Presentation by President V. Putin at meeting of representatives from Northern Territories in Russia

Salekhard, Center of National Cultures
April 2 004

Distinguished Friends!

Efforts to study and search for solutions concerning the North of Russia have already started yesterday. I am pleased to have the opportunity to meet representatives of various organizations and associations , and with all those who care for the Russian North. But first of all I want to thank the “northerners” for their efforts , their creativity and of course their persistence , because by not giving in to the extreme conditions , you are working for the good of your country and are achieving success.

At the Presidium of the State Council yesterday , we discussed the type of state policy best suited for the conditions we now face in the North of Russia: a policy capable of satisfying the needs of the day and in turn will make it possible to bring to light the potential and competitive advantages under new social and economic circumstances.

We talked about the great abundance of natural resources and the spacious territory, in other words a unique chance and significant means for a long-term ascent to be felt not only in the northern territories of Russia but throughout our entire nation, while at the same time promoting sustainable development of the northern regions, and an increase in the well-being of the millions of people residing here.

It goes without saying that it has never been easy to inhabit the northern corners of our country: north is north and the numerous problems we are faced with such as the state of the health system, education, and housing systems are felt even more severely here in view of the specific character of nature and climate in comparison to other regions in Russia. They are simply more difficult to resolve.

We are also aware of the disparity in our complicated demographic processes, the inconsistency within the labor market, the biased development in the economy, crises in vulnerable ecosystems. All these subjects were the topic of our discussion yesterday.

It is quite obvious that these existing problems cannot be eliminated solely by redistribution of finances even though this also is a problem to be reviewed separately. And our task is to arrange the work in such a manner that even while the state provides the required forms of state support, new solutions based on effective market mechanisms will be sought. Not only our own experience but international experience is witness to the fact that such solutions are possible and they exist. I also know that there are many who are occupied with this matter in the regions of the North. We have just been to the data bank with the governor at the center where the entire data on the NAO is stored using computer engineering. A praiseworthy model to be copied by other regions in the country.

I also want to say that if we want to achieve economic development, the federal authorities must first cope with the infrastructure problems in the northern territories . This is indeed a long-term project. Already at this stage, together with the regions we must start looking for mechanisms capable of providing the population in northern territories with access to the blessings of civilization. There must also be a guarantee that competent and qualified services are available to provide the population in the northern territories with access to all the material wealth of civilization and which ensures them an opportunity to make use of competent and qualified services in the social, transport, medical and educational spheres.

People living and working in the North must not feel cut off from the country – these people must have a bright outlook, and not just for themselves, but also for their children.

A system is required that operates based on diverse forms of production implemented using natural resources. This kind of policy is directly connected to creating new jobs. At the same time care must be taken to maintain the ecological balance of the northern flora and fauna. We are well aware of its vulnerable nature.

Another question which worries the “northerners” is state guarantees and compensations. We spoke of this also yesterday in great detail, and not without becoming emotionally involved.

The government will continue to execute the social responsibilities it has previously taken upon itself. I should like to confirm this. This deals rather with housing subsidies, “northern” pensions and wages, state housing certificates, and relocation? repatriation? programs in northern territories .

The time has come to renew our economic and legal foundation, the traditional ways of making a living. For the indigenous peoples of the North this is not just a production method it is the basis of their spiritual being, the very social and economic structure, a preservation of a unique culture of the indigenous peoples of the North. It was a pleasure for me to take a look around one of the settlements. Representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North live there, not far from Salekhard. I must say it was enjoyable to see one of these settlements and how people live in them. Hopefully this was not the only such settlement of this type in the North. We do not have the right to allow the original, national and cultural wealth of all the peoples living here to be lost.

Once again I must emphasize – as I have so often stated – that Russia ’s greatest wealth is not even oil and gas but the versatility inherent in the cultures of peoples of the Russian Federation .

I presume that now it is of utmost importance to use the possibilities of the Institute for Territorial Self-governing of the Indigenous Peoples of the North. A basis for this development has been put into the new legislature on local self-government. The municipal establishments will play an especially significant part in the development of the economic, cultural, social and communal spheres. And really, the preparations for this crucial task need to start locally.

We arrive at the final decisions concerning these questions. Not everything has been carried out in full, and here I agree with the leaders of the regions, but in the long run it is we who must make the final decision.

In conclusion I want to emphasize once again: the Russian North that is our enormous and common wealth. It is a our common heritage that will be of service to our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.

And that is why we must not only use it carefully and in a calculated manner but also strive to augment it.

Finally, the North has always been a sort of rating system for courage, partnership and mutual cooperation. In this place people lived and worked side by side in peace and friendship regardless of the many nationalities and religions. It pleases me to see also at our conference representatives of the most varied confessions. I am quite sure that with such valuable human capital we can achieve very , very much. And in particular let us help the Russian North so that they may obtain a new license for their development.

Thank you for your attention. This is all I wanted to say at the beginning of today’s meeting. I am convinced there will be many interesting presentations.
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