Putin ‘State of the Union’ Address Calls for Fostering Creativity, Science, and Problem-Solving in Youth

Russian President Vladimir Putin today delivered his annual “State of the Union” address to the Federal Assembly, which he chose to focus largely on “the economy, social issues, and domestic policy,” as Putin himself stated. In its closing section, Putin also included a prominent call for cooperation with the incoming Trump administration in the United States:

“Russia is also ready to work with the new U.S. administration… Cooperation between Russia and the United States in addressing global and regional issues will benefit the whole world. We have a shared responsibility to ensure international security and stability.” Putin also stated: “We do not want confrontation with anyone. We have no need for it… We do not seek and never have sought enemies. We need friends. But we will not allow our interests to be infringed upon or ignored.”

Putin reviewed the condition of Russia’s physical economy, starting with its population and demographics, and was quite blunt about both achievements and failures. After noting that infant mortality is falling, and that more people now have access to high-tech medical services, he added: “On the whole—to put it bluntly—problems in the healthcare sector remain and there are still plenty of them. They are related mostly to the primary care level. Its development should be given priority.” He emphasized the special problems of remote areas of the country that lack access, and explained that he was emphasizing all of this in his address, so that “the whole country will now follow the issue carefully.”

Putin’s discussion of education and youth focused heavily on science and creativity:

“Our schools must promote creativity. The children must learn to think independently, work both on their own and as part of a team, address unusual tasks and formulate and achieve goals, which will help them have an interesting and prosperous life… We must promote the culture of research and engineering work. The number of cutting-edge science parks for children will increase to 40 within two years. They will serve as the basis for the development of a network of technical project groups across the country. Companies, universities and research institutes should contribute to this, so that our children will see clearly that all of them have equal opportunities and an equal start in life, that Russia needs their ideas and knowledge and that they can prove their mettle in Russian companies and laboratories.”

Putin returned to this theme: “There are several things I would like to stress. Our education system must be based on the principle that all children and teenagers are gifted and can succeed in science, in creative areas and sport, in careers and in life. Our task is to help them develop their talents. When they are successful, Russia is successful too. Colleagues, I view the young generation as Russia’s reliable foundation in a turbulent and complicated 21st century. I believe that they are able not just to rise to challenges but also to make their contribution to the development of the intellectual, technological and cultural agenda of global development.”

In a formulation reminiscent of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s discussion of the need to introduce new growth factors in the Chinese and world economies, Putin emphasized that Russia has by no means turned the corner: “If we do not address the underlying problems of the Russian economy, if we do not launch new growth factors at their full force, it will stagnate for years, and we will have to constantly scrimp and save, to delay development. We cannot afford that.”

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