to the promotion of the Russian language as well as the Russian culture among the Spanish people.

I would like to use some words written by Anna Akhmatova to describe my mission as well as the mission of Spanish Russianists: “And we will preserve you, Russian speech, the great Russian word.” We are not alone, I mean the Russianists in Spain: we have the help of the Russky Mir Foundation, the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature and the Institute for Literary Translation. All our actions are aimed at developing the cultural dialogue between Russia and Spain: their spiritual proximity was noted by the best minds of our countries, both Russia and Spain: Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Jose Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno.

I am in favour of having the closest and most beneficial cooperation between our peoples.

Thank you.

Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the Republic of Slovenia Anja Kopac-Mrak (retranslated): Mr President, honoured guests, dear friends,

Let me express my gratitude for the great honour you have granted me and my country by awarding me this high decoration: The Order of Friendship. I take it as a sign of respect as well as friendship between our two states and peoples, the friendship, which has survived the times and has become even stronger. I believe that the deepest and the sincerest sign of this friendship is the preservation of the memory of the Russian warriors who perished during World War I. We pay tribute to them during an annual memorial ceremony at the Russian Chapel on the Vrsic Pass.

Mr President, I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for attending the memorial events on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of the Russian Chapel and for the important statement on the maintenance of world peace you made in Slovenia.

During the memorial ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the chapel in memory of Russian soldiers [who died there during World War I], we made one more step towards strengthening our friendship, a step of major symbolic significance for reconciliation: we unveiled a monument to Russian and Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in Slovenia during the two world wars.

We would not have implemented this project without the support of Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Doku Zavgayev, Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov, Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic and the other members of the Slovenian-Russian organising committee, which approved the final project for this memorial. In this context, I would like to use this occasion to express our sincere gratitude to every one of them.

I would like this monument to symbolise friendship between the Slovenian and Russian people and our common striving for peace and cooperation, so that we will remember not only the horrors of two world wars but also work together to build peace based on mutual understanding, trust and security.

These events show that friendly relations between Slovenia and the Russian Federation are not based on political expediency but on ties between people. These lasting and strong ties provide the basis for very successful bilateral cooperation in the economy, culture as well as science. I am very glad that we will soon complement our successful cooperation with one more bilateral agreement on social protection and pensions, which will bring our states and nations even closer together.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

Please, allow me to again express my sincere gratitude for this honour.

All the best on the occasion of National Unity Day.

Chairman of the National Council for the Coordination of Cooperation with the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, President of the Republic of Serbia (2012–2017) Tomislav Nikolic: Mr President,

Let me express to you my most sincere gratitude for the honour given to me on National Unity Day to receive the high state decoration of the Russian Federation, the Order of Friendship. I represent all the citizens of Serbia as I receive this order from the Russian Federation, a state which has historically been the closest friend and ally for Serbia and its people. I am receiving this order from the Russian people, who are close to us by origin, language, religion, and history, the people, with whom we are building a common future.

It is gratifying to know, Mr President, that you personally appreciated the efforts which, despite many difficulties and obstacles, acting as President of Serbia from May 2012 to May 2017, I made to deepen to the maximum relations between our countries and bring them, through collaborative efforts, to the level of strategic partnership. It should not, and cannot be otherwise.

Rest assured that, no matter how long I live and whatever I do, I will continue to advocate for the further strengthening of relations between our fraternal peoples and states.

Mr President,

Allow me to wish all citizens of Russia all the very best on the occasion of National Unity Day, and also wish you good health, happiness in your private life as well as once again express my deepest respect for you.

The world needs you.

CEO of CIFAL (France) Gilles Remy: Mr President of the Russian Federation,

When I was a child and my parents hung a poster of Yury Gagarin in my room, they couldn’t have imagined that one day their son would be awarded a decoration by the Russian President here, in the Moscow Kremlin. I am thinking about them today.

It is probably thanks to them that Russia has occupied an important place in my professional and personal life for 30 years now. In these years, dedicated to foreign trade and industrial cooperation, I should have adapted to the strongest shocks. I witnessed the destruction of World War II and later the chaos of the 1990s. However, I also witnessed the rebirth of the Russian state. Russia is respected once again. History, with a capital H, will pay tribute to you, Mr President.

During such different periods, I had the honour to work on a prestigious and strategic project with great success, for example, in the oil or nuclear energy sector, but with deep disappointment after our excellent cooperation on building Mistral ships was ruined by the decision of the former French President.

Thanks to my work, I managed to visit almost all regions of the former USSR. My company, CIFAL, established business ties will all states of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea region during the times when Russia lost interest in its neighbouring countries. Today, as much as ever, I praise the cultural and human treasure of these people who have a common glorious past; I praise Russia’s contribution to the European civilisation; and I praise the people who can speak freely, without regard to political correctness.


