February 25, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Elena Kobyakova


Summary of the XII Congress of the Universal Russian National Sobor (Assembly)

The XII Congress of the Universal Russian National Sobor (Assembly), held in Moscow on February 20-22, has attracted attention from major Russian media. Detailed coverage was provided by Vesti, a round-the-clock political TV channel, as well as Culture TV.

The Universal Russian National Sobor (Assembly) is an international public organization, established in 1993. Its annual congresses are dedicated to particular problems of the Russian civilization. Last year's event was focused on the problem of poverty. In this year, the organizers selected the title "Future Generations: Russia's National Endow".

The Sobor's events involve state officials; political leaders; senior clergymen; scientists, scholars and artists; delegations of Russian communities from near and far abroad.

Unlike the Davos Forum, the Universal Russian National Sobor summons not only experts in particular issues. The Sobor's congresses combine expertise with a nationwide discussion, serving as a site for dialogue for all of the responsible thinkers of Russia, and for elaboration of the strategy of national development. The Sobor provides a possibility to express views on Russia's future not only for scholars and officials but also to ordinary people – individually, or through public associations.

Though the Sobor is officially chaired by Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexius II and is therefore erroneously believed to be a clerical organization, only five of 26 panel meetings of the XII Congress were focused on religious issues.

According to the Very Reverend Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchy's International Office, the XII Congress involved a remarkably broad circle of participants: experienced scholars and teenagers, writers and political analysts, clergymen and futurologists, journalists and specialists in computer games. "Our task is to unify people who have various priorities in common life, who actually speak various languages and think in a various ways, but are indifferent to the prospects of Russia, perceiving them as the essence of their life and the backbone of their personal prospects", said Very Rev. Vsevolod.

At the press conference of the organizing committee, Very Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin emphasized that URNS's XII Congress is to respond to the challenge of today, urging the elder generation to find common language with the youth in order to build the country's future in accord.

After the opening ceremony, the official greetings from the President of Russia conveyed by his District Representative Georgy Poltavchenko, the keynote speech was delivered by Metropolitan Kirill, who addressed his bright and inspiring speech to the young generation of Russia. In his turn, Metropolitan Laurus, chair of the Episcopal Synod of ROCOR, spoke about the relationship between the unified Russian Orthodox Church with the young generation of the Russian diaspora. After that, the floor was given to young delegates from a variety of Russian regions.

The first day of the Congress became a real festival of creative thought of Russian youth, expressed in a multitude of exhibitions. A collection of youth artistic projects was accumulated by means of a competition launched in advance under the title "Russia's Image of Future as Seen by the Youth". In this way, the organizers mobilized young talents for creative activity for the sake of the nation, for the continuity of Russian tradition, and for development of a genuine civic society in Russia.

The young generation of the country has thus demonstrated its huge creative potential which can be used for constructive national objectives and for the development of the fair aspect of the human personality – as opposed to the primitive instincts which postmodernist art parasitizes upon.

On the second day of the Congress, the discussion was continued in 26 panel meetings that included the hearings of the Youth Generation's Doctrine; the Forum of Students' Scientific Associations; the conference of volunteer movements; The Word and Image conference under the auspices of the Russian Writers' Association; The Delphic Games; The School of Students' Professionalism, as well as a variety of round table meetings focused on artistic and musical pedagogy; expression of the national tradition in children's art; development of culture of Russian speech; modern fantastic literature; computer games as a factor of education; the role of Orthodox schools in public education. While the Pilgrimage Center of the Moscow Patriarchy hosted the International Forum of Orthodox Youth, cosmonaut Sergey Krikalev convened a seminar on youth science and technology at the Moscow State Technical University (the Bauman University).

More events were focused on youth centers of spiritual and moral development, and on physical culture and sports.

Two projects of the Russky Predprinimatel Foundation (Russian Entrepreneur Foundation) were in the focus of discussion on the second day of the Congress.

The "Young Age Plus" Manifesto, authored by culturologist Roman Bagdasarov and political scientist Alexander Rudakov, was addressed to the Sobor's young participants and, generally, to the intellectual and moral vanguard of Russian youth they represent.

Avoiding hortative didacticism, the authors express their view in a language of emotionally saturated images and symbols, intending to initiate a dialogue with the most responsible, thinking and mature element of the nation's young generation.

