This event has not been signalled on any of the mainstream media -- nor even on the blogosphere. As I wrote yesterday, International Youth Festivals began in 1947, largely at the instigation of the Soviet bloc and its sympathizers in the United Nations. It is ignored in the US (as was May Day, the worldwide worker's holiday, until Latino-Americans imported it from the struggles in their home countries). This year is not the year when that could change, given the hysterical Russophobia that has taken hold in the US.
The most important thing about this particular edition of the festival is that it has been organized by a man who is demonized by the American political class, but who generates global enthusiasm, especially among young people: he seized 'the moment' which has probably lasted a year or more, given the complexities of organizing this week-long event far from the Russian capital.
Thanks to the Russian President's website http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news I will be able to report on daily events in Sochi. By doing this I hope ot show how different the Russian President's style is from that of Western leaders, which should in turn explain his popularity. Here are the two speeches he gave on the opening day: see if you can imagine his words in any Western leader's mouth:
Let me welcome you all at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students, a forum of the planet's youth, the most comprehensive one in history.
Some 30,000 participants, guests and volunteers from more than 180 countries across all continents have gathered here in Sochi. including young people from all across the vastness of Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
The first festival took place seven decades ago. Back then, young men and women just like you were united by the power of dreams and the belief that young people and their sincerity and kindness can break the ice of distrust and help rid the planet of injustice, wars and conflicts.
Back then, young adults of your age achieved a lot. They proved that barriers have no power against true friendship and that the warmth of human contact does not yield to political, ethnic, religious, cultural or any other differences.
Our country is proud to have hosted this world youth festival twice. In 1957, the 6th festival was warmly greeted by all the people of Moscow. In 1985, Muscovites gathered on the city’s streets and building rooftops to cordially welcome the guests of the 12th World Festival of Youth and Students. Now you can experience the hospitality and openness of the sports capital of Russia, the city of Sochi, a city of Olympic brotherhood and hope. Five rings, just like the five Festival chamomile petals, have become a symbol signifying the solidarity of all the earth’s continents.
I am certain that young people of all countries, nationalities and faiths are united by common feelings and values, by their yearning for freedom, and their hope to achieve happiness, peace and accord on our planet. By a desire to create and achieve greater things. And we will make every effort to ensure you achieve success.
The energy and talent of young adults possess astonishing power. Younger generations always bring innovative ideas to the world. You strive to try new things, engage in debate and display your ability to disagree with the status quo and how things are done.
Be bold. Create your own future. Strive to change the world and make it a better place. It is all in your hands. Just be sure to never look back. Meanwhile, the festival brotherhood will certainly help you bring your boldest and best dreams and plans to life.
I declare the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students open.
I wish you a happy journey!"
Later in the day, Vladimir Putin held a dialogue with participants:
"I have already seen some of you on stage today. Each of you has had an interesting life. Even though you are young, you have already achieved something in life as you have shown your worth, conducted yourself with dignity, benefiting both yourselves and the people around you. This is how it always goes: when you live and work for the benefit of others it always pays off in spades, as they say; this approach will always benefit you, stimulate, help you develop and make you more successful and evolve as an individual, and will open many doors for you.
First, I would to welcome you and express my hope that you will like it here in Sochi, in Russia; I hope you meet interesting people just like you and learn how they live and what they strive for and what they can offer, so that you can compare their experiences with your own abilities and plans. I would very much like it if you were to receive fresh ideas in this connection, which would inspire you to move forward.
I want to thank you for coming here and to express my hope that this event will leave you enriched with additional knowledge and experiences, including an opportunity for you to experience Russia firsthand.
Our country is very wealthy, I mean primarily in terms of its culture, religion and traditions. We do not even know the exact number of ethnic groups living in our country – some say there are 160, others say 190. This is a true melting pot of cultures, history and religions, as all these people live together in a single country. There are many countries that have people of different ethnicities and languages, and we have representatives of such countries here today. Russia may not seem unique in this regard – but it is unique because our country has always been highly tolerant of other cultures, languages and faiths. It began its path as a multi-ethnic country and its underlying foundation has always been respect for its neighbors, for other nations, ethnicities, languages, cultures and religions. This has always been a fundamental part of the development of the Russian state.