The projects that I’ve managed to implement have helped bring Russia and France a little closer. I am pleased with that as businessman, and I am proud of it as French citizen, because, as General de Gaulle said, for Russia and France to be together is to be strong, and to be divided is to be in danger. Today we live in a dangerous world, and that’s why we should double our efforts to become closer.

Thank you, Mr President, for the honour you have bestowed on me with this decoration.

Long live the friendship and cooperation between Russia and France!

Chairman of the Board of Nergis Holding (Turkey) Cavit Caglar (retranslated): Your Excellency Mr President, friends,

Receiving this high decoration from an outstanding person, the Russian President, I am happy and proud that I, together with my friends, can at least partly contribute to the noble mission of enhancing trust and friendship between Russia and Turkey, between our two peoples, undertaken by our leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. These two people are not just the heads of Russia and Turkey. They are major world leaders. Thanks to their firm positions, we have not only managed to overcome temporary difficulties, brought about by the enemy provocation which resulted in the downing of a Russian plane, but to restore the friendly relations between Russia and Turkey. These two leaders play an important role in maintaining peace all over the world.

In Turkey, we have a good saying: everything is better when new, but friendship should be old. So, my old friends in Russia helped our two leaders to find a way to overcome temporary difficulties in relations between our countries. This was facilitated by the strong ties of friendship that exist between our peoples, which held up regardless of everything, including with the help and support that Russia provided to Turkey during the war of independence and later, when Russia helped to establish Turkish industry and built factories in our country.


We also say that reconciliation between people and peoples is the best of prayers. I would also like to thank everyone who helped to restore the friendly relations between our two countries by supporting this noble aspiration, such as Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Hulusi Akar, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Aide to the Russian President Yury Ushakov and Ramazan Abdulatipov, Head of the Republic of Daghestan at that time. I would also like to thank Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office and Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, former First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Abbas Aydin oglu Abbasov, and also retired General Zekeriya Ozturk of the Turkish Armed Forces, who accompanied me on many trips. Additional thanks go to Dr Naida Dzhamukova, who accompanied us on a number of trips, as well as Turkish Presidential Press Secretary Ibrahim Kalin.

Ladies and gentlemen,

During this complicated period of normalising Russian-Turkish relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has showed his best leadership qualities and also trusted me with such an important task, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude for this.

Finally, our largest neighbouring country is the Russian Federation, and one of its highest state decorations is the Order of Friendship. I am receiving it from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who considers me worthy of this decoration. I would like to thank him and express my sincere gratitude and respect. I am very happy today, because I leave this hall with an Order I can bequeath to my children and grandchildren. It is a valuable legacy, the Order of Friendship.

Let us be friends and stay friends in the future.

Special Representative of the French Government on relations with Russia Jean-Pierre Chevenement (retranslated): Mr President of the Russian Federation,

I am deeply touched by this decoration, which is recognition of our successful efforts to bring Russia and France closer. Our relations have deep roots in the past. French President Emmanuel Macron received you in Versailles on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition dedicated to the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s visit to France. This relation was foundational for our states. It was recognised by all great figures of the Third Republic, including General de Gaulle.

President Emmanuel Macron, who was Minister of Economy in 2016, visited Russia, and I accompanied him then. He made a decision, which I consider right despite the complicated context: he asked me to become special representative of France to the Russian Federation. Of course, I accepted this offer as a great honour. I did it not only because I was born in 1939 and can remember myself that Russia defeated the Nazis, and the French people will never forget that, but also because by enhancing all areas of cooperation between Russia and France, we contribute to creating a better Europe, balance and peace in Europe.

Thank you once again, Mr President. It is a great honour for me to receive this decoration today. This decoration inspires me to work with more energy for the interests of Russia, France, Europe and the entire world.

Thank you.

Mayor of Ljubljana (Republic of Slovenia) Zoran Jankovic (retranslated): Mr President of the Russian Federation,

I congratulate you and all the Russian people on the occasion of your national holiday, National Unity Day. It is a great honour for me to receive this state decoration from an outstanding politician, the President of the Russian Federation.

I am very proud that Moscow and Ljubljana are sister cities. Ljubljana will soon host the EUROCITIES 2017 Annual Conference, where we are planning to sign a declaration on the need to lift the sanctions.

It is a great honour for us that the first common monument to Russian and Soviet warriors in Russian history is situated in Ljubljana. And many thanks to Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev, a resident of Ljubljana, for his efforts. Next week we are unveiling a monument to Alexander Pushkin.

I invite you as the Russian President to visit Slovenia next year.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Friends, winners of the award and decorations,

I want to say that it is obvious that those who have gathered in this hall here in the Kremlin have a special feeling, a special love for our country, for the Russian culture, language and history. I thank you all for this keen attitude to Russia.

I would like to extend my greetings to you and to all Russian citizens on National Unity Day!

November 4, 2017, The Kremlin, Moscow