23 January 2018
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Ambassador's Notebook: The Role of Traditional Values in Contemporary Society

Recently, the role of moral values in society has taken center stage in public and political discourse. Increasingly, their status as “universal” is being questioned and core fundamental concepts are being given new, sometimes contradictory interpretations.

A clear distinction must be drawn between those indisputable values by which, for centuries, mankind has been guided in its journey of self-development, and the ultraliberal trends which flourished in the early 21st century.

The collapse of the USSR and the socialist bloc in the late 1980s took the Western academic community by surprise. It also led to the disappearance of the bipolar political and ideological structures that had stabilized international relations throughout the 20th century, paving the way for the triumph of neo-liberal paradigm. This latter was the only game in town for some time, much as the "unipolar moment" had been. Some more idealistic researchers even started to talk about the "end of history," meaning the end of the historic creativity of man and nations. In this regard, I cannot help but refer to the interpretation of the "end of history" by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams in his book "Dostoevsky."

The euphoria in international relations was short-lived, because of the experience of the first decade of this century, and then the global financial and economic crisis. This suggests that talk of the "end of history" usually heralds serious upheavals.

Neoliberalism prompted a number of profound shifts in social development, largely endorsing principles such as political correctness and the dictatorship of the minority. A “permissiveness” inherent in this trend led to some traditional values shared by an often acquiescent majority being squeezed out of the public discourse.

It is worth noting that the distinctive features of this particular take on liberalism included zero tolerance of dissent and radical approaches to imposing this view, often with the government’s active support. One cannot help but recall how nihilism, even as materialism taken to absurdity, locks human nature within a consumerist framework. George Orwell gave a convincing description of where this kind of social engineering can, potentially, lead.

Here I would like to quote the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address to Russia’s Federal Assembly. He said that "attempts by the government to encroach on people’s beliefs and views are a manifestation of totalitarianism" and "law cannot instill morality." But this is exactly what is happening now, even though it is formally denied.

As a result, the erosion of this cultural and moral social environment began in the replacement of its fundamental concepts. And all this is happening at a time when the role of religion has been on the rise world over, including in Islamic countries. At the heart of the issue lies the search for a common denominator between cultures and civilizations which is essential for better mutual understanding in the modern world. As Madeleine Albright wrote in her book "The Mighty and the Almighty" (2006) all "should equally refer to such transcendental issues like history, identity and faith.” All the more so, since "the three monotheistic religions provide a rich tradition of overlapping principles, ethics, and beliefs."

I believe that perceiving society as a purely socio-mechanistic structure, ignoring its more subtle moral and spiritual nature, can have fatal consequences for that very society’s life and, indeed, its future.


17.01.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the unveiling of memorial plaque in Sayes Court Park

Dear Mayor, Dear Councillors, Lady Joan, Ladies and gentlemen, It is now 320 years ago that a truly remarkable man set foot in Deptford. As you know, the Russian Tsar Peter, later named the Great, visited Western Europe in 1697—1698 under the nickname of Peter Mikhailov, with his Grand Embassy. He was eager to find out about the latest achievements in science and technology and create new diplomatic alliances. Of course, England couldn’t escape his attention. He mostly studied shipbuilding at the famous Deptford Dockyard, but he also met King William III, and, reportedly, Isaac Newton. Peter’s landlord, the famous John Evelyn, was also a respected scientist – a founder member of the Royal Society.

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.

08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)

25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.

20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation

25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.

23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.

12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.

14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?

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