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Meeting with winners of the best composition contest titled Russia Focused on the Future

January 11, 2018, Moscow

Vladimir Putin met with school students who won the National Competition for the Best Composition titled Russia Focused on the Future.

The President invited school students to write a composition on how they see their country’s future at the threshold of the 2040s-2050s on Knowledge Day, September 1, 2017, during the National Open Lesson.

* * *

Ilya Demakov: Mr President, we invite you to join our conversation. We are talking about history and Russian culture, and I would like to give you a brief account of the competition the winners of which have gathered here today, if I may.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: If I may, I would like to say a few words first.

Please accept my congratulations on your results in the competition for the best composition.

As you said, it was a large competition with 437,000 participants. How many reached the final round: 33 or 35? Thirty-five. Imagine 437,000 participants and 35 finalists. This is a very good, powerful selection. Congratulations!

Needless to say, I was unable to read everything – not only the 437,000 but also all of yours. But I still looked at the write-ups on your compositions and at excerpts. What I saw was beautifully written and interesting.

I was especially pleased to read what you wrote about your own role in the country’s future, which is only natural, without forgetting the environment or your small motherland (which is extremely important), that you see it as beautiful, interesting and making progress, as well as your thoughts on what can be done for people both from where you stand today and in the future.

All this struck me as very important and interesting, and beautifully expressed.

So, I congratulate you and wish you continued success.

Ilya Demakov: Thank you, Mr President.

We are ready to make a presentation of our competition. Almost 2 million young people responded to your proposal announced on Knowledge Day and wrote their compositions. Of the almost 400,000 that were selected by the jury, 100 made it to the final list. There are 35 students here and they want to share their views not only in writing but also in person. They have their own opinions on some key issues they raised in their compositions.

The top questions are really about a small motherland, the destiny of the cities and villages from which these young people arrived, and the environment. This one is related not only with the Year of the Environment but also with the needs of these people from the regions.

Importantly, they did not simply send in challenges and problems but they also suggested solutions. Today they would like to suggest these solutions to you and ask for your opinion about them. These young people describe the qualities they would like to acquire and convey to others, such as a creative attitude towards labour, care for families and friends, and of course, concern about natural and cultural heritage.

Indicatively, regarding work, they considered two professions to be the most popular – teachers and journalists. Their rationale for this was interesting: these two professions allow their bearers to be always where the action is, among people and, most importantly, they imply much responsibility and integrity.

Two other subjects – about a small motherland, a native city or village, and environmental protection – were presented. Today we would like to show you a number of animated cartoon clips on these and discuss them.

One more subject that is important to youth is family values and relationships. It was most interesting to read the compositions of those who study in military academies. We have representatives from the Defence Ministry’s boarding school and the Cadet Corps.

For these young people the family squares with the issue of security and a careful attitude towards people and further on to peace and security for all. They suggest dealing with the challenges and threats they described in their compositions through understanding and cooperation, primarily within their own families.

So, writing these compositions (on your proposal about the threshold of the 2040s—2050s) they wrote generally about themselves, about what kind of world they can create around themselves when they become adults and more serious. They picture it as safe and fair. Most importantly, they would like to become educated and creative.

These are the kinds of young people that have gathered here today and are ready to suggest their own ways of countering these challenges and threats.

Vladimir Putin: Let us hear from someone.

Ilya Demakov: Yes, of course. I think we shall begin right after one of the videos.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please, go ahead.

Ilya Demakov: This is a video from Dmitry who represents the city of Volgodonsk, Rostov Region.

(The video plays.)

Dmitry is here today. The voiceover was done by him. Dmitry would like to share his opinion on the issue.

Dmitry Pavlov: Hello, in this video, as well as in my composition, actually, I tried to express my opinion in the simplest and most understandable way on something you often hear from young people and older people: “Oh, it’s so bad here.” I tried to show that we are entitled to change the situation, and if we work together, then it is actually in our power.

Vladimir Putin: This is true. However, the biggest disappointments stem from huge, utterly unrealistic expectations. We have to be realistic, always. So when you set a challenge for yourself, you should think about how feasible it is. You must look for the means to achieve the challenge you set for yourself.

What we saw in the video are the simplest, really attainable things: fixing up a stadium, or a playground of some sort. Indeed, you have to find those who are willing to help, work together, who unite around a common idea. It is not enough to pick up a shovel, as you will not dig the whole pitch yourself anyway – you have to find people to be by your side.