This appeal to the Russian youth, styled as a computer strategy, represents an attempt to outline a system of historiosophical and socio-cultural references the young generation is confined to, and to identify a set of strategic tasks that the Russian young people should be ready to solve today, with regard of the socio-psychological characteristic of youth as a unique stage of human development. Unity of Russian generations, as an indispensable condition of inheriting historical experience, is the keynote idea of the Manifesto.

Totaling all the pluses of the Congress, Metropolitan Kirill expressed special gratitude to the Manifesto's authors for the authors of "Young Age Plus" for the literary form of the document.

"The Doctrine of Russia's Young Generation" is a document creatively developing the ideas of "The Russian Doctrine", a book issued by the Russky Predprinimatel (Russian Entrepreneur) Foundation in 2005. After "The Russian Doctrine" was presented at the Sobor's XI Congress (August 20, 2007), the Sobor's Board proposed to initiate a public discussion of the ideas of national development, including transformation of the state system and economic strategy, outlined by the authors, and particular, to elaborate a blueprint of youth policy for the Russian state.

In his speech at the discussion, Metropolitan Kirill emphasized that the blueprint of the Young Generation's Doctrine is going to play a very significant role in shaping ideas of the youth and in outlining the Government's youth policy. "We live in the postmodernist era which challenges the basic values of historical civilizations", Most Reverend Metropolitan said. "At such a period of time, any policy which is not based on axiology is doomed for a failure. In the times of confusion of concepts when even the idea of universal truth is put under question, it is essential to substantiate any strategic and tactical planning with a clear understanding of the goals: for the sake of what, for which purpose and on what kind of basis this planning is going to be implemented".

Philosopher Vitaly Averyanov, the coordinator of the project, emphasized that the mankind is facing a competition of projects of global development, and that the Russian youth has to be intellectually and morally equipped for such a contest. Unfortunately, the generation of their parents lacks authority and does not provide sufficient examples for the youth which has to look back at elder generations, Averyanov indicates.

The discussion of the Youth Doctrine's blueprint was focused on the task of overcoming the gap between generations that emerged from the loss of spiritual and moral landmarks in early 1990s.

The list of speakers included Most Rev. Mark, Orthodox Archbishop of Germany and Britain; Right Rev. Theophanus, Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz; Ivan Ilyinsky, Head of Moscow Humanitarian University; Valentin Lebedev, chair of Union of Orthodox Citizens, as well as the co-authors of "The Doctrine of Russia's Young Generation" and the "Young Age Plus" Manifesto.

In accordance with a special resolution of the Congress, the Russian Universal National Sobor established a Youth Council that is going "to explore and accumulate all kinds of new intellectual and humanitarian initiatives, to propose a vision of national youth policy, a strategy of moral revival, qualitative education and innovative growth spawning new patterns of life on the groundwork of national tradition". The Summary of the Congress states that the historical mission of Russia's new generation is to re-establish the "disrupted connection of epochs".

The concluding panel was inspired with pathos of struggle for the Russian youth, of the essential necessity to liberate it from the erosive patterns introduced by the globalization's mass culture. The discussion involved prominent clergymen as well as state officials and public activists. The co-authors of the Youth Doctrine, Vitaly Averyanov and Roman Bagdasarov, were also given the floor.

The XII Congress of the Universal Russian National Sobor adopted the Resolution of Unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, saying, in particular: "On the 1020's Anniversary of Christening of Russia, we express our commitment to keep the treasure of the historical fraternity of Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and other peoples of Rus that had derived spiritual enlightenment from the Dnieper Laver of St. Prince Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles".

The Congress also adopted a memorandum dedicated to the current events in Serbia. The Sobor urged the politicians and intellectuals of the world to support the Serb minority of Kosovo, and warned the Russian people of secessionist implications of the Kosovo pattern in particular regions of Russia.

Resuming the event, Very Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin concluded that the broad and comprehensive public discussion of the problems of Russian youth has poured new blood into the vessels of the Sobor, proving its efficiency in organizing people around the task of revival of Great Russia. He emphasized that the Congress also illustrated the flourishing variety of civic initiatives, refuting the generally accepted impression that civic society does not exist in Russia.

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