Second Russian-Czech Discussion Forum

Second Russian-Czech Discussion Forum

19 June 2019

June 19th, the Second Russian-Czech Discussion Forum took place at MGIMO, following the decision of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman.

The Presidents agreed to set up a discussion forum during the Czech President Milos Zeman’s visit to Russia in 2017. The forum has for aim to become a platform for discussions between representatives of the civil societies of the two countries on a myriad of topics including international politics, history and bilateral relations.

Anatoly Torkunov, MGIMO Rector and Co-Chair of the Russian-Czech discussion forum, the Co-Chair on the Czech side and Rector of the Institute of International Relations (Prague) Ondrej Ditrych, the Special Representative of Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Russia Vitezslav Pivonka, the Russian Deputy Minister of Culture Nicholas Ovsienko and a Representative of the Office of the Czech President all attended the opening ceremony.

In his welcome words, Anatoly Torkunov spoke about the First Russian-Czech discussion forum, which was held last year in Prague and noted that much progress had been made since then in establishing cooperation with Czech colleagues in various fields. The Rector recalled positively the first forum and expressed hope that the second forum in Moscow would be all as productive and that participants would work enthusiastically, especially taking into account the presence on this day of the leadership of museums, art galleries and libraries. The Rector noted that the participants would surely find a politically neutral way of expanding their cooperation. He noted: “I would like cooperation to continue to develop. Today, we will lose no time speaking about inter-state relations or political cooperation, but focus on the heart of any bilateral relationship; the interaction and mixing of cultures. ”

The Co-Chair of the forum, O. Ditrych, underlined the importance of the themes chosen for discussion: “Cultural interaction of Russia and the Czech Republic” and “The Czechs in Russia and the USSR and the Russians in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic”. He also remarked that the presence during the Forum of the heads of major cultural institutions was of primary importance, leading to productive discussions on concrete projects.

The Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy, spoke about the rich history the two countries share and the cultural presence of Russia in the Czech Republic. He also described the Czech cultural presence in Russia and expressed hope that the Czech culture could become better know to Russians. The speaker then read a letter with greetings from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The letter says that the Russian-Czech Discussion Forum in being established as a useful platform which will allow the development of dialogue among civil societies in Russia and the Czech Republic. In the current context, such efforts to build a constructive dialogue on topical issues of bilateral relations, and to reinforce the trust and mutual understanding between both countries commands respect and support. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also noted the symbolic nature of the Second Forum being held at MGIMO, a university which is experienced in organizing such high level international events. The Foreign Minister finished by wishing the forum participants fruitful discussions and expressed hope that this initiative could make a significant contribution to the Russian-Czech cooperation.

The representative of the Office of the Czech President thanked the organizers for their warm welcome and read out greetings from the Czech President Milos Zeman. In his letter, the President of the Czech Republic emphasized the fact that while the forum was created at the initiative of the presidents of the two countries, it is not a presidential project at all. “The forum is a apolitical platform for open and sincere exchanges on subjects of mutual interest. Culture is one of the primary topics up for discussion, and will always be a key positive area in our relations as we have deep cultural ties, but there are always opportunities to expand cooperation in this field. Milos Zeman also noted that it was important to preserve the common historical heritage, since knowing one’s history promotes mutual understanding and helps to overcome prejudice and stereotypes. “I urge you to help set aside old cliches and to work towards an open and productive dialogue and I wish you a fruitful and friendly debate”, he concluded.

The Russian Deputy Minister of Culture Nicholas Ovsienko expressed greetings to the audience on behalf of the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky and noted that Russia and the Czech Republic have deep ties rooted in the history of Slavic peoples. The Minister also commented on the long-lasting interest of the two countries in each other, noting that "Culture is a bridge that exists outside the political and momentary, it lasts an eternity". Nicholas Ovsiyenko spoke about the cultural interaction between the two countries, museum expositions, tours of Russian performers, music and art groups in the Czech Republic and events designed to preserve the historical memory of the Great Patriotic War. “The potential for cultural collaboration between our countries is huge and numerous joint events will be organized” he noted, before wishing the participants the best of luck for the forum.

The Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Russia Vitezslav Pivonka spoke about how mutual contacts create a space for communication, leading to an exchange of opinions, and to the acceptance that on some subjects, opinions may differ. “Open communication is a catalyst for cooperation and cooperation. Now, attending today's forum, I am absolutely sure that productive cooperation is possible. Hence, we are today implementing the initial plan designed by our presidents”.

As the opening ceremony of the forum came to a close, Anatoly Torkunov spoke about the unique exhibition in the Pushkin Museum “Shchukin. Biography of a collection" and invited participants of the forum to visit it. The Rector then introduced the following speaker, the Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Marina Loshak.

During the Russian-Czech discussion forum, two sessions unfolded: “The Cultural Interaction of Russia and the Czech Republic” and “Czechs in Russia and the USSR and Russians in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic”. The Director of the National Museum of Prague, the Director of the National Gallery in Prague, the Director of the State Historical Museum, the Director General of the State Central Museum of Contemporary History, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art “Garage”, the Deputy Director General of the Russian State Library, the Director of the State Public Historical Library of Russia, MGIMO’s Vice-Rector for Research Evgeny Kozhokin, the Vice-Rector for Economic Matters and Academician of the Russian Academy of Arts Natalia Kuzmina all contributed to the work of the first panel discussion.

The session “Czechs in Russia and the USSR and Russians in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic” was also attended by the Director of the Czech Slavic Library, representatives of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, faculty members of the Faculty of History of the Moscow State University, and representatives of the Council of the Czech Government on National Minorities.

June 18th, a solemn reception was held at the Reception House of the Russian Foreign Ministry for participants of the Second Russian-Czech Discussion Forum. The guests were greeted by the First Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Titov, who noted the need for a forum to enhance the dialogue between civil societies in Russia and the Czech Republic, especially in times of political tensions. Vladimir Titov also emphasized the fact that intellectuals and educated people are able to think about the future, and expressed his hope that their ideas would become a source of inspiration for political scientists.

— See the MGIMO web-site for russian version