Preserving the Russian language and culture are at the core of the Russian media congress currently underway in Israel. The powwow has brought together about 400 journalists from over 50 countries.
The opening ceremony of the XII World Congress of Russian Press took place on Sunday in Tel Aviv – the second largest city of the country where up to one fifth of the population speaks Russian. Editors and journalists of media outlets writing in Russian from former Soviet republics, the US, Australia, Poland, Peru, Vietnam – almost from all around the world – have arrived in Israel for the five day event. Problems, tasks and the role of the Russian press in the 21st century are at the core of the congress.
Underlining the importance of the gathering, President Dmitry Medvedev greeted the delegates in a letter saying that “The event makes a big contribution to building stronger professional contacts, helping our compatriots abroad to preserve their spiritual ties to their historic homeland, and spreading Russian language and culture.”
The number of ethnic Russians who live outside the country is actually larger than the entire population of the Russian Federation. It is estimated that over 200 million people dispersed across the world following numerous shakeups in history of the country, such as the revolution in 1917, the subsequent civil war, the Second World War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Israel has become home to many Russians and former Soviet citizens of Jewish origin who immigrated to the state either for political reasons, or simply seeking better living conditions in the 1970s-1990s.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the high-level guests attending the opening ceremony of the Russian Press congress.
“I really love and appreciate Russian culture and Russian people,” he said addressing the audience. “I appreciate the historical connection between our cultures and peoples, which is growing stronger year after year, and has every chance to become even more solid in the 21st century.”
In addition to developing bilateral economic ties, the Israeli premier also stressed the necessity to stop the spread of “radical Islam”.
“This ideology threatens both us and you. Not long ago there was a bloody terrorist attack in Moscow and we share your grief,” he said as quoted on the website of Russkiy Mir (Russian World) foundation – one of the organizers of the event.
Ukraine is the country with one of the largest Russian-speaking populations on the territory of the former USSR. President Viktor Yanukovich also sent his greetings to the participants of the congress and even suggested that the next gathering would take place in the Black Sea port of Odessa, the vice head of the presidential administration Anna German said. She promised, as cited by Voice of Russia, that the Russian language will be given strong state support in Ukraine.
German, a member of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, stated that voters in Ukraine supported them “exactly because we believe that Russian culture, the Russian word, the Russian language – as well as languages of other peoples living in Ukraine – should develop equally with the Ukrainian language.”
However, it was just until recently that the situation was completely different. Under the previous president – Viktor Yushchenko – the rights of Russian speakers, which constitute up to 50% of the entire population, were often violated. The situation still remains worrying in some other states, which are former republics of the USSR.
Lately an issue of heated debates – attempts to rewrite the truth about historic events – has been brought into the spotlight once again at the congress in Tel Aviv.
“Your meeting is taking place as we celebrate the 65th anniversary of our Great Victory. This has been a central theme for numerous Russian-language publications, and we cannot overestimate their role in ensuring objective coverage of the events of World War II and resisting attempts to falsify history. It is our common duty to defend the truth about the war,” says the letter by President Dmitry Medvedev which was read out to the delegates by the head of the Administration Sergey Naryshkin. “I am sure that your work and the results of the media event underway now will help to keep developing international information and humanitarian cooperation.”
Naryshkin underlined that “65 years later in each page of the war’s history, we are obliged to be able to realize its warnings, remember how the war was unleashed, see the danger in the claims of some countries for domination in the world, ideas of racial exclusive nature and religious extremism.”
Premier Netanyahu, for his part, said that “it is possible to understand those Russian-speaking people, when they encounter the attempts to undermine the contribution of the Red Army in the victory over Nazism.”
“If the Nazis had won, all Jews would have been killed at least in the eastern hemisphere,” the premier said as quoted by Itar-Tass. “Therefore, we as the Jews and just intelligent people are very grateful to the sacrifice committed by the Red Army and the Russian people.”