It would be a great pleasure for me were you to feel this special atmosphere in Russia during your visit and then take these emotions back with you, and not just to keep, but also to maintain these new contacts and ties, which, I am sure, will be beneficial to you as you advance and progress further – not in your personal development, as I think you are accomplished individuals already, but in achieving new milestones and reaching new heights."
One of the. themes of the Sochi Festival is the future of technology, and the first person to speak was Afroz Shah, a young lawyer and environ-mentalist and environmentalist from India.
Afroz Shah: "Very good evening to you, President Putin. It is a pleasure and an honor to meet you. I work in a sector, which is long forgotten in my country, picking up garbage from the ocean.
Mr President, we are all aware that marine litter is like a big problem. I needed to react to it. And I did not know how to react because I work as a lawyer in a court in India. We have seen laws in motion, policies in motion, regulations in motion. And I as a lawyer felt there are too many of them. What was required was ground action. And there seemed to be too few activists in my country. So I said I am going to use my two hands as my best tools. What a policy would tell you to do or what a law would tell you to do or what a court order would tell you to do I started doing before the court.
And I came to understand that if young people or people on the ground start to take care of the ocean as they should we will have a better and healthier ocean. What we do when we want to participate in a democracy is we vote and we pay our taxes. And after that we wait for our governments to act, saying that protection of the environment is the job of the government and the courts. But I think otherwise: We have litter and I am responsible for it. The state of this planet is my doing.
And I am a firm believer in what the great leader Mahatma Gandhi said. You do not need an NGO; you do not need a bank account. You can be the change yourself. This is how it should be, from bottom to top. It is an illusion to wait for policies to come, for regulations and laws to take effect. The laws, policies and regulations are supplements. They help to push the masses. But those who throw plastic into the ocean must be fully responsible for the protection of the environment. And that is what I do in Mumbai, cleaning up lakes, rivers and the ocean.
It is becoming a mass movement that gives a sense of belonging to our planet that we had lost. Our homes are our homes, our cars are our cars and our assets are our own assets, but when it comes to the environment, we just type on Facebook and Twitter. This is the problem now, and we do not know how to react to it. The solution is that everybody must put their hands to it. I always tell people: you have 168 hours in a week. Two hours you must commit to the environment, to connect and get back the sense of belonging that we have lost.
The fact that we are throwing plastic or litter into the ocean is the result of a mindset. This is not mine, but if you had to sleep on a bed full of plastic you would be horrified. You would make sure that everything is cleaned up. That approach must be applied to everything around you, your neighborhood, your ocean, your forest or your mountains. By cleaning the ocean we are doing precisely that. and what we want is to change our mindset.
People who are throwing plastic, litter, solid garbage, liquid garbage will have to come onboard and understand that this is not only the job of the government. We have to get connected there with a sense of belonging. This is what goes through my mind when I work there in Mumbai. And hopefully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is backing me. I am loving it and I want my whole country to be clean, I want the oceans of the world to be clean and I am working for that.
Thank you, President Putin, for giving me an opportunity to be here. I must thank the organizers as well. They have been brilliant, I have been here for three days and I have never seen such zeal and energy that I see here. And hopefully, I will take a lot of it back to India."
Vladimir Putin: "To begin with, I am sure that you are aware of the special, trust-based friendly relations that have developed between Russia and India over the decades. I have very good relations with the Prime Minister of India. I know that he is concerned about the environment, and therefore you will certainly rally his assistance in this matter.
This is a growing problem, and it turns out that it does not have a simple solution, because environmental issues, including transitioning to the best modern technologies, are far from simple because the introduction of modern technology calls for additional funding. Many countries, and particularly the developing economies, may not have these funds. This is the first element.
Secondly, unfortunately, to transition to modern technologies corporations must be forced to adopt these new technologies. This means that, first of all, the introduction of these technologies can cause many people to lose their jobs, and they should be offered new jobs. In other words, we need to consider how to assist these people in finding new employment. Secondly, we will have to divert resources to implementing these modern technologies. The companies say that this is an additional burden, which they may be unable to shoulder amid economic difficulties. Therefore, governments have to choose between contradictory decisions.
Ultimately, the future belongs to progress, and modern or cutting-edge technologies will eventually increase productivity and improve the environment in which we live.”