It is an exceptionally important task in the modern world, it is important in itself. Considering modern technology, it is crucial to be able to work in a group, to find one’s place in a group, to get along well with other members, to be effective and to unite like-minded people around you. This is one of the competitive advantages of the future. I hope you will remember that.

Thank you.

Ilya Demakov: Many children have written about competitive advantages – cooperation as an advantage for the future. Will anyone say more on this? Yulia from Murom, Vladimir Region.

Yulia Vlasova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

The topic of my composition was Developing Education and Culture in the Russian Federation.

We think school is the most important place for learning how to work in a group, and teachers and instructors often unite us around a shared idea. In the video we saw a real example, a real-life situation where enthusiastic people got together and did a good thing for themselves and other people.

I think our education system will be more effective, and there will more people excited by one common idea. If we address real-life examples in class, if we have more real-life experience instead of dry theory, then what we have learned will be more effective and useful for us, for our country’s future.

Vladimir Putin: I completely agree. Yet, I would not wipe dry theory off the board as this is the foundation for all other applied areas of knowledge and disciplines.

The task is to try to see how today's dry theory can be translated into life in the near future. Dividing the sciences into applied and fundamental theory is conventional. As our outstanding scientists, academics, those who made great achievements in their areas, say, fundamental and applied sciences are only conventionally divided into the former and the latter: the fundamental is something that can be turned into the applied, a few years later.

Our scientist Zhores Alferov once made his discoveries in the area of corresponding structures, but 30 years, or if I am not mistaken, 37 years passed before he finally became a Nobel prize laureate. Why? Because it took more than 30 years for people to begin putting it into practice, to become aware of what it means.

All modern mobile phone communications are based on his invention. And this is the difference between fundamental and applied research. Of course, applied research is more interesting. Fundamental science is usually contemplative, abstract, but it is significant as well. All one needs is to try to get a taste for this.

Certainly, everyone wants to achieve concrete, tangible results, which, strictly speaking, is eventually our common goal. But we should try to realise ourselves both here and there.

Ilya Demakov: We have one more video about the connection between school and life. Shall we watch it now?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Ilya Demakov: A clip by Oksana Sukhova from the Ivanovo Region.

(The video is played.)

Ilya Demakov: Oksana is here today. Let us give her the floor.

Oksana Sukhova: I would like to say that my composition is a dream, a dream about a wonderful, friendly and large family, about excellent education for my own children, about my career as a teacher of Russian language and literature and about a prospering family business, I mean, it is just an ordinary thing.

Mr President, do you think it is possible to create a large, united family, if we are uncertain about our own future and the future of Russia?

Vladimir Putin: How would you answer this question?

Oksana Sukhova: I believe in my future and the future of Russia.

Vladimir Putin: This is a wonderful answer.

You are very young and hardly any of you seriously studied the classics of Marxism-Leninism as we used to do in Soviet schools. Socialists, such as Marx and Engels, had many debates on the future of the family. Initially they assumed – not even initially because they were convinced that the family will cease to exist.

In the first years of the Soviet government, this idea was actively supported by the Bolshevik Party. In fact, the Bolsheviks announced that the institution of the family was a thing of the past. They said it was disappearing and had no future.

This idea was rooted in what was then considered fundamental studies by Marx and Engels, the founders of Marxism-Leninism, as they were called in Soviet time. They believed and dreamt that as society developed it would be able to provide as much free time as possible for people’s self-realisation and deal with children’s upbringing practically without parents.

Society was supposed to create sort of communes, children’s homes, what they believed to be the most advanced structures, where children would be raised and receive various kinds of education in the arts, natural science and so on. This is how new society was supposed to be created – a society of new, free people.

Practice showed that the absence of a loved one, the absence of mother and father did not make a child, and later on a young man and an adult, a wholesome person. The idea formulated by Engels and Marx might have sounded beautiful. It was shared by Lenin and actively supported in this country.

The authors of this phrase-mongering statement forgot about the main thing, love, which underlies the upbringing of a fully-developed person. When a child misses the care of family members, he or she will not grow self-assured and confident whereas confidence rather than conceit is one of the fundamental qualities required for fully-fledged development.

This is why your attention to family values is important. I believe they play a major role along with other factors. It was good of you to write about this in your composition. I noted in the clip that the elder son studies at Moscow University, I think, but remotely.

