Speech of the Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry K.V.Shuvalov

Speech of the Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry K.V.Shuvalov at the meeting of Group of strategic vision "Russia – Islamic world" (Bulgar, 26 May 2016).


Dear Mintimer Sharipovich,

Dear participants of the meeting of Group of strategic vision,

It’s hard to find a place that is better than Bulgar would serve as a reflection of the idea of the meeting of Group of strategic vision “Russia – Islamic world. Like other members of the Group of strategic vision, I am deeply impressed by what I saw and heard here. I hope that our foreign guests after returning home will contribute to spreading throughout Islamic world about this part of the world cultural heritage monument of Islamic history and building the most northerly Islamic Academy so people could know and remember.

I would like to point out that the cultural and religious project of Great Bulgar would hardly have found such a worthy performance without long-term sustained efforts of its initiator, the State Advisor of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev, who, together with the recently deceased Primakov was at the forefront of our Group of strategic vision and was its co-chairman.

History of the Russian Volga region, as well as the whole country, is proof of the fact that the harmonious co-existence and cooperation in nation building between people of different faiths, including Christians and Muslims, different ethnic groups may be not just a short pause between constantly renewed conflict but a stable age-old reality. It is a fact that Russia did not know the religious wars, the purpose of which would be crowding out of the disputed territories other religions or forcibly converting them in their faith. Unlike the modern Western Europe we didn’t have and don’t have to choose between multiculturalism, if we understand it as the split of society along ethno-religious lines, and assimilation, i.e., coercion to renounce their identity. Russia has avoided the fate of becoming a nation-state. With that, despite the vast territory, our country has long been out of the historical stage of territorial fragmentation, the identity of its inhabitants has become a multi-layered, but at the same time, holistic, not destined to the internal conflict. Next to a human self-awareness as a Muslim or a Christian, Tatar or Russian we have a special relationship to the State – as the guarantor of the inviolability of personal religious and ethnic identity. The stronger was the State, the more successfully the ideal of equal co-citizenship in it – and this was not always – the more stable was the Russian type of multi-layered identity.

The success of the Russian cross-cultural symbiosis contributes to a high degree of compatibility of the basic values of the peoples of our country. Rooted traditions of Russia – both orthodox and Islamic – known by its disapproval of individualism, encouragement of self-realization through its implementation not only individual but also collective rights and, accordingly, the popularity of these traditions in the idea of the welfare state.

For the same reasons moral self-restriction of individual rights we perceive as usual. Our society does not break, but unites by the ratio to the behavior which denies such self-restraint, which became the emblem of the “Charlie Hebdo”. This is attitude of unequivocal condemnation.

Reflections on the Russian model of identity, awareness of a person to belong to a particular community leads me to the conclusion, with which many, but not all, agree in Russia. I think this model is closer to its Islamic, rather than the Western European analogue. In order to be a Russian, no one should cease to be a Tatar, an ethnic Russian, Bashkir or Kalmyk. The idea that ethnicity – a hindrance to development, a vestige of tribalism that a modern state can only be a legal structure, the so-called civic nation is alien to our people. There were many attempts to impose on us this idea, and it is one of the pillars of the European Union, but it is significant that it didn’t take root; it wasn’t fixed in the public consciousness.

At the same time Russia’s multiethnic people – are not the arithmetic sum of the people living in our country, and not the expression of their agreement with each other, which, as any agreement is temporary and conditional. It is a living organism, the subject of history, as the community of all citizens, and all the peoples of Russia.

In order to feel Russian, any citizen of our country is not obliged to immediately or gradually adjusted to some new standard of their spiritual life, in which realized his freedom of conscience. He does not have to change or correct something of his religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs; shall not be obliged to accept, as it is more specifically and strictly required in the European Union and the United States, a sum of values, whether Republican values in France, European values throughout the EU or political correctness in English-speaking countries. This set of values is gradually expanding, becoming more and more essential and increasingly intrudes into the sphere of freedom of conscience, oppresses religion – mostly Christianity, but only so far.

State institutions in Europe is experiencing a crisis, but this is crisis of a particular historical type of state – both the old national “nation-state”, and the new EU supranational structures – rather than inter-civilizational and inter-religious relations on a global scale, not a clash of civilizations. In Russia and countries of Islamic world we are not indifferent to this crisis, but this is not our crises, we do not participate in it. However, the experience of our countries in the construction of multi-national and multi-religious states and societies has many similar moments and it is, in my opinion, the interest that could be discussed in the framework of Group of strategic vision.

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Meeting of the Strategic Vision Group “Russia-Islamic world”. Agenda
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