29 may 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Alexander Avdeyev, Minister of Culture

Mr Putin and Mr Avdeyev discussed celebrations of the Day of Slavic Literature and Culture, and financing of the Ministry of Culture.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: We have recently celebrated the Days of Slavic Literature and Culture. How did the Ministry of Culture contribute to organising the celebrations?

Alexander Avdeyev: The Ministry oversees the celebrations' Organising Committee. The festival's events went exceptionally well in Saratov. This is the 16th time we have held it, and each year we choose one of Russia's ancient cities as its venue, as the capital of the festival. Last year's venue was Tver, and this year it was Saratov.

As many as 16,000 people took part in the sacred procession. The agenda also included concerts, a scientific conference and exhibitions, and the city welcomed guests from all Slavic countries.

Interestingly, the festival is also held in Moscow. This year, it was held in Vasilyevsky Spusk and was supervised by the Patriarch. The celebrations are also held in other cities.

This is a special festival despite its Orthodox roots. ...After all, Saints Cyril and Methodius did more than invent the Cyrillic alphabet; in fact, this is not their main achievement.  They translated the New Testament into Russian, a Slavic language, so that Slavs no longer needed to learn Greek to read it. They only had to learn the 33 letters of the Cyrillic alphabet and then read the New Testament in their native tongue. This is how we became Orthodox Christians.

Here is an interesting fact. Russia, a multinational country where several religions are preached, celebrates the Days as an open festival for the Orthodox and other believers. It does not offend others' feelings; on the contrary, it unites people of different confessions. Attendees themselves say so. They take part in the festivities whenever they can.

This is why this is a unifying, truly Russian festival. However, we should now proceed to its next stage. I don't think it is enough to celebrate it at small Russian cities; it is time we turned it into a nationwide festival celebrated in Moscow, which each of the 85 Russian regions will celebrate together with the Orthodox Church wherever possible. It should become Russia's premier cultural event.

Vladimir Putin: Good, let's think about it. Please substantiate your proposals in writing.

Alexander Avdeyev: I will.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Minister, tell me about allocations for the Ministry, and the way the Ministry provides financing for the restoration, reconstruction and modernisation of its assets. We know that you have received more this year than in the past few years, despite the problems and cutbacks. Please, answer my question.

Alexander Avdeyev: Mr Putin, I would like above all to thank you for your involvement, and we have thus been allocated more than last year despite budget cuts. Last year, we received 68 billion roubles, and this year we will receive 72-73 billion. The Ministry of Culture is probably the only ministry whose 2009 budget was increased, even if slightly.

As for using these funds, things do not always go according to plan. We had to reassess some projects and general figures because of budget cuts. We are doing our best to catch up with spending, and to work according to schedule. But we still lag behind with some projects.

Vladimir Putin: Please, elaborate.