I must say that we largely see the future today. Remote education is being introduced in Russia on an increasingly broad scale. This is vital for a country with an enormous territory like ours. We must make this kind of education accessible and develop modern technology.

Only yesterday, I met with the Head of the Centre of Child Oncology and Hematology, who told me that together with the Education and Science Ministry they had established a system of remote education for children who are recovering from cancer and who are undergoing rehabilitation. They begin to study during this rehabilitation period, including under remote education programmes.

And when they return home, some of them find that compared with the education they received here with the use of modern technologies, the education standards at home, at their local schools, are not quite up to the mark, so to say, that they do not meet their expectations with regard to education.

As healthy people who have returned home to their families, they continue to study online using their clinic’s system. In effect, this was quite unexpected, and prompts unexpected decisions to be made.

The same concerns healthcare in general, including long-distance services and online consultations by the leading experts at top medical centres for their colleagues in other regions. All this will certainly develop just like the family business you have just mentioned. This is an interesting subject.

Thank you.

Ilya Demakov: Would you like to add anything? Nastya represents Trans-Baikal Territory.

Anastasia Ivanova: I would like to say a few more words about the family, on my own behalf. In my case, if it were not for my family, I would not be sitting here. I believe that many of us would not be here without the support of their families.

To be honest, no matter how strong you are, no matter how many GTO (Ready for Labour and Defence) badges jingle in your pocket, and no matter what impressive achievements you have made in your career, you always need someone nearby, a person you can rely on and on whose shoulder you can cry.

You need a helping hand and someone’s loving heart. And you will not accomplish anything without your family and friends, no matter how impressive your achievements are.

I believe that Russia and the rest of the world would have no future if the family was destroyed.

Come on guys, let’s live in harmony, let’s not get upset with our parents when they make us wear warm jeans on a cold autumn day, let’s cherish and love them because, if it had not been for them, we would have failed to accomplish all this, and I would not be talking to the President of Russia here.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: That’s right. But please take your GTO badges out of your pockets and wear them on your chests. This is what you can and must be proud of.

Ilya Demakov: Let me introduce Liza representing the most remote region. She is from Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Khabarovsk Territory.

Yelizaveta Shelekhova: Good afternoon, my name is Yelizaveta. Continuing the topic of family and love, I will perhaps deviate a little bit. Love does not only exist in a family. There is also a love for our nation, culture and, above all, our mother tongue because our native language is a link connecting all of us, the entire country as well as our multiethnic people. The language must, of course, be beautiful for the people to love it and enjoy hearing it.

My school devotes a lot of attention to literature and culture of speech. By the way, Mr President, you are very often presented as an example of the most eloquent person in the country with impeccable speech.

I think if we did not love our culture, if we did not use our language and could not use it as well as everybody in this room, perhaps there would not be a contest like Russia Focused on the Future. There cannot be a future-focused country if its population does not love its culture and language.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you to your teachers for the compliment. I must say that I myself often turn to Russian language experts to clarify something. There have been cases when right before a public appearance, I would call some expert from my plane and ask about the stress in a word. There are people who are like walking encyclopedias, they know everything. We should look up to them.

The fact that a mother tongue (you specifically mentioned the Russian language) is extremely important both to Russians and other ethnicities living in our country is absolutely true because Russian naturally plays a unique role when it comes to inter-ethnic communication. This language is what unites us.

For any people, including Russians, native language is one of the components that form a nation. These components include a common territory, a common economy, a common state authority and, of course, a common language. There is no nation without a language.

Shrinking geography – in this case of the Russian language – and its curtailed geographical distribution is a blow on the statehood and its representatives, speakers of this language. When this happens there will be negative consequences. Not right away, but they will emerge eventually.

Therefore, all of us, both representatives of Russia’s low-numbered ethnicities and Russians must definitely do their best to support and develop their traditional cultures, their languages and the Russian language, in particular. It is perfectly obvious.

Ilya Demakov: Kostya represents the Kaluga Region.

Konstantin Kozlyayev: Thank you for the opportunity to say what I have to say.

When we talk about love, about one's own family and language, we should keep in mind what Academician Dmitry Likhachyov said. In his “Letters about the Kind and Beautiful,” he wrote that love for the whole of humanity begins with small things: with one’s home, school, village. Therefore, we should not forget that we must pass on to our descendants not just memories of our culture and our ancestors, but also our nature, the nature of our native land as it also bears our imprint. The way we take care of it shows exactly what kind of people we are, what we want to pass on to our descendants: devastation and disunity, or the beauty of this wonderful world.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Are you talking about the environment, about nature?

