EVENT: HERITAGE OF PRIMAKOV: Yevgeny Primakov "Spoke" in Italian
30 November 2018

On November 26, in the Italian Embassy to the Russian Federation, the presentation of a book titled “A World Without Russia? The Consequences of Political Short-sightedness” by Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov, was held. This edition was translated into Italian at the initiative of the A.M. Gorchakov Foundation for Public Diplomacy and the Eurasian Studies Institutes (SIOI) in order to give Italian readers an opportunity to get acquainted with the political and intellectual heritage of Ye.M. Primakov.

“A World Without Russia?” was first published in 2009, but remains extremely relevant today. This book is not only a brilliant study of international problems, but also a deep theoretical work, in which Yevgeny Primakov defines the basis of the modern multipolar world order and analyzes key issues, both international relations, and the internal political situation in Russia.

Greeting the participants of the event in Moscow, Special Ambassador and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Russia, Pasquale Terracciano, said, “Today we have an excellent opportunity to reflect on the conclusions and actions of an outstanding political figure in the history of Russia, Yevgeny Primakov. Here are people who had the great opportunity to communicate with him personally, and who could fully appreciate his unique knowledge and gift of leadership.”

The Italian Ambassador dwelt on several points that characterize Primakov’s personality as a politician, which is also reflected in the presented book. According to Pasquale Terracciano, during the Cold War, the United States dominated the unipolar world. The result of Yevgeny Primakov’s actions was the return of Russia to the international arena as a weighty player defending its internal interests and developing multi-vector foreign policy. In addition to Europe and the United States, countries such as India, China, and Japan began to form the concept of a multipolar world, as a counterweight to US hegemony. Translation of the book into Italian is a unique opportunity for Italian readers to understand and appreciate the depth of Yevgeny Primakov’s thinking and his take on the complex problems of the late 90s, such as the crisis in Kosovo, the threats of the Islamic world, and relations between Moscow and Washington. Analysis of these events helps to draw important conclusions. The Italian Ambassador quoted Yevgeny Maksimovich, who spoke, paraphrasing Lord Palmerston, that England has no permanent allies, but there are unchanging interests, meaning that Russia should build its foreign policy, based on the fact that it has no permanent true friends, but there are unshakable national interests.


He also noted that the studies of Yevgeny Primakov “made considerable contributions and provided fundamental assistance in understanding the complex events of the modern history of Russia.”


Professor at MGIMO (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the University of Pisa, Andrea Giannotti spoke about how the idea was conceived to translate the book into Italian. The task was not only to present work on world foreign policy, on Russian foreign policy, or on the Russian economy, but to give a hint for reflection, to provide an opportunity, especially for the younger generation, to correctly assess international policy in the system of international relations. “We can talk a lot about Primakov’s contribution as a politician and security guarantor,” said Andre Giannotti, “but I would like to especially note his prediction of the inevitability of a multipolar world pattern, his theory of multi-vector approach.” It was Primakov who defined the new rules for expanding international relations. The presented book does not speak about history as the past, rather as today's events and the future. “So today's events in Pakistan refer us to Primakov's description of the situation in the Indo-Pakistan region as a guarantor of the balance of power. We should note Primakov’s amazing ability to evaluate events – to anticipate their long-term influence and future development,”he said.  

According to Franco Frattini, President of the Institute of Eurasian Studies, he was fortunate enough to personally communicate with Primakov shortly before his death. “We met Yevgeny Maksimovich just two months before his death, he was already very weak and we agreed to a short meeting, about 20 minutes. In the end we talked much longer and more. Then I already knew not only about his books, but also about his invaluable contribution to world stability when he was foreign minister, a man who made a great contribution to the development of Russia, I knew him as an outstanding connoisseur of the Arab world and the East,” said Franco Frattini. “When I met him, I was struck by his ability to analyze problems in depth, to anticipate the development of the situation in the future. He shared his opinion about problems that no one had even mentioned. Primakov was the first to talk about a possible community of countries that subsequently formed BRICS - Brazil, India, Russia and China. He noted these countries long before the conference, which proclaimed the creation of BRICS.” Primakov also spoke of the need for Russian cooperation with India and China to maintain world stability. This repeatedly confirms his political insight. Another idea of this book, which, according to Frattini, should be noted, is that a world in which a large number of actors form a multi-vector world should not mean confrontation, on the contrary, we should feel ourselves partners. The world where one country dictates its own conditions is doomed. The multi-vector world encourages us to dialogue “on equal footing”, and to guarantee stability, it is necessary to unite different countries in different parts of the world.

