Le College de France
Speech at 'Delivering the 2006 G8 Agenda' final international NGO conference
Thank you for the invitation. I hope that the presidents are listening to us. I have always believed that in order to work together, you have to know your partner well.
Your NGOs do important work, developing projects in the political and economic arenas of G8 countries charged with working together.
It will not be easy for us to sign a contract at this time. It is always possible to find lower prices somewhere else. In order for a contract to function effectively, links must be in place between countries, which in turn depends on countries' levels of interest in one another. This refers not only to economic interest, but also to culture, traditions, language and way of life.
Have you ever thought of suggesting that before coming to meet with President Putin, the G8 members reread War and Peace, Dostoevsky, or Gogol, or of sending them translations of these books? Have they ever listened to Tchaikovsky, or seen Russian ballet? We know, after all, that man does not live by bread alone.
We began asking ourselves this question in the early days of Perestroika, when we aimed to attract investment. At that time we were not thinking about Russia's energy resources, or about its industrial capabilities.
When we saw Andrei Sakharov awarded the Nobel Prize, we believed that the most important things were education and character-formation. We planned the creation of Russia's first two western universities – the French university colleges in Moscow (as part of Moscow State University) and Saint Petersburg (also as part of the state university). It was here that young Russians opened up a whole world of new knowledge that was not accessible to them in the Soviet era.
15 years ago, these 2 French university centres in Russia received official status, thanks to a bilateral agreement concluded between President Gorbachev and the French president. The agreement was later renewed by Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin.
Four majors are offered to our students: sociology, law, history and literature. They enter our colleges after 3 years' study in Russian universities, and receive diplomas equivalent to those given out by major French universities.
Our students refer to their colleges as their own 'Sorbonnes', on the Moscow and Neva rivers, respectively. 20000 diplomas were given out at degree ceremonies last year.
When we first met with President Gorbachev, he told me: “You will make Perestroika happen in Russia's universities”. And we kept our promise: we established new working practices in universities, and new forms of relations between students and lecturers.
Today it is time to move up to the next level. We must help our students to become the kind of specialists that President Putin needs in order to modernise and democratise our state structures; specialists with knowledge of France, Europe, the whole world.
Starting this year, at our colleges we have introduced a Master's diploma course in sociology. We also plan to introduce similar degrees for our other majors.
We have been contacted by the Ekaterinburg authorities with regard to opening a French university college there, and we plan to do so early next year.
I would also like to establish a Russian university college in France, at which French students could study Russian culture and the Russian language.
Similar steps should also be taken in other G8 states. Otherwise the agreements reached between heads of state will remain as agreements on paper only.