On 4th December, the auditorium of the main building of Voronezh State University housed a round table discussion European Identity and Political Challenges that was held within the Seventh Framework Programme project European Identity, Cultural Diversity and Political Changes, EUinDepth. Among participants of the event were Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, his Excellency Vygaudas Ušackas, acting Head of the EU-Russian Cooperation Programme Nicola Scaramuzzo, Counsellor of the political section of the EU Delegation to Russia Piet Blondé, seniour management, professors and students of VSU.
"It is interesting to hear from you how different EU countries and Russia are. It will help us understand and promote our mutual interests. The fundamental principle of all EU countries is sharing common values, i.e. European identity principles. This idea is counterbalanced by the principle of cultural diversity. We represent unified EU opinion on basic issues that are a part of our identity. Our countries have common opinion, mutual responsibilities, common values and mutual respect. It is the state that is the people’s servant and not the other way round. We have a well-proven history of our countries economic integration – we have no borders, we have freedom of trade and investment. But all this is possible only if we share fundamental values. On the other hand, we have cultural diversity. Each country has its own approach but when negotiating we always try to reach agreement. This is the fundamental cultural principle," – said his Excellency Vygaudas Ušackas.
Director of International Project and Programme Centre Alla Akulshina talked about the EUinDepth project. Then the participants of the round table proceeded to the discussion European and Russian Identity – Russian and EU Vision.
The first person to discuss this question was director of VSU library Arkadi Minakov who gave a talk on Russian identity issues in today's political discourse. He explained mechanisms that form national identity and described the approach to the problem that has developed in today's Russian political and academic discourse.
Russian history is full of significant details. In the 18th century it chose to develop towards Europe. That was not an easy choice – it gave rise to many contradictory processes that emphasized its sensitivity. Arkadi Yurievich said that Russia and Europe have common roots and language origins. However, there are differences that can not be ignored. This is a national identity issue.
"The issue of National identity is highly significant, yet very controversial. And the role of the state is of great importance. It can be concluded that contemporary Russia is a state which is trying to find its way and is at the bifurcation point. Obviously an EU-Russia relations crisis intensifies national identity. Russia is very protective of its sovereignty but when it comes to science and academia there is no division here, we are all cosmopolitans, it is very important to be open, to cooperate and communicate" – emphasized Arkadi Minakov in his speech.
Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology and Politology at the Faculty of History Olga Sidenko gave a detailed talk on Russian identity issues and controversies. She illustrated it with results of recent sociological surveys carried out by the analytical centre Levada-Centre. Olga Anatolievna showed that, according to a survey, Russian citizens have chosen three possible development approaches for Russia: the European approach, the USSR approach and its own unique approach. She added that according to a survey the country is experiencing cultural division.