Vladimir Putin's speech at the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees meeting (April 24, 2017, Saint Petersburg)

Good afternoon, friends,

I want to welcome everyone to this meeting of the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees.

Let me start by saying that your support over these last years has enabled the RGO not just to expand its activities but also to become a prominent participant in our country’s public life and the author of important initiatives, including in areas such as education.

For example, the congresses of geography teachers, a practice the RGO has revived, have made it possible to launch a broad discussion on modern approaches to teaching geography in our schools and universities.

This has resulted in the elaboration of a concept for developing geographical education in Russia. This is a conceptual document that influences a whole sector throughout the country.

I want to note here the positive example the Education and Science Ministry is showing in its close work with the expert and teaching communities to draft amendments to the federal educational standards for geography. The Ministry understands in general the importance of geographical science and education in this area for the country and for every citizen. Along with Russian history, language and literature, geography helps to form the foundations for patriotic values and cultural and national awareness and identity.

At the same time, the national geographical dictation, which the RGO organises, shows that, sadly, only people who studied in the 1960s-70s, when geography had a solid place on the school programme, show a decent level of knowledge in this area.

Time spent on geography was gradually cut back after that and young people today, unfortunately, are not only insufficiently familiar with Russian geography, but sometimes do not even know that of their region, territory or republic. Sometimes, young people are quicker to name the Grand Canyon’s location and that of other world sites and monuments than, say, where our Bagruzinsky Nature Reserve is located.

In this respect, the concept’s proposed measures such as including local geography lessons in the year 8 and year 9 school programmes and returning geography to all middle and senior school years, from year 6 to year 10, at least 2 hours a week, are particularly relevant.

Students and young professionals also have some gaps in their knowledge of geography. One of the reasons is that geography is not a requirement now for enrolling to study international relations, land management and surveying, regional studies and even tourism.

You must admit that it is difficult to imagine a competent international relations expert or a tourism industry manager who lacks thorough knowledge of geography. Universities should draw the necessary conclusions and respond to teachers’ suggestion of opening educational geography centres at universities for talented school children.

And finally, we should consider the fact that there is demand for geography in Russia. For example, about 70,000 people took part in the first geographical dictation in 2015, while over 187,000 decided to check their knowledge in 2016.

Every year, more and more children want to join special geographical society sessions at the Artek, Ocean and Orlyonok camps. The number of participants in Russian Geographical Society volunteering and creative competitions is also growing.

This positive interest should be supported, including the task of promoting Russian geography in patriotic education curriculums at all levels. I am convinced that the Russian Geographical Society will continue work in this direction.

A good example here are Geographical Society programmes marking the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory, as well as years devoted to culture, cinema and the environment. Many of them would be impossible without the targeted aid of our sponsors and Media Council members.

I hope that you will pay attention to the projects that the Russian Geographical Society has prepared for other significant Russian anniversaries. For example, the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the Antarctic by Russian navigators.

International projects are no less interesting. People from dozens of countries have already joined such Russian Geographical Society expeditions as Kyzyl-Kuragino, The Eurasian Steppe World, and Russian Naval Glory.

There are broad prospects for cooperation with foreign geographical societies, primarily, in Kazakhstan, Serbia, Italy, Norway, and Azerbaijan. On a separate note, I would like to mention interaction with our Chinese colleagues. A joint project on the route of a research expedition led by Russian geographer Vladimir Obruchev in Central China led to major scientific findings and a great response from the public.

This summer, young specialists from both countries will go on an expedition to Gogland, the Gulf of Finland, where they will share experience in providing relief from environmental disasters.

To reiterate, the Russian Geographical Society’s projects with the participation of foreign partners prove once again that interaction between researchers is not subject to fleeting political interests and not only promotes scientific progress, but also strengthens friendship. What is particularly important, it provides a basis for good relations in the future among younger generations.

The contribution made by geographers, researchers, and travellers to strengthening humanitarian ties have always been great. Their service to Russia cannot be overestimated. However, it so happened that they still don’t have their own professional holiday.

I think you will agree with me when I say that we can fix this by instituting Geographer Day. We could also supplement our country’s list of honorary titles with the ”Geographer Emeritus of the Russian Federation.“ This will emphasise the importance of this profession and improve the status of representatives of geographical science. Most importantly, it will help popularise geography, and involve more people in studying our country, its nature and history.

In closing, I would like to once again thank you, the members of the Board of Trustees and the Media Council, for the great support that you provide to the programmes, expeditions, and research conducted by the Russian Geographical Society, and all those who participate in its productive and creative work.

I hope that this is a satisfying area of activity for you, and you enjoy your work.

Thank you very much.


Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54363