In Memory of Yevgeny Primakov

29 june 2015

Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Resume: In many respects, Yevgeny Primakov shaped the political philosophy of modern Russia's foreign policy, a country which is both the successor of multi-century history and a new state born in the breach of the old model.

Throughout the long years of his diverse career, Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov did so much that listing all his deeds alone would take pages. For those engaged in international relations in Russia, Yevgeny Primakov had always been setting the benchmark, a professional standard. The figure is unique in many aspects, but one of the most important features is the combination of enormous practical experience, deep academic knowledge and theory-based understanding of patterns in the development of the world system. Orientalists have fair reasons to consider Primakov to be an outstanding member of their scientific school. However, it is more important that he had a complex vision of the global picture, anticipated the trends in the development of the world as a whole and assessed prospects and opportunities of his own country.

In many respects, Primakov shaped the political philosophy of modern Russia's foreign policy, a country which is both the successor of multi-century history and a new state born in the breach of the old model. He understood that in such complicated data dogmatism was out of the question, requiring a flexible approach. One that would combine tradition and innovations, the ability to stay firm on the national footing formed by generations, and change together with the rapidly developing world. Yevgeny Primakov had to actively engage in nation-building at the most complicated times: from the beginning of the swift fall of the USSR to the equally grave crisis of Russia in the late 1990s. Besides the applied contribution he made to smoothing the critical situations and then overcoming them, Primakov's conduct and style were always reassuring that the calamities were temporary, that Russia had always been, is and will be a great state with its own interests and principles.

Primakov was an embodiment of statesmanship in the best sense of the word, active patriotism without exaltation and bombastic rhetoric, and national dignity on the world arena. He made a significant contribution to the development of the academic school of foreign political realism, which had always been the basis of the Russian outlook on the world. Primakov was the one who served as a living illustration for the term "healthy conservatism", which has nothing in common with the bellicose obscurantism, cynicism, dogmatic dedication to truths perorated once and for all. Common sense and understanding of the importance of morale in everyday life and politics were the underpinning of Primakov's approach to state affairs, science and personal relations. As any experienced politician, Primakov realized the inevitability of maneuvering and compromise. His views were not always appealing to everyone, but he could not be blamed for inconsistency - the integrity of his outlook and approach did not change.

Those lucky to communicate and work with Yevgeny Primakov understand that his death is a grievous loss. But the heritage he left will retain its value for long, especially in the age of uncertainty and doubt that the whole world and Russia are entering.

Valdai International Discussion Club

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