Distinguished Members of the Federal Assembly, Citizens of Russia, In this Address of 2005, I will dwell on a number of fundamental ideological and political issues. I believe such a discussion is essential at the current stage of Russia’s development. The most important social and economic tasks facing us, including specific national projects, were set out in the previous Address. I intend to elaborate them in the coming Budget Address and in a series of other documents. At the same time I would ask you to consider last year’s and this year’s Address to the Federal Assembly as a unified program of action, as our joint program for the next decade. I consider the development of Russia as a free and democratic state to be our main political and ideological goal. We use these words fairly frequently, but rarely care to reveal how the deeper meaning of such values as freedom and democracy, justice and legality is translated into life. Meanwhile, there is a need for such an analysis. The objectively difficult processes going on in Russia are increasingly becoming the subject of heated ideological discussions. And they are all connected with talk about freedom and democracy. Sometimes you can hear that since the Russian people have been silent for centuries, they are not used to or do not need freedom. And for that reason, it is claimed our citizens need constant supervision. I would like to bring those who think this way back to reality, to the facts. To do so, I will recall once more Russia’s most recent history. Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups — possessing absolute control over information channels — served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere. Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system. But they were mistaken. That was precisely the period when the significant developments took place in Russia. Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years, the people of Russia had to both uphold their state sovereignty and make an unerring choice in selecting a new vector of development in the thousand years of their history. They had to accomplish the most difficult task: how to safeguard their own values, not to squander undeniable achievements, and confirm the viability of Russian democracy. We had to find our own path in order to build a democratic, free and just society and state. When speaking of justice, I am not of course referring to the notorious “take away and divide by all” formula, but extensive and equal opportunities for everybody to develop. Success for everyone. A better life for all. In the ultimate analysis, by affirming these principles, we should become a free society of free people. But in this context it would be appropriate to remember how Russian society formed an aspiration for freedom and justice, how this aspiration matured in the public mind. Above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power. Achieved through much suffering by European culture, the ideals of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy have for many centuries been our society’s determining values. For three centuries, we — together with the other European nations — passed hand in hand through reforms of Enlightenment, the difficulties of emerging parliamentarism, municipal and judiciary branches, and the establishment of similar legal systems. Step by step, we moved together toward recognizing and extending human rights, toward universal and equal suffrage, toward understanding the need to look after the weak and the impoverished, toward women’s emancipation, and other social gains. I repeat we did this together, sometimes behind and sometimes ahead of European standards It is my firm belief that for present-day Russia democratic values are no less important than economic success or people’s social welfare. First, every law-abiding citizen is only entitled to firm legal guarantees and state protection in a free and just society. And, no doubt, safeguarding rights and freedoms is crucial both to Russia’s economic development and its social and political life The right to be elected or appointed to a state post, as well as the opportunity to use public services and public information, must be equally available to all the country’s citizens. And any person who breaks the law must know that punishment is inevitable. Second, only in a free society do economically active citizens have the right to participate in a competitive struggle as equals and choose their partners, and earn accordingly. The prosperity of every individual should be determined by his or her labor and abilities, qualifications, and effort. Everyone has the right to dispose of what he or she earned at will, including bequeathing it to his/her children. In that way, the observance of principles of justice is directly connected with the equality of opportunities. And this in turn must be guaranteed by no one other than the state. Third, the Russian state, if it wants to be just, must help its impoverished citizens and those that cannot work — the disabled, pensioners and orphans. These people must live a decent life and the main benefits must be accessible to them. All these functions and duties are directly invested in the state by society And finally a free and just society has no internal borders or travel restrictions, and is open to the rest of the world. This enables citizens of our country to fully enjoy the benefits of human civilization in its entirety, including education, science, world history and culture. It is our values that determine our desire to see Russia’s state independence grow, and its sovereignty strengthened. Ours is a free nation. And our place in the modern world, I wish to particularly emphasize this, will only depend on how strong and successful we are. I dealt at such length with these key and on the whole general concepts to show how these principles must be reflected in our daily work. I think these activities should be pursued as a minimum along three lines: first — measures to develop the state; second — strengthening the law, developing the political system, and making the judicial system more effective; and, third — developing the individual and civil societyas a whole. First, about the state. You know that in the last five years we have had to tackle difficult tasks to prevent the degradation of state and public institutions in our country. At the same time, we had to create the foundation for development in the next few years and decades. We cleared the debris together and gradually moved ahead. In that sense, the stabilization policy was practically a policy of reaction to the accumulated problems. This policy was, in general, successful. However, it has reached the limit of its effectiveness. It must be replaced with a policy oriented towards the future. And for that, we must have an efficient state. However, despite many positive changes, this key problem has not been solved so far.