24 february 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with artist and sculptor Mihail Chemiakin in Brussels


Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. What have you brought?

Mihail Chemiakin: I have with me several projects, one of them is very important. I'd like to talk about it in terms of the complicated situation in the North Caucasus. You know that I belong to one of the oldest families in Kabardino-Balkaria. There are 12,000 Kardanovs in the republic and 64,000 around the world.

As a member of the tribal committee, I am concerned about young people in the North Caucasus. We have held talks with Kanokov (Arsen Kanokov, president of Kabardino-Balkaria), although so far unsuccessfully, about opening a centre (for North Caucasus artists). I own a large building in central France, close to the palace of King Charles VII. It was there that Joan of Arc convinced the king to start the war on the British. I own a former monastery there, and I have a dream to establish a Centre for North Caucasus Artists there and also a kind of museum to teach the French about the Kabardins, the Balkars and the Ossetians. They should know more than that they are guilty of some terrible things in the Caucasus, but also that they are very talented people with ancient cultures of their own who have many young talented artists. I want, above all, to help these artists.

This is one of the main projects aimed at finding ways to draw these young people away from (Islamic) fundamentalism, which is being forced on them with the ultimate goal of provoking unrest and violence.

I am half-Russian and half-Kabardin, and so I am worried about the events there. I want to help. I think you understand me better than anyone else.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. This is a good project. We will discuss it.

Mihail Chemiakin: My second project is the one you approved jointly with Mr Schroeder (Gerhard Schroeder, a German politician, former Chancellor of Germany) during the celebrations in Kaliningrad. It is a monument to Hofmann (Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, a German writer, composer and artist).

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you were there.

Mihail Chemiakin: Yes, I was. Mr Schroeder said he would support this project, but you said it was a Russian project. But now it is ready. I have brought it here to show you. This monument could be both a major artistic event and also evidence of our respect for the famous composer and philosopher. I think that you and Mr Bush (George W. Bush, former US President) liked my "Nutcracker" (Chemiakin directed and designed a surrealistic-grotesque Mariinsky Theatre production of The Nutcracker in 2001). I think it's wrong that there is no monument to Hoffmann in Kaliningrad, the former Konigsberg, where he was born. This is why I think this project, which is also partially yours, should be implemented.

And the third project concerns young people and children in Siberia. It has already been approved but has somehow lost momentum. It provides for establishing an International Centre of Puppet Arts in Khanty-Mansiysk, where I often go and where a theatre that will also house the puppet art forum will soon be built.

These are the projects I have brought for your consideration.

Vladimir Putin: Khanty-Mansiysk has been developing very quickly.

Mihail Chemiakin: Yes, and I am closely involved in the process.

Vladimir Putin: Alright, let's look at your projects in more detail.