‘To Overcome Past Offenses and Mistrust’
On July 5th a Russian-Polish youth scientific seminar, ‘Russia and Poland Today and Tomorrow: the View of the Young Generation’ took place at the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs. Students from Russian and Polish universities took part in the forum.
Last autumn, the Polish youth organization Generation-89 sent an open letter to Russian young people, the key idea of which was a call for dialogue and cooperation and which included the following phrase: ‘Our generation takes full responsibility for the fate of our countries. We should know and understand our past and openly discuss it, but above all we should talk about the future. Let our neighbourhood and long years of difficult experience not divide, but unite us'.
The letter was published in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and, according to Natalia Burlinova, moderator of the seminar and Head of Creative Diplomacy public initiative, the current meeting came about as a response from Russian students to the letter from the young people of Poland.
Leonid Drachevskiy, Co-Chairman of the Russian-Polish Public Forum, was the initiator of the seminar. The Polish Co-Chairman of the Forum is the world-renowned film director Krzysztof Zanussi. The organizers received financial support from the Russian Federal Agency for Youth Activities (Rosmolodezh), Business Council for Cooperation with Poland and LOT Air. The seminar welcomed Russian students and young teachers from Saint Petersburg, Tomsk, Yaroslavl, Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, and Poland was represented by students from Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz and Poznan.
The majority of the organizational work was done by the staff of the Creative Diplomacy public initiative, which is a non-commercial association of young professionals in international relations, diplomacy, history and journalism. The organization actively promotes the modernization of the image of Russia abroad by means of public diplomacy and continuous building of understanding and trust between the civic societies of countries and other states.
The programme of the seminar included not only presentations by forum guests and participants, but also a role-play activity entitled ‘Reload of relations between Russia and Poland. What steps should Moscow and Warsaw take to improve relations?', as well as viewing and discussion of Russian and Polish documentaries on our perceptions of each other.
Leonid Drachevskiy, in his opening speech to the seminar participants, emphasized that Poland is close to Russia geographically and spiritually, and that's why the views of both countries' young people on the development of our relations are essential and largely define the path of future diplomacy as well as the prospects for cooperation between our countries.
In his speech Jerzy Bahr, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to the Russian Federation, expressed a sincere hope that during the seminar young people from both countries would discuss the essence of the changes taking place in Russia, EU countries and in the world in general, and that this would inevitably lead them to an important exchange of opinions on the key values of the modern world. ‘The process of modernization that is gathering pace in Russia and Poland - Jerzy Bahr emphasized - means not only technology improvement, it is also includes strengthening friendly ties and cooperation between countries. The role of young people in this process cannot be overestimated. Being a professional sociologist, I can tell you that the stereotypes in our perception of each other are the last things to overcome. That's why I think that it is very important and promising that the seminar programme involves discussing the role of the national mass media in the propagation as well as the rejection of these stereotypes'.
Hegumen Filipp Ryabykh, Deputy Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations, read an address from Metropolitan Illarion to the seminar participants, which, in particular, stressed the necessity of a deep consideration of the centuries-long history of Russian-Polish relations, which encompasses ‘times of peace and good-neighbourly relations as well as periods of conflicts and confrontation'. ‘Today - Metropolitan Illarion wrote - when various divisions are taking place in the world community, Christian peoples, which includes some Russian and Polish people, should think about their future in the panhuman family. It is time to get rid of old stereotypes, re-evaluate the prospects of the relations between Russian and Polish people and stand up together for their cultural and religious identity. In this difficult task I rest big hopes on the young people of both countries, who are responsible for the future of friendly ties between our peoples. I believe that our common spiritual heritage will help us overcome our past offenses and mistrust'.
Vladmir Shevelenko, Executive Director of the Business Council for cooperation with Poland, also expressed his belief that ‘business cooperation cannot be successful without trust and understanding of the interests of both parties'. ‘In business relations with Poland - he clarified - it is high time to pass from just trade to the creation of joint companies and enterprises, since each side has their unique advantages which need to be effectively and profitably used'.
Anna Shlyakh, representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of youth contacts which are an essential part of manifold relations between Russia and Poland. ‘Educational and cultural exchange programmes between school and university students of both countries - she said - are becoming more and more active and helping to strengthen the trust between our countries. Both countries have passed through serious transformations over the last 20 years, and, in fact, we need get to know each other all over again'.
We must hope that such seminars continue to be held, and that direct communication will help Russian and Polish young people ensure that our countries solve very similar problems and it is better to do it not separately but together, and in an atmosphere of good-neighbourly relations.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service