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City news, 30.09.2003 16:17
Governor-General of Canada became honorary doctor of St. Petersburg Institute of MinesGovernor-General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson who arrived in St. Petersburg as part of her state visit to Russia has become an honorary Doctor of the St. Petersburg State Institute of Mines.
The degree was awarded to her upon the decision of the academic council of the higher educational establishment for a considerable contribution to the formation of conditions for the state policy in the sphere of mineral raw materials and metals.
The Institute awarded the decree of honorary Doctor to me - a citizen of a different country, and to a person who received an education in the humanities, this honour is of particular importance to me, Clarkson said at the ceremony.
According to rector of the Institute Vladimir Litvinenko, the decree of Doctor was awarded not simply to the leader of a country but to a person who strives to make the economy in the field of natural resources work for society.
The ceremony took place in the assembly hall of the senior college on Tuesday. A Doctor's mantle, a diploma, a golden badge of the Institute of Mines, and a reward weapon were presented to the distinguished guest.
The state visit of governor-general of Canada Adrienne Clarkson will end on October 1.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Speech on the Occasion of a Doctor honoris causa from
St. Petersburg State Mining Institute
St. Petersburg, Tuesday, September 30, 2003
I'm deeply honoured in receiving a Doctor honoris causa from your remarkable and venerable institution, founded by Catherine the Great.
As the oldest technical institute in Russia, you have sought in your 230 years of existence to be in "readiness to serve the fatherland ... for the sake of its benefit ..." And you have adhered to this admirable precept right up to the present day.
I know that you, Rector Litvinenko, have shown great leadership in making the Mining Institute one of this country's most innovative and leading-edge institutions, while maintaining its reputation for academic excellence. You stand in a long line of distinguished figures who have presided over this institute, from the moment of its creation onwards and over the centuries.
Remarkable figures in history establish a tradition which helps succeeding generations to uphold ideals. This is no less the case with remarkable figures in the academic and pedagogical world.
Mikhail Lomonosov, who was educated and taught at the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences more than a generation before the State Mining Institute was founded – and who specialized in mining and metallurgy – was one of those great leaders. Not only was he a scientist of innovation and repute, he also wrote a grammar that helped to reform the Russian literary language, invented a new system of metre in poetry, revived the art of Russian mosaic and stained glass. Pushkin said that Lomonosov combined "formidable willpower and the formidable strength of perception [embracing] all the branches of learning. A thirst for a deeper appreciation of things ... with that impassioned spirit."
This Renaissance man helped Russia in its aspiration to greatness, because he attached importance to the creation of a system of higher education in Russia. He dared to change his own country and, through that, to have a national, indeed universal, influence.
It has been said that Russian literature "begins with Lomonosov; that he was its father and nurse; he was its Peter the Great." In dreaming of a Russian literature, a truly Russian literature and a truly Russian science he created the spirit which this Institute carries forward in its theory and its practice – that is, the aspiration to the highest ideals. A humanist spirit that finds itself most richly expressed when literature and science are linked as sides of the same coin. A spirit that suffers when one is subjugated fully to the other.
In the past half century, we have seen a blending of science and humanism through the accelerated rise of unprecedented technology. Whether science and humanities are closer together or not, it is a fact that our minds are able now to encompass both even if the understanding between them is not as great as we might hope.
Today, your institute is giving an honorary doctorate to a foreign citizen, but one whose humanist education makes me deeply appreciative of this honour.
My own education at the University of Toronto in Canada was a thoroughly humanistic one, emphasizing literature, history, philosophy and fine arts. At that period in the '50s, we were very concerned with the division that existed between humanism and scientism. We were very concerned that they would be two solitudes and that they would not come together.
After 1957, when Russian scientific advances put Sputnik into orbit, we realized that you were capable of spectacular leaps forward. You made us aware that we had to test ourselves and push ourselves. Science became very important, and we knew that we had to strive for technological excellence.
I was brought up in a tradition of excellence and a striving for excellence – though it was not in science, but literature. I was influenced by teachers like Northrop Frye, perhaps the greatest literary critic Canada has ever produced, who told us that sophistication is simply "the ability to encounter culture with the minimum amount of anxiety." The lessening of anxiety is broadly what an education brings to a human being. If you are not anxious, you can strive for excellence, because the only thing that matters is contributing to the best that is known and thought in the world.