Konstantin Kozlyayev: Yes. I am talking about this not just because this was the theme of my composition, but also because it is very important. Every one of us must preserve the land where he or she lives. We can walk by, paying no attention: oh, here are maples, how nice, let me go home and have a cup of tea. No, we must be aware that all this grows not just for us, but also for our ancestors. That is why my composition is in the form of a letter to our ancestors.

Vladimir Putin: Nothing is growing for our ancestors. (Laughter.) It now grows for us and future generations, for our descendants, right?

Konstantin Kozlyayev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: It was a slip of the tongue. These things happen.

Of course, you are right. It is necessary to take care of the environment, of all that surrounds us. This is especially important in today’s world, because modern technologies are so powerful and only growing stronger, making it is very easy to do damage to nature, irreparable damage, and sometimes it can not be restored. So we must be very careful.

But, you know, it used to be like that a long time ago, actually always, and it is particularly pressing now – there is a kind of confrontation going on between two beginnings: the beginning of development, the introduction of technologies or the exploration of some territories, and the conservation of nature. Sometimes in order to build a road, people have to cut through a forest, otherwise there will be no road, and if there is no road, there will be no development. You know, when there is a road, there immediately spring up enterprises, businesses, something you wrote about in your compositions. No road – no enterprises, no enterprises – no jobs, no jobs – no wages, no taxes, and so on. There always was and will always be this contradiction between development and conservation. This challenge is becoming more pressing then ever.

But there is one rule that we can and must introduce in our country. If we took something from nature for our development needs, we must by all means restore this somewhere nearby or not far away, in full, or better yet even add something. For instance, you cut a clearing through a forest, removed a certain number of trees, so plant as many or even more trees nearby, and, ultimately, there will be no harm. If we follow this golden rule, then the contradiction that I mentioned, between development and conservation, will be reduced to zero.

Ilya Demakov: Ilya, the Omsk Region.

Ilya Chekashev: Good afternoon.

I would also like to say that some of the recent topics that have been raised about the significance of one's native language, native environment, native land, are inextricably intertwined. In order to preserve all that was dear to our ancestors, is dear to us and will be dear to our descendants, we need to remember how it was in the past, what happened before we were born.

And then there emerges an interlink between our native language and where and how we live, the environment. Because if, for example, we forget the language of our native land, we will not be able to recall any of our ancestors, not even their thoughts on the things we think about now, nor what they dreamt of. We will not be able to learn what steps they took to preserve their native environment and, perhaps, improve their native land. So what I want to say is that all this is intertwined and that nothing should be lost. Both the development of modern technologies and the past must be preserved.

And what is your opinion?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I agree. Actually, that is how the world is – indivisible. Only in theory can we single something out, or start using something or research something separately, while, in fact, everything in the world is intertwined, everything is interconnected. Therefore, it is desirable, of course, to perceive it as a whole, holistically. This is true.

And it should be understood that if someone did something somewhere or caused some damage or had some kind of effect, the impact will be felt elsewhere. And it is desirable that people should know what the potential consequences might be like and, knowing that, should act very carefully, of course.

Ilya Demakov: And we also have an opinion from Ivan, the Republic of Crimea.

Ivan Oleynik: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Crimea was always Russian. Sometimes it drifted away but always returned to its harbour. On March 18, 2014, it came back again. As a result, a huge project for Crimea was launched – a bridge across the Kerch Strait. It opens up enormous opportunities. This project came into being because we are in Russia. If we were not part of Russia, maybe I would not be here now. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You definitely would not be here now. That is for sure.

You were correct, of course, about Crimea's destiny. So far, we do not know it well enough. It would be interesting if both Crimeans and people in other Russian regions took a look at how Crimea's destiny was shaped.

Say, the Slavs were present there in pre-historic times, and later all kinds of people lived there: the Genoese; Islamic peoples, those who profess Islam; members of the Jewish faith also inhabited part of that territory, it was their homeland. Crimea boasts a very complicated and interesting history. And the fact that all this is part of our country is very important because it shows how deep and interesting the history of Russia as a whole is, the same with regard to Crimea or other territories of the Russian Federation.

