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Meeting of the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees

April 29, 2016, St Petersburg

Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), a national public organisation.

Established by Emperor Nicholas I in St Petersburg in 1845, the Russian Geographical Society is one of the world’s oldest geographical societies. The RGS engages in extensive expeditionary and educational activities.

Vladimir Putin has been the Chairman of the Board of Trustees since 2009. The Board’s principal functions are to assist in the implementation of the RGS’s scientific research and educational programmes, as well as to ensure public monitoring of such implementation.

The best projects for 2015 were presented at the meeting, including: the Kyzyl-Kuragino international archeological and geographical expedition; Accessible Planet: Family Tourism for People with Disabilities in Russia, a series of documentary films; and the Volunteer Movement as Eco-Tourism for Young People project.

With the president in attendance, Russian Geographical Society grants were awarded for new projects in 2016: Following de Gennin’s Path, a geographical Olympiad/quest; the Healing Springs and Plants of Russia project; and, Volga Basin Floating University expeditions.

An awards ceremony including the presentation of Russian Geographical Society medals took place. A large gold medal was awarded to Russian Geographical Society Vice President, Moscow State University Geographical Department President, Russian Academy of Sciences Member Nikolai Kasimov for research expeditions facilitating the further development of geography as a science.

A small gold medal was awarded to Capt. 1st Rank Oleg Osipov, deputy head of the Defence Ministry’s Navigation and Oceanography Administration, for new geographical discoveries in world oceans during a circumnavigation expedition aboard the Admiral Vladimirsky research vessel.

* * *

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, esteemed guests, session participants, colleagues, and friends,

I am pleased to welcome you here in the historic headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St Petersburg. Now I will hand it over to Chairman of the Society’s Board of Trustees Vladimir Putin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends. I am also pleased to see you all here.

We have gathered again in the historic headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St Petersburg where our organisation has devised most of its projects. And today we will see new initiatives, which will be transformed into life largely thanks to you, members of the Board of Trustees, and to all those who have been volunteering and showing interest in helping the Russian Geographical Society in its work.

Your support makes it possible for us to organise hundreds of events across our giant country every year, and, most importantly, to unite people around truly significant and useful projects aimed at preserving our natural wealth, our history and the traditions of the peoples of the Russian Federation.

I would like to mention the Russian Geographical Society’s educational projects, which include large-scale publishing activities, popular lectures and the Russian National Geographical Dictation, which was organised in Russia for the first time and will now become an annual event. In addition, of course, it is the concept of developing education in geography, which was initiated by the society and developed as a result of lengthy and detailed debates with the Ministry of Education and Science.

It will be presented for public discussion shortly and everyone, from schoolchildren to academics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, will have the chance to express their opinion, so that the results can be summed up at the Congress of Russian Geography Teachers in autumn.

This congress is another tradition that has been revived by the Society, and its participants have repeatedly mentioned problems with geographic literacy and stated that in a vast country like Russia geography should occupy a more significant place in school and university curriculums and also called for new textbooks and fresh teaching approaches.

I must say the Russian Geographical Society has recently been expanding its debate venues, including within its international activities. The organisation has so far signed cooperation agreements with 22 foreign partners and many of them have been put into practice.

Furthermore, it was thanks to the Russian Geographical Society’s influence that for the first time in 40 years Moscow was selected as the venue for a conference of the International Geographical Union. Last year, the conference gathered over 1,500 participants from 73 countries and showed the true priorities of science, culture and education representatives, as well as their unity and commitment to lofty humanist values.

It so happened that during the conference we marked the Russian Geographical Society’s 170th anniversary. However, time passes quickly and soon, in 2020, we will be marking its 175th anniversary. I believe that it is logical and appropriate, ahead of this important date, to prepare a major comprehensive publication, a kind of a guide to the Society’s and Russia’s great geographical discoveries.

I am sure that this book will be popular. After all, the names and events related to the Russian Geographical Society are part of this country’s history, its prominent, glorious pages. Consider, for example, RGS expeditions, which have always been its calling card. It is encouraging that more and more people, especially young people, are eager to participate in them, as is evidenced by the tough competition among the volunteers.

There is great demand for both research and environmental projects. In other words, there is good reason to say that RGS is fully accomplishing its mission: it stimulates interest in the study of one’s own country and the desire for creative, positive patriotic work.

Moreover, of course, as the pacesetter in Russia’s environmental preservation traditions, [RGS] actively promotes environmental awareness among our people and implements a large number of useful and timely initiatives in this area, some of which become independent projects. Suffice it to recall the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard conservation fund. I hope the projects launched today will also develop successfully and I wish their participants genuine success.

I would like again to thank all those who actively support the organisation’s initiatives. It gives me great satisfaction and pleasure, together with RGS President Sergei Shoigu, to present Russian Geographical Society awards to those who are continuing and preserving its traditions. I hope that we will do this today during our joint work.

Thank you very much.


Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, friends,

I think that our infrequent but regular meetings are taking on a somewhat pleasant and family-like but at the same time useful and constructive atmosphere. And all the more so as there is no greater pleasure than supporting talented and active people, which is exactly what we are doing ‒ I am now addressing members of the Board of Trustees ‒ and feeling that along with our current work we can make additional efforts, outside our usual routine. This is always pleasant, and I would like to thank you for this once again.

I would like to address those colleagues and friends who are already implementing part of our projects and intend to do so in the future: I would like to ask you to always pay attention to safety issues. We must think of ourselves and of those next to us, all the more so when we are talking about involving young people and especially children.

We have listened closely to everything about the opportunity to study an island in the Far East. I urge you to be as careful as you can, as there may be explosives and various chemical agents and biological materials. You have to be very careful and take a professional approach to solving the tasks you are setting for yourselves.

Overall, the Russian Geographical Society is developing ‒ quite successfully and rapidly at that ‒ and showing very good results.

Thank you all very much, and enjoy the upcoming holidays!

April 29, 2016, St Petersburg