Valdai International Discussion Club
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The Valdai International Discussion Club is an international framework for the leading experts from around the world to debate on Russia and its role in the world. It was set up in 2004 by the Russian news and Information Agency “RIA Novosti”, Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and Russia Profile magazine.
The club’s mission is to create an international framework, where representatives for the Russian elite could debate on the development of the country and its role in the world with leading foreign experts.
The club’s main goals are:
- to create an international venue where foreign experts could receive information about Russia and Russian society from reliable sources;
- to demonstrate the diversity of social and political views on key issues in domestic and foreign policies;
- to give international experts an opportunity to meet with top Russian leaders.
The club unites leading foreign experts and journalists who analyze Russia’s politics, economy and culture. Permanent international members form the club’s backbone. Different foreign experts are invited every year. Russian members include political scientists, economists, journalists, public figures and policymakers with different views on events in Russia and abroad, and also representatives of executive and legislative power.
The club owes its name to the location of the first meeting, which took place on Lake Valdayskoye, at the Valdai holiday hotel, on September 2, 2004.
The club’s first conference “Russia at the Turn of the Century: Hopes and Realities” was held on September 3–4 in the city of Veliky Novgorod. It consisted of five discussions devoted to Russia’s domestic and foreign policies, economic development, defense and security and humanitarian problems. To demonstrate the professionalism of Russian regional executive government, the club organized a meeting with Governor of the Novgorod Region Vladimir Prusak. This started the tradition of holding some sessions in one of Russia’s regions and meeting its governor.
The club convened its second meeting “Russia in 2005 – Political Kaleidoscope” in Tver in September 2005. The main aim was to show the diversity of Russia’s political and socio-economic landscape and a wide range of expert opinions.
By virtue of many objective and subjective factors, Russia has again found itself in the focus of global history. Democracy or autocracy, a new Cold War or continued international cooperation with respect for mutual interests, a deadlock in the political development or regrouping of forces, return to the traditional model of government – these and other questions were on the agenda. Club members voiced very different views – from pro-government to opposition.
Governor Dmitry Zelenin hosted the meeting in Tver and told them about his region.
The club’s third conference in 2006 “Global Energy in the 21st Century: Russia’s Role and Position” was devoted to energy security – the main issue on the agenda of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. Its meetings took place in Moscow and Khanty-Mansiisk. The club members met with executives from Gazprom and a number of Russian oil companies, and top officials from the Ministry of Industry and Energy and the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power. They also visited Russia’s major oil-producing region – the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area in Western Siberia, where they met with its Governor Alexander Filipenko and learnt about local social projects and the work of one of Russia’s key oil-producing businesses – Yuganskneftegaz, a subsidiary of Rosneft.
In 2008 Tatarstan hosted the conference. This republic is one of Russia’s most advanced economic, scientific and cultural centers, and a vivid example of a multi-religious community. In Tatarstan, RIA News presented Russia as a versatile and dynamic country with centuries-long history, inhabited by people of different religions and nationalities. In Moscow, the guests were invited to meetings with decision-makers, where they had the opportunity to discuss parliamentary elections'07 and the 2008 presidential race. One of the founding members of the club, the historian Michael Stürmer used his interviews with Vladimir Putin conducted during the annual meetings of the club as the basis of his 2008 biography of Putin.
In 2009 the Valdai Club went to Yakutsk, a city 9,000 km (5,600 mi) away from Moscow and the capital of the largest subnational administrative territory in Russia and the world – the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The area of 3,100,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi) is populated by less than 1 million people.
48 experts from academic, media and political background from Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA will debate the topic of Russia and the West turning round the last years’ trend of the souring relations with 33 leading Russian experts.
Four panel discussions - on withering prospects of the New Cold War, new mutual challenges, as well as the potential of the “reset” with the new US administration and the new European security architecture – will take place in the picturesque vastness of the Yakutian landscape.
The participants will then head back to Russia’s capital – Moscow – for the traditional rendezvous’ with top Russian representatives from the government, the business and the society to express their concerns and opinions and get up-to-speed to what the Russian elites think.
- Dmitry Kosyrev. Experts on Russia held second session of the Valdai Club // Johnson Russia List, September 6, 2005
- Nicolai N. Petro. Russia at the Crossroads // Russia Blog. September 21, 2007
- Nikolay Petrov. Valdai Voodoo. Moscow Times. 16 September 2008
- Ariel Cohen. Valdai Club highlights Russia’s modernization dilemma // Business New Europe, September 15, 2008
- Dmitry Kosyrev. Valdai Club: a diplomatic marathon // Moscow News, 19.09.2008