Frattini noted that in their conversation he felt a great desire of an aged and ailing person to convey these thoughts to us. “Primakov told me then that Russia is a country uniting diversity and this is its strength. This is Europe and Asia, it is a union of religions: Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. He then told me one phrase, which I often recall: 'We are not all Russians, but we are all Russian.' This complex notion of diversity was explained in such an understandable way. Strength is to be found in the union of different nations, religions, and cultures. The main legacy of this outstanding thinker and philosopher is the foreign policy pursued by Russia, and I can say that this book is not a story, but today's reality. The thoughts expressed on its pages are relevant and applicable in international politics today. If all the ideas expressed by Primakov were implemented – and if this were a world free of nuclear weapons, and stability issues in the East, including the Kurdish problem – then many of today's global crises would be avoided,” Frattini said.

Advisor to the Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund, Anatoli Oryol, said: “We are going through a very interesting period now: it sends us back to the Renaissance, the time of Dante. The time of talented people who will create a new era is coming. Dante, in his Divine Comedy, notes that even Hell does not accept those who have done nothing good in their lives: 'This is the sorrowful lot of those pitiful souls who lived without knowing either glory or the shame of mortal affairs. Their memory on earth is not resurrected, and judgment and grace have departed from them, they are not worth a word — look, and pass by.'” He also noted that Yevgeny Primakov was one of those people who knew how to make decisions and take responsibility for this: “Let us recall the famous U-turn of the aircraft over the Atlantic, which has become history. With this decision, Primakov showed that the unipolar world is over, and new times are coming. Of course, this largely contributed to the strengthening of the role and authority of Russia.” The readiness to devote all his love to Russia was clearly manifested in the poetic gift of Primakov, and this is confirmed by the following lines, which Anatoli Oryol quoted:


Many times have I sinned, but never betrayed,

Neither by action, nor by way of life; my home nor people.

Often have I ridden, but never been saddled.

Nonetheless, I know how to spur a horse.


We race and race as time spurs us on.

We stumble, but they cannot judge us,

Who have never even set foot in stirrup,

And only tell everyone else how to live.

Member of the Directorate of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations at the Primakov Russian Academy of Sciences and Special Ambassador and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, Army General Vyacheslav Trubnikov also noted that Primakov’s book can be considered not history, but modernity and the future. According to him, “Yevgeny Maksimovich is with us, he continues to assert his views and fight for his position already in Italian ... The book that was chosen for translation is very significant. What Primakov wanted to convey to us is the understanding that the world has become unilateral, one-sided, unambiguous, and, as a result, shortsighted. Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov had the unique ability to listen and hear. He was a preacher who reached the hearts of the people. In our transition period, Yevgeny Primakov serves as a beacon, a guideline, whose covenants we need to follow,” said Vyacheslav Trubnikov.

At the end of the event, Special Ambassador and Plenipotentiary Valerii Kenyaikin, representing the Gorchakov Foundation, and Alexander Dynkin, Academician and President of the Ye. M. Primakov Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economy and International Relations, also shared their memories of Yevgeny Primakov.

It should be noted that earlier, on November 7, the book was presented at the University of Genoa. The presentation of the book was attended by professors, students, and researchers of the university.

All participants of the event noted that such initiatives are very important for the development of relations between Russia and Italy and welcomed the intention to organize other presentations of this book in different cities of Russia and Italy.

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