On November 16-18, the Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum took place in the Northern capital of Russia, for the first time since 2019. This year, it was heralded as the United Cultures Forum, thus proclaiming the new format of the country's central event in the area of culture. In three days of this momentous assembly, 32 business program activities took place across the Forum venues and 23 agreements were ratified. The milestone event was the Plenary Session where the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took part. And the Forum’s ultimate outcome was the unanimous adoption of its declaration.
Staged at the Hermitage General Staff, the activities of the Forum’s business program gathered 1,340 participants: prominent artists and cultural activists, heads of cultural and educational institutions, non-profit and international organizations, leaders of businesses, representatives of Russian regions and members of 51 official foreign delegations led by 34 national ministers in the area of culture. The summit participants and speakers represented 92 states of the six continents — Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
"The millennial history and experience of our nation convincingly demonstrate that cultural diversity is the greatest blessing of all, and the interaction of cultures is one of the prerequisites to sustainable and peaceful development, since among the key reasons for the contemporary global tensions are the claims of individual forces to exclusiveness, including cultural exclusiveness, their disdain for other ways and traditions, spiritual values, their ambition to subject everyone and everything to uniformity, complying exceptionally with their own guidelines that they deem best suited for all. Such sweeping globalization and, should I say, cultural invasion had resulted in the suppression and degradation of cultures multiplying the potential for conflicts many times over. We are confident that the future lies in the free, multifaceted and variegated development of cultures, in the broadest dialog of all human-centered communities of the nascent multipolar world of today. And the way I see it, the Forum of United Cultures is aimed at becoming part of such dialog," President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin stressed in his address to the Forum participants.
Aspirations for the multipolar world and recognition of the paramount importance of every culture were manifested by the participants of the 9th Forum — heads and members of foreign official delegations, members of international organizations, the professional community in the area of culture — in the unanimously endorsed Declaration of the United Cultures Forum, intended to establish a collective international infrastructure required to uphold national branches of culture and arts of the Forum participating countries, and to ensure the growth of their multifaceted cultural cooperation. The signing of this Declaration crowned the global summit.
Cultural sovereignty as the basis of state identity was the principal subject of the meeting of the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Olga Lyubimova with the heads of official Forum delegations that was attended by representatives of around 40 countries, including member countries of the CIS, BRICS and SCO.
The hopes for equal dialog and expanded cooperation in the area of culture were also proclaimed in a series of agreements ratified at the Forum. Thus, among the 23 agreements, most notable are the interdepartmental documents on bilateral cooperation signed by Olga Lyubimova and the heads of the relevant ministries of the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Djibouti, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, the State of Eritrea and the Republic of South Ossetia.
The plenary session with the participation of the Head of State was followed by the closing meetings of nine thematic Forum sessions that took place at the General Staff Building of the Hermitage and the Saint Petersburg State Capella Concert & Exhibition Hall on November 16-17. The summary of each session's work was presented to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Chair of the Forum Organizing Committee Tatyana Golikova by the session curators: Russian Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova ("Theatre"), Deputy Head of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science Konstantin Mogilevsky ("Discovering History through Culture"), Director General of the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives Roman Karmanov ("Artificial Intelligence – A Menace Or A Boon To Culture"), Director of the Russian Museum of Ethnography Yulia Kupina ("Traditional Culture As a Basis for Developing Human Society"), First Deputy Director General of ITAR-TASS Mikhail Gusman
("Media Culture"), Chair of the Board of Directors of "Lenfilm" Studios Fyodor Bondarchuk ("Cinema"), Director General of the State Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky ("Museums"), Director General of the Saint Petersburg State Capella Concert & Exhibition Hall Olga Khomova ("Musical Culture"). The outcome of the "Business Culture" section led by the Chair of the State Development Corporation "VEB.RF" Igor Shuvalov were summed up by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy.
While opening the meeting of curators, Tatyana Golikova remarked that the primary goal of all discussions was 'to get closer to envisaging that "image of the future" which not only Russia but the entire planet is now searching for. Today we all witness dramatic changes in international relationships. These changes shape up a new demand from the countries of, as they term it now, the "global South", to bolster up collaboration in the area of culture — in order to safeguard their own cultural sovereignty, their global outlook and, fundamentally, their image of the future.'
The closing event of the Forum's business program was the ceremony of presenting the first Hermitage Award in the area of culture and arts to the Artistic Director of the State Academic Mariinsky Theatre Valery Gergiev and the Artistic Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre's ballet company Juan Ignacio Duato Bárcia, known to the general public as Nacho Duato.
In the course of the ceremony staged at the St. George Hall of the Winter Palace, Tatyana Golikova accentuated the great significance of the event: 'This hall was chosen not by accident. This is an important place in Russia steeped in momentous historical events. By deciding upon it we wished to stress how much we treasure our culture, history and legacy. Today is the final day of the 9th Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum. Yet for us this Forum is the first of its own kind, as it were, since it was hailed the Forum of United Cultures and delivered its Declaration. In spite of sanctions and imposed restrictions, culture knows no limits. So it was, so it is and so it ever will be!'
Pictures of the Forum events are available for use in the Photo Bank.