Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a session of the 14th Congress of the Russian Geographical Society


“The Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka, the Putorana Plateau in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and even the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk in the Urals – these and many other treasures of Russia should, by right, be destinations that inspire a tourist pilgrimage.”

Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:

Good afternoon, friends and colleagues.

This is not a speech, but rather a simple welcome. But before I get to that, I would like to congratulate you on the repairs completed on this building. When we came here a year ago, this historic building of the Russian Geographical Society was, to put it mildly, in a deplorable state. It took nine months, and this is the result. Nine months is a momentous number. Congratulations to everyone. I am glad to welcome you and congratulate you on the 165th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society.

This anniversary year of the RGS is a time for rebirth. Of course, I’m not only talking about the restoration of the society’s historic building in which we have gathered today, although this is certainly a worthy gift for the occasion.

I am talking primarily about reviving the important mission of the RGS and its work, the main objective of which is, according to the society’s founders, “to cultivate the geography of Russia,” as it was so beautifully expressed back then. This is geography in the broadest sense, including culture, traditions, history and wildlife.

A comprehensive approach to the study of our homeland, active educational work, reliability and quality information have become the hallmark of the Russian Geographical Society. The RGS's scientific discoveries and progressive ideas number in the hundreds. Russia is particularly indebted to the RGS for scientific data, a regular meteorological service and independent socio-economic expert review.

It was the RGS that gave rise to environmental protection in our country. Back in 1912, the society formed a special commission. The history of protected natural areas and state conservation programmes for individual species of flora and fauna begins with this commission.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say that today I signed an executive order to establish a special organisation that will deal with the development of our new Russian Arctic national park. Its purpose will be to preserve unique ecosystems, raise environmental awareness in Russia and lay the groundwork for civilised tourism.

The RGS can make a major contribution in these areas. All the more so seeing as, after a long hiatus, nature conservation is once again among our priorities and the priorities of the society itself. An environmental commission has been assembled and is already actively working.

So, the RGS is preparing a number of interesting projects in conjunction with the Institute of Conservation, including conservation of Amur tigers. But now we are also talking about saving leopards and some other endangered species.

I hope that the society will be the most active participant in the implementation of the concept of protected areas, which the Russian government adopted this year.

The RGS is called upon to bear a substantial share of the responsibility to cultivate concern for the environment in society, to raise environmental awareness in the country. This objective applies, first and foremost, to the younger generation. I hope that the projects targeted at children and young people will be real priorities for the RGS and its partners.

It is about developing educational programmes to support young scientists and, of course, organising competitions, festivals and expeditions that will help kids realise their potential, to believe in themselves and, most importantly, to truly get to know their homeland – our country.

It is important to use the resources of the RGS in the effort to promote and popularise the historical, cultural and geographical heritage of Russia. These efforts are instrumental in carrying out the main mission of the society. And I know that you have defined this mission in a very beautiful and broad way– “to inspire people to love Russia.”

People around the world know the Russian ballet, Gagarin's space flight and the awe-inspiring icons of Andrei Rublyov – these things are certainly part of our national heritage, our pride, as well as the Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka, the Putorana Plateau in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and even the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk in the Urals – these and many other treasures of Russia should, by right, be destinations that inspire a tourist pilgrimage.

Of course, a lot is to be done in terms of infrastructure development. And implementation of the federal targeted programme, “Developing Domestic Tourism,” which aims to create a modern competitive market of tourism services, will start next year. Making it into something worthwhile, offering interesting routes, and selecting destinations off the beaten path – the Russian Geographical Society is capable of doing all of this, all the more so since the RGS has unique collections, almost one million archival documents, and of course, an extensive network of regional offices, which we are reviving. The society's collections constitute an amazing history of our changing world and humankind’s perception of it, and they shouldn’t just be available to specialists. I saw that you have already begun to digitise your archives. And very soon they will be accessible to anyone who’s interested, primarily thanks to the Russian Geographical Society's new website.

At the same time, we must revive the tradition of collecting, processing and disseminating global and national geographic, environmental, ethnographic and statistical information. The effective use of such information will contribute to Russia's sustainable socio-economic development and will allow us to make correct strategic decisions.

Another RGS tradition is active cooperation with foreign partners. The society should not only be a notable participant in international projects and conferences; it should also take the lead and initiate projects.