Russia has made a remarkable contribution to the best that is known and thought in the world. It shows in an Institute like this one, which, over many years, has creatively advanced the study of the earth sciences. It shows, spectacularly, in Russia's scientific and technical achievements which so startled and excited the world at the dawn of the space era a half-century ago.
But Russia has also made a last, and equally spectacular, contribution to the best that is known and thought in the world through its cultural artists. From the mid-19th century onwards, this contribution just pours forth in an amazing flow of cultural genius. Just think of the outstanding artists, musicians, writers and film-makers you produced from the time that Pushkin helped to perfect your literary language. Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Malevich, Eisenstein. They are all a source of wonderment to us.
These are the great cultural figures given to us by Russia. And you did so through a century and a half that itself has borne witness to social upheaval, political strife and repression. If there really is something called the "Russian soul", these artists express it. And this is recognized by people who cannot understand a word of Russian and must depend upon good translations to gain access to your written and spoken word.
But that soul had had its own ambivalence in whether to turn west or not. In this glorious 300th year of the foundation of St. Petersburg, we are all even more aware that Peter the Great turned Russia towards the west at the mouth of the Neva with great deliberation. An act made eternal by Pushkin's words:
"Here we at Nature's own behest
Shall break a window to the West,
Stand planted on the ocean level;
Here flags of foreign nations all
By waters new to them will call,
And unencumbered we shall revel."
Would that the English language could capture the beauty of Pushkin's language!
But this would not be without an ambivalence – which we see depicted in the recent film of Alexander Sokurov, The Russian Ark. In it, the Hermitage is used as the basic metaphor for the embracing of the West – and an ambivalent feeling about the Russian place in it.
This constant referral to the Russian soul and looking towards the West is a question that, to this day, has not been totally resolved. Maybe it will not be resolved entirely. But it is this ambivalence which creates the inner tension that produces great art. It is this which launches deep explorations of the most intimate realms of our humanity, our innermost being, our spirituality.
There have been times when that humanity was under threat through ideology. To me, one of the symbols of the quest of ideology to break the human spirit is in the treatment of books and writers and scientists. And even in the days in Russia when the humanist legacy was overshadowed by demands of ideology, the flame illuminating literature and science may have flickered.
But it was never entirely extinguished, because the deep humanity of what is Russian could not be banished or annihilated. Maykovsky prophetically said:
"Finding by chance,
in barrows of books
where verse lies buried,
the iron lines,
but terrible weapons."
Terrible weapons, indeed, when in the hands of great poets and writers and artists. For such artists can withstand the effort of censorship through their works – even at the cost of their health and their lives. As Anna Akhmatova said: "... there is no power more formidable, / more terrible in the world, / Than the poet's prophetic word."
Nor did exile stop them having their lasting voice heard through the ages – Lermontov, Mandelstam, Brodsky. In your scientists like Sakharov, in your writers like Pasternak, the deep Russian humanity lived on, even if freedom did not.
Now there is a different Russia, a Russia seeking its future in its own ways. Brodsky said in his Nobel acceptance speech: "Beginning a poem, the poet as a rule doesn't know the way it's going to come out. And at times he is very surprised by the way it turns out, since often it turns out better than he expected, often his thought carries further than he reckoned. And that is the moment when the future of language invades its present."
I think of Russia today as having its future invading its present. And that is what makes it exciting. And that is why we are very happy from Canada to be witnesses to this in the short time of our State visit. We know we are in a city that Dostoevsky called "the most abstract and artificial city in the world". But that abstraction is what makes this place particularly magical and makes us understand how it was dreamed into being. Where, it has been said, "every stone here is a chronicle/unto itself".
We have come to you to discuss what the North means to both our countries because we share that North with you and Russia accounts for fifty-five per cent of the land and eighty per cent of the population of the circumpolar North. Of the eleven cities of over 200,000 inhabitants north of 60, ten are in Russia. This we Canadians are learning.
We feel that we have been very shaped by our North even if a relatively small percentage of our population gets to visit or live there. That's what we want to know about you – how you've been shaped by these human and physical facts. And that is why it is a good thing to think of the North – as our poet, Pierre Morency says – "not on a compass but in us". It is a good think to think about the North when one is in St. Petersburg looking out towards the West.
