Speech of Russian Deputy Culture Minister Sergey Obryvalin at First Online Meeting of UNESCO Culture Ministers

Good afternoon, dear colleagues. Greetings from Moscow!

Russia, like many other countries, has officially recognised culture an industry materially affected by the pandemic. Thus today, as never before, it is important to launch a global discussion on possible mechanisms to support this sphere and share experience.

When mass cultural events are banned, museums and theatres are stay closed, the on-line mode for all cultural institutions has become the only possible solution.

Culture.RF, the Ministry of Culture portal, with its thousands of hours of recorded films, performances, concerts, books, excursions and lectures, has become a single resource base.

All Russian theatres, museums, philharmonic societies and libraries offered virtual access to culture via this resource.

For example, the world renowned Hermitage offers absolutely unique tours and creative projects for the visitors of its Internet resources, not available during in-person visits to the museum. All options are translated into the main foreign languages, so no wonder that 20 million people enjoyed them during the past 3 weeks alone.

The Mariinsky Theatre has launched the Mariinsky On-line Project. The Russian classics has attracted the largest audience. For example, the opera Evgeny Onegin by P. Tchaikovsky gathered 1.7 million viewings within one day.

On-line broadcasts of the Bolshoi Theatre performances gather viewers from the USA, Italy, Lebanon, South Africa, Japan and other countries.

I feel compelled to speak about the role of volunteers rendering moral support to families under forced isolation. Librarians, students of Russian universities, as well as volunteers from the Russian schoolchildren movement read fairy tales to children by phone. The project was titled From Home into a Fairy Tale. All in all, digital projects for children lead in queries from the Russian audience, which makes us happy.

The Russian Ministry of Culture has drawn a detailed plan to support cultural organizations, structured their financial needs, and redistributed funds that have been released as a result of enforced cancellation or postponement of mass events now rescheduled for the next year. Together with the Ministry of Finance we are looking for ways to make compensations to museums and theatres for the shortfall in revenue from the sales of tickets.

The Russian Federation Government had issued a number of Decrees to support culture during the pandemic. Thus, it became possible for us to keep all budget funds in full allocated to our museums, theatres, concert organisations, circuses for 2020, although they will fail to attain targets set for the year.

Both the Government and the Ministry believe it vital to preserve the unique creative teams of the Russian cultural institutions. More than that, together with the Russian cultural leaders, heads of the flagman theatres and museums we have started to draw a strategic development plan for the recovery period.

This goes in line with maintaining the international cultural dialogue. For this reason, having gained support from Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of Russian President on International Cultural Cooperation, we move the initiative of a Virtual International Cultural Marathon which will engage cultural leaders of each country. The Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO has submitted an appropriate circular letter.

We are grateful to UNESCO for organizing today’s meeting.

During these are challenging times all people of our countries need strength, hope and awareness that they are not left on their own. This is exactly what culture can give them today.

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