I believe that this work was successfully launched at the Moscow forum “The Arctic:  Territory of Dialogue,” which brought together delegates from 16 countries. Russia supports the continuation of an open and meaningful debate of Arctic issues. This applies to the environment and environmental programmes, as well as climate issues, so we decided to make the Arctic forum an annual event.

I'm sure that the RGS has all the prerequisites to become the intellectual leader in the study and promotion of national programmes in geography and to take responsibility for encouraging creativity in science, which will come from both academic centres and also from the ground up – from enthusiasts who have dedicated themselves to studying their native land.

The tradition of providing financial support to promising projects, awarding outstanding associates, including through new forms of promotion, must be continued – for example, through the RGS award.

This work in which the Russian Geographical Society will be engaged is multifaceted and important for the state and society, and it warrants ongoing media attention. And I hope that our media council, which has already done much over the past year for the RGS, will provide the necessary support for RGS initiatives.


At the last congress, we talked a lot about the great social value of the RGS and its role in developing and strengthening the Russian state. In this regard, I’d like to mention the words of the legendary explorer and vice-chairman of the RGO Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky. He was convinced that the RGS would continue to bring people together who are ready, on their own initiative, to dedicate themselves to the study of our native land.

It is the responsibility of all members of the Russian Geographical Society, without exception, to uphold his vision. And we should all strive to be worthy of such sincere trust.

Once again I would like to congratulate everyone on the 165th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society, and I wish you success in all your, and our, endeavours.

Thank you very much.

* * *

Vladimir Putin's closing remarks:

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to congratulate once again all those who have received awards. You have been recognized for your talent, your devotion to work and your desire to better your country. Each of you is doing your part to carry on the glorious traditions of the Russian Geographical Society, and I wish you all success.

My colleagues have just presented a number of special projects for the attendees of today's congress. I would like to draw your attention to a few more large-scale projects.

First, the unique expedition, Earth's Ring of Fire, starts in February. It will be the first multi-year, continuous trip around the volcanic belt that circles the Pacific Ocean. Participants in the expedition will cover some 70,000 kilometres in 900 days, carrying out wide-ranging scientific observations of the planet's highest volcanoes and analysing their behavior over the past century to forecast their future activity.

Other purposes of the expedition are to develop techniques to rescue people in areas prone to seismic activity and collecting ethnographic materials. You know how important this is for civilization today - a vivid example is the eruption this past summer of a volcano in Iceland, which had a huge effect on many things, including transport networks both in Russia and European countries. A documentary will be made about the expedition.

Second, there will be an expedition to Russia's preserved areas in spring 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society's nature conservation commission. This is a major milestone in the society's history. As I have already mentioned, environmental efforts in Russia were largely begun by this commission, which included renowned Russian scientists, such as Ivan Borodin, Yuly Shokalsky, Nikolai Nasonov and Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky.

We expect that this large-scale expedition will include not only specialists but also young people, as well as renowned scientists, cultural and sports figures. The expedition is meant to show Russians the most unique natural areas in their country and raise awareness about environmental issues. A documentary and a series of photo albums will be made about the expedition.

This is, of course, just a part of the Russian Geographical Society's future work. Current projects will continue and new ones will be launched. I believe that most projects should be targeted at young people. Environmental watches, large festivals, contests and expeditions should be held throughout Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Much here will depend on regional branches. I expect direct assistance and support from regional governors for this. All interesting projects will certainly be supported by both the society's board of trustees and its media council.

As Nikolai Kasimov has already mentioned, the board of trustees meeting will be held in March 2011 to review work related to the grants awarded in the beginning of 2010 and to award grants for new projects chosen by the expert board. As I have mentioned, we will continue to cooperate with our colleagues. There are not many foreign colleagues at this congress, but I can see one of them here. I would like to greet Mr Gerhard Schröder, who is present here as my friend and my guest.

I have to say, when I visited the Lena River confluence, an area where both Russian and German specialists work, I was truly amazed by those people. They all – both Russians and Germans - are certainly a special breed, capable of living in tents, and on the permafrost no less. They work in completely inhospitable conditions – yet they do important work together and they have been doing it for quite a while, and their work has yielded results.

I very much hope that the centre we agreed on will be established in the near future, and we will open it together. Thank you all very much.

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