I believe in the dream of nature and the North in our Canadian psyche. Our 'vision of the imagination' includes our North, even if we have never gone there. We know the North is there, just above our heads on the map, but in our heads imaginatively. It fulfills and describes that archetypal image which all Canadians have and which they respond to – or try to deny. But denial of the North is a form of self-contempt that is extremely puzzling and terribly depriving. We should glory in our snow and cold. It has rendered us into very hardy people who also have a sense of including and looking after others. It is what helps to give the Canadian spirit its life, its expression, its uniqueness. Which is why we have come to the Russian North, to explore our similarities and learn from each other.
We've returned from Salekhard, where modern and traditional ways of life interact in ways that are sometimes very similar to what we have seen in Canada. The North is not a place to be preserved and insulated from the rest of society and from modernity, as a kind of ethnographic or anthropological museum. There is wealth in natural resources in the North, much of which lies in the ground and must be extracted to be of industrial use. This you know so well at this Institute, the repository of so much expertise and knowledge of the physical makeup of Russia, especially the North, and of what lies beneath its soil and its waters.
Yet it seems desirable for the future of our societies and of generations to follow us that we cannot, nor should not, be indifferent to the lives and welfare of indigenous peoples and the health of the natural habitat in the North. Canadians and Russians are both blessed with lands that are simply irreproducible in beauty and life, and if would be to our enduring shame if we despoiled this wantonly.
And doubly so if we today have increasingly the technology available to reduce and control the negative impact of large-scale industrial and extractive activities on the land and on its traditional uses. It's certainly within our imagination – and within our reach – to practise a form of economic and social intervention in the North that involves the participation of the indigenous peoples – who, after all, have much more experience and knowledge of preserving and sustaining their habitat.
This, to me, is the new humanism of the North – the dovetailing of our vision of the future with the possibilities that technology can offer.
That is why I am pleased that today the Canada Room is being inaugurated in this prestigious Institute. The equipment there can assist exploration and earth sciences research with little or no disturbance to the natural environment. Which is particularly important in ecologically sensitive areas such as wildlife habitats or the High Arctic with its fragile tundra. And it demonstrates the possibilities that Canada and Russia have in developing applied technology together – a dream which gets much of its inspiration, I know, from Rector Litvinenko.
In Salekhard, we saw what happened when humanism deserts us. Looking at the small, dilapidated cabins and wooden huts, with the barbed wire still visible through the overgrowth, of Construction Camp 501, we were reminded of what can happen to societies whose capacity to feel, to understand, to respect the reality of others has been beaten out of them.
But we also saw in Salekhard a view of the northern Urals and Northwest Siberia, and the potential that this area has, for its inhabitants, its indigenous peoples and for people of the region. It gave me an entirely new idea of what Siberia means, not only physically but also to the imagination. Perhaps looking to the North for you will also be a freeing action.
Both our countries have, in our own ways, had to overcome the idea that we were going to dominate and tame the North. Too often, those of us living in the South of our countries have treated the North merely as a source of wealth from natural resources, rather than engaging fully with our North as an integral part of our countries and societies – an integral part both intellectually and physically. However, I think we're all learning that this exploitative relationship will not work in the long run. We are realizing that we must strike a new balance between the needs of industry and the needs of ecology and traditional life.
We hope that Canadians and Russians can learn new things from one another about what this new balance might look like – and how it could come from integrating the North into our imagination, into our consciousness, into our applied methods and theories. Perhaps by listening to what we are telling ourselves in the North, perhaps by listening to what those who live there, work there and seek to earn their living there tell us, we will be able to hear better what the North can tell us. And come to understand the words of one of our poets of the North, Henry Beissel:
"The Arctic circle
is a threshold
in the mind,
not its circumference.
where all parallels
to open out ...
into the mystery
I hope that, through our discussions with each other – not only on this State Visit but also subsequently – we will be able to explore together the new humanism of the North. To rediscover how important the North is to us as people and as societies.
It won't be easy. There may be entrenched views against such an exploration. But I know that this Institute, with its long history of excellence and achievement, can play a role in the exploration – in the mind as well as out in the field – of how science and art come together in today's North. It's an effort that will require courage, no doubt. So what better encouragement could we want than that we find in the words of a poet of the Mining Institute, Alexander Kushner: "Here is courage. And here snowstorms swirl. / Here, enveloped in shivers, are these lines."
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