Prime Minister Putin’s speech at a reception to mark the 1020th anniversary of Christianity in Russia
28 june 2008
Esteemed hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on the start of the celebrations of a momentous event for this country and for the whole Orthodox world, the 1020th anniversary of Christianity in Russia.
The adoption of Orthodox Christianity was a defining moment in the destiny of Russia. To understand it, Ivan Ilyin wrote, one does not have to be an Orthodox believer, it is enough to know Russian history. That choice gives insight into the sources of our statehood, our great culture, national character and the traditions of our people.
The faith sustained the morale and the courage of the country's defenders: the volunteers led by Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoi, the heroes of 1812 and of the Great Patriotic War. It inspired the genius of the chronicler Nestor, Andrei Rublyov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, artists, architects, and poets who created truly immortal masterpieces.
Orthodoxy has inseparably bound together the destinies of the peoples of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the peoples of other countries. We have common values and a shared spiritual journey, which began with the Baptism in the Dnieper. It is our duty to cherish that priceless heritage. The Russian Orthodox Church has always been the custodian of Christian values. It has survived many tests, but it has invariably emerged from them with dignity to continue its tireless service and martyrdom, strengthening humanity in its quest for Goodness, Charity and Justice.
It is 20 years since the millennium of the Christianization of Russia was celebrated. For the Russian Orthodox Church and for the whole of our people and society these were without exaggeration years of dramatic change. It was a time of a true revival of church life and genuine spiritual and moral values. Witness the churches and monasteries restored from ruins. But most important, faith and hope returned to people's souls. The immense moral meaning of the efforts to restore the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church is that it is the fruition of the dream of several generations of our fellow countrymen, the dream of mutual forgiveness and of overcoming the tragic schism caused by the fratricidal Civil War.
From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank you, Your Holiness, and all those who are contributing to the good cause of uniting the Russian world.
The state will continue to support the initiatives of the church aimed at strengthening civil and interregional accord, its social, cultural, educational and charitable mission. Orthodoxy has from the start been exceptionally tolerant of other religions. It was the position of the Russian Orthodox Church that contributed to the creation of the Russian state both as a multinational and a multi-confessional one.
That is why I am satisfied that the dialogue between state and church is developing in such a meaningful way today. We rejoice in the fact and we will work together with you towards that end.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In these festive days the Bishops' Council is taking place. I know that its participants addressed the most pressing problems that are uppermost in the minds of all members of Russian society. That is one more sign that the Russian Orthodox Church identifies itself with the needs and concerns of our citizens, our people and serves as a reliable support for them.
This has always been the case - in grief and in joy, in the times of the Holy Prince Vladimir and in our day. I believe that it will be so always. May God give you health.