Putin Offered Preview of Franco-Russian Exhibit to Mark Petersburg Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin, currently on an official visit to France, has been given the preview of a joint Franco-Russian exhibition to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian imperial capital. The project is entitled "When Russia Spoke French. Paris-St. Petersburg. 1800-1830." Vladimir Potanin, chairman of the project's Board of Trustees, as well as officials of St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum and Paris' Musee de l'Armee, showed to the Russian President a multimedia film on the forthcoming exhibition and told him in detail of its planned layout.

Mr. Putin described the project as "a nice and timely initiative," but said that, in his view, its title wasn't precise. According to him, it was the narrow circle of Russian aristocracy that spoke French, not the whole nation, as the display's title suggests. French was the language of Russian intelligentsia, he remarked.

Mr. Putin said that he would like the linguistic and cultural influence to be mutual, not one-way. He believes an appropriate environment should be created to encourage French people to study the Russian language and civilization. "But no matter what language we speak, the important thing is that we understand each other," he emphasized.

The exhibition opens at the Musee de l'Armee, in the Cour d'Honneur des Invalides, on May 20, 2003. It will be running under the auspices of the Presidents of Russia and France.

The Potanin-chaired Board of Trustees includes, among others, Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi and Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov of Russia and Dominique de Villepin of France.

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