Treasures of the Past and Present. A discussion on the role of UNESCO in the modern world was held in Kazan

The Imperial Hall of the Kazan Federal University hosted a panel discussion under the framework
of the 14th International Economic Forum “Russia-Islamic World: KazanForum”.

The discussion focused on the issues of world heritage in socioeconomic development: the role of world heritage sites in developing tourism, improving the quality of life, achieving sustainable development goals as well as the impact of world heritage sites on the economic and investment attractiveness of countries and regions.

The discussion was attended by foreign delegations from member states and observer countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which included Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Russian Federation, representatives of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, ministers of culture, secretaries-general of national commissions for UNESCO, and directors of world heritage sites.

The program of the two-day event was opened by rector of the Kazan Federal University Lenar Safin. In his welcoming speech, he emphasized that cultural heritage is one of the most significant aspects of human life since it contributes to the formation of the creative potential of the

world society and serves as a source of inspiration and evidence of a particular cultural era. Lenar Safin also noted that Tatarstan is constantly working on the preparation and inclusion of new sightseeing objects in the List of World Heritage Sites.

“Recently, the researchers from the Kazan Federal University and the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan prepared a nomination file for the inscription of the university astronomical observatories on the World Heritage List. This is a product of extensive scientific research. Our republic is on its way to becoming a constituent region of Russia with the largest number of unique monuments,” noted Lenar Safin.

The presidium of the first day of the discussion included Aleksandr Alimov, the Director of the Department for Multilateral Humanitarian Cooperation and Cultural Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Shamil Gafarov, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan — Chief of Staff of the Office of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan, Farid Mukhametshin, the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, the Chairman of the Commission of the Council of Legislators of the Russian Federation on International Cooperation, and Dmitry Tayursky, the First Vice Rector for Research of the Kazan Federal University. On the second day of the event, the presidium consisted of Dmitry Tayursky, and Tatiana Dovgalenko, Secretary-General of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO.

Rinat Alyautdinov, the Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, addressed the participants of the discussion with an online greeting. He noted that the objects of the World Heritage List have not only universal value but also regional specificity, and this cultural diversity should be seen as a guarantee of the prosperity of mankind.

Since Tatarstan has vast experience in restoring and preserving cultural monuments, considerable attention was paid to this issue during the discussion. Mintimer Shaimiev, the State Counselor of the Republic of Tatarstan, joined the online discussion and spoke in detail about the major project on restoring the ancient monuments of Muslim and Orthodox civilizations that took place in the 2010s. He noted that the idea of cultural and historic heritage preservation struck a chord with people of the country. The towns of Bolgar and Sviyazhsk were restored with the help of the people from across the country. The Republican Fund “Revival” received money from people of all ages, occupations, and religious affiliations, and from companies with various degrees of income and success. Some contributed 10 rubles, while others undertook turnkey restoration projects with respect to specific sites. By transforming the appearance of the historic towns, people transformed themselves into humans with a strong sense of spirituality.

“Our republic is home to over 170 ethnic groups with different religious affili-ations. And it is only natural that our development model is based on reconciling different cultures and religions and maintaining public and inter-ethnic stability. Admittedly, our civilizations have a different understanding of human nature, but they acknowledge the ultimate dignity and spirituality of human beings. What matters is the single foundation on which we can and will build our future,” said Mintimer Shaimiev in his video address.

In turn, representatives of foreign states spoke about their experience in preserving and promoting cultural heritage sites. Among them were Diallo Kadia Maiga, the  Secretary-General of the Mali National Commission for UNESCO, Kanokwali Suriyatham, the Director of the Ban Chiang National Museum (Thailand), Berlian Helmy, the Deputy Head of the Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Indonesia in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

The two-day discussion resulted in a resolution summarizing the ideas on the role of cultural heritage in the sustainable development of regions, which the participants exchanged during the event.

Tatiana Borisova