But what we must treasure absolutely is that we are together today. We are together, and this creates significant – as I already said at the start of our talk – competitive advantages. Because an integral, united, well-centralised and democratically organised state is the basis on which every person and every family can develop, feel safe, feel protected. This is extremely important. But in order to understand this, the close study of our history is needed. Ivan, you chose a very good theme. I believe that we should support this and take a more careful look at both Crimea and other regions of the Russian Federation.

Ilya Demakov: Can we watch one more video?

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Ilya Demakov: This is a video by Olga Yevseyeva from the Belgorod Region.

(The video plays.)

Ilya Demakov: We could hear Olga’s voice. She is present here today.

Olga Yevseyeva: Good afternoon.

First of all, my main message is that we ​​must improve over the course of our lives. Using the example of this builder – this is a real person – my task was to write an article for a school newspaper about a working profession. I went to this construction site, asked to talk to the youngest, most handsome and broad-shouldered builder. It was 19-year-old Slava. Using his example, I wanted to show that we must improve and that we are also builders, we are also building our future – the future of our country, the future of our Motherland. Throughout our history, we have destroyed a lot. Now it is our time to build.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: We are not surprised that you went and asked to interview a broad-shouldered, interesting young man. This is very good, well done. And it is very good that such a Slava was there, and you could talk to him, get acquainted and tell his story.

I would like to say that you expressed a very good idea about working professions. Today, the lines dividing various levels of training for specialists have practically been erased. We just do not have enough …

Olga Yevseyeva: Working hands.

Vladimir Putin: No, not just working hands, but well-trained specialists in working professions. This is a separate topic. The former system of training specialists in working professions is absolutely obsolete and cannot be used today. It needs to be updated, which is what we are trying to do. And jointly with the relevant ministries and departments, with the regions of Russia, with our large companies, we are now organising a large training system.


Not long ago – in 2015, I think – we started national contests for people of various blue collar professions and began to take part in international competitions. Our teams have achieved great results. I think about a year and a half or two years ago, some research was carried out; by the way, tasks were set during various contests, and as I have already said, we discussed what might be interesting for you with teachers who won the teachers’ contest. The tasks were almost identical for high-school pupils, for university students and young specialists working at defence enterprises (the most advanced ones, with high technology and so on). High-school pupils were the best in handling the tasks, including the task of assembling small satellites.

It may surprise you, but it is a fact. This is a really objective indicator. But there is also an explanation, because high-school pupils use modern devices more. Even computer games help them with problem solving, because solving problems using modern technology is easier for someone who spends more time and, it may seem, wastes time on this. This is the first thing I wanted to say. Labour is a vital topic today.

And second, another very important thing that we often talk about but seldom do, although we should at least be thinking about: training, I mean professional training, should be constant. Today new skills appear very quickly, and if we do not want to fall behind, if we want to be ahead of the competition, training and study should always be ongoing. This must be a regular thing, normal for every person. It is not the case of receiving a paper with your grades – excellent, satisfactory, or good – and that’s it; you are satisfied and put it on a shelf and forget about it; and now you are sitting and thinking about what you expect to get. No, if you want to be a good specialist, you need to practice and to improve, and only then will you always be at the peak of your capabilities, riding the crest of success. This is what I hope for you.

In addition, probably many of you already have offers and vouchers from our leading recreation centres, such as Orlyonok, Ocean or Artek. These are not just recreation centres; they are education centres. There is also, and I hope you have heard about it, the Sirius Educational Centre in Sochi for gifted young people. We hold literature seminars and courses there regularly. I also invite you there. I hope I will have time to see you there.

Unfortunately, it is already time for me to go to my next event.

Let’s have one last question to conclude the meeting.

Darya Svitaylo: It is in fact about Sirius. I would like to thank you for creating such a centre, because I personally heard about it last March. I am currently taking the Literary Creation course for the second time. I see how significant the opportunities are for talented children and that we are really valued and a lot has been done for us. Thank you very much for this.

Vladimir Putin: When were you at Sirius?

Darya Svitaylo: In June and now.

Vladimir Putin: You like it there?

Darya Svitaylo: Very much.

Vladimir Putin: The conditions are good there, as well as the creative atmosphere in various areas.

Darya Svitaylo: It gives you enthusiasm and inspiration to continue working.

Vladimir Putin: I wish you success and all the best in the New Year! Thank you very much. Good luck. Goodbye.

Ilya Demakov: Mr President, we have a proposal, a little request, to be exact, from Yekaterina.

Yekaterina Ivanova: Mr President, it would be a great honour if you agreed to take a picture with us.

January 11, 2018, Moscow