Address by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, on the occasion of the press conference of the France-Russia Year 2010

Dear Ministers,
Dear Mikhail CHVYDKOÏ, Dear Louis
Dear Commissioners,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear Friends,
Well, prince, what did I tell you? Genoa and Lucca became the
properties of the Bonaparte family. […] Sit here and talk.”
No, this is not the beginning of a BALZAC or STENDHAL novel!
Some of you, I’m sure, will have recognized that this is the beginning – in
French in the text – War and Peace by TOLSTOI, this great epic
where numerous incursions into the language of MOLIERE – like
in many Russian novels of this period – not only testify
the familiarity of Russian high society with it, but more generally
the rich, intense and profound exchanges that have developed since
between France and Russia.

The beautiful concept of “cultural transfers” highlighted by researchers
in the humanities, it seems to me that the quality of
these exchanges, of the reciprocal relationship, of which this Year crossed France-
Russia is both testimony, illustration and a new vector
looking to the future. A relationship of encounters, influences, and
correspondences – within the letter, but also Baudelairien of the term –
between our two cultures, which, beyond a geographical distance that could have
separated them, were continuously fascinated and fashioned in contact with one of
the other.

It is DIDEROT staying with CATHERINE II of Russia, the
«Sémiramis du Nord» celebrated by VOLTAIRE is the Frenchman Jean-
Baptiste Alexandre LE BLOND named by PIERRE LE GRAND Architect
general» of the new capital St Petersburg, but it is also, later,
Ivan TOURGENIEV who has a close friendship with FLAUBERT, with
George SAND and with the great singer Pauline VIARDOT. It’s Marc
CHAGALL, or Serge DIAGHILEV arrived in Paris just a
century with its Ballets Russes, which radically changed the musical landscape
by the creation of the Sacre du printemps de
STRAVINSKY, symbol of our smashing entry into 20th century modernity
century… The list of these elective affinities would be endless, even vertiginous, and
it is available in all fields: literature (with TOLSTOI,
DOSTOIEVSKI, GOGOL, PUSHKIN who was so fascinated by the
French culture that his high school friends nicknamed him “Le Français –
Frantsouz»)… and so many other authors who are part of our heritage and
our shared imagination), but also the plastic arts, music, opera, the
theater, cinema of course (from EISENSTEIN to TARKOVSKI and
SOKHOUROV). All these artists, all these works have been
mediators who have helped us to get to know each other,
made closer, more familiar, more intimate.

Many places still bear witness to our history today
I am thinking of the 60 or so Russian churches in France,
numerous associations and social works, at museums such as the Museum
TOURGUENIEV in Bougival, the Chagall Museum in Nice, that of the COUNTESS
FROM SÉGUR to Aube or the ZADKINE Museum in Paris.

That is why I am very pleased that tonight we are able to inaugurate
concert – and by a concert! – this France-Russia Crossroads Year
simultaneous development in our two countries is a first. The
presence in this salon of a large Russian delegation, but also
committed French partners, testifies to the deep attachment of
our two countries to the success of this event.

This Franco-Russian Year will be an excellent opportunity to confirm and
to amplify our cultural relations, by showing a new face of our
two countries and by going beyond the clichés, necessarily reductive, of
“the Russian soul” and “the French spirit”.
The calendar of highlights of this great event is impressive,
both by the abundant number of events and by their exceptional quality.
We owe this to the exemplary engagement and work of each of the
stakeholders, and in particular patrons: may they be here
the richness of the programming chosen by the
masterminds of this Season, MM. CHVYDKOÏ and CHIBAEFF, as well as
Mr. Louis SCHWEITZER, will allow to fully illustrate both the plurality of
our respective cultures and their intertwining.
I am particularly pleased that many of the Department’s institutions
Culture and Communication are engaged in projects
ambitious in France in Russia, which I am sure will meet all the
they deserve and will mark our memories in the long term. I think
the wonderful exhibition dedicated to Holy Russia, which will be
hosted by the Louvre Museum, the masterpieces of the Picasso Museum
will travel to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, or to the great tour
of the Comédie-Française which will lead it on all of Novosibirsk and
Kaliningrad. I would like to thank very warmly each of these
institutions, and many others, for the considerable efforts they have
dedicated to this meeting.

This France-Russia Year was obviously not to remain focused on
the only capitals. We have ensured that it is deployed on the whole
from Paris to Nice, via Bordeaux, the Kremlin-Bicêtre
and so many other cities, all of France will welcome Russian culture – from
French initiatives will be present throughout the
Russian Federation. Thus, our respective cultures will truly
meeting of each of the Russians and the French, and inviting themselves to their homes.
Cross-views on the world and history, “transfer” of cultures and
sensitivities: our two countries will have the opportunity to
another culture of a particularly intense life, in order to explore and feed on it
throughout the year. This presence of thousands of artists and
on both sides of the Urals, this dialogue between

especially between their audiences, will constitute, for France as for Russia,
A real rejuvenation bath.
He will return tonight to Salle Pleyel, Valery GERGIEV and his
Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, to open, with the brilliance and warmth that each
knows them, this new chapter in our interwoven stories – a little
like the beginning of a Franco-Russian novel…

Thank you.