When the Volunteer Service at the State Hermitage was founded in 2003, the museum began the tradition of celebrating International Volunteer Day.
Every year on 5 December, the museum honors its gracious helpers by presenting them with a celebratory program.
This year, the event was held in the Restoration-Storage Center “Staraya Derevnya.” At the beginning of the ceremony, volunteers warmly acknowledged the deputy director of the State Hermitage V.U. Matveev, who has curated and supported the volunteer service program since its inception at the Hermitage. In his speech, Director of the Historico-Informational service, Iu.Z. Kantor called the volunteers the museum’s “Ministry of Special Occasions.” In the spring of 2015, the museum instituted a separate department for volunteer work with M.Iu. Kozhukhovsky at its head. The speakers also thanked the ceremony’s honorees for their help in the realization of the numerous special projects during 2015.
The Restoration-Storage Centre gave the volunteers an exciting excursion in two languages. At the culmination of the ceremony, the best volunteers of 2015, representing more than 10 countries, were given awards. They each received certificates and commemorative gifts.
On the threshold of the New Year and as an introduction to 2016 as the Year of Film in Russia, a selection of short films showing the Hermitage through the eyes of its volunteers were presented to the volunteers and other guests of the event, among them volunteer organizations from Moscow. Volunteers in different countries had sent in recorded video-messages with congratulations and warm wishes in several languages that were also played at the celebration.
In addition to the amazing jazz atmosphere provided by the concert put together by Evgeny Solovyev, Liubov Ivanova prepared delicious Bashkir national dishes.
The Volunteer Service is an organisation where citizens from various countries, hailing from all corners of the globe, come together to work in harmony. For them, there are no borders, and people’s convictions are not obstacles, but add to the richness of the cultural melting pot which is the organisation; nor are there any imagined conflicts. Sadly, this is not the case everywhere. This cruelty and brutality is incomprehensible in the eyes of the Volunteer Service. Those who see beauty, cannot fathom the destruction of such history and wonder! Those who know how to love, cannot comprehend the inhumanity!
Grief has no nationality; and sorrow has no borders…
The 4th Annual Volunteer Forum “Dobroforum 2015” was held on 20 and 21 November 2015. Per tradition, the State Hermitage sent a team of international volunteers as a delegation to the forum. The 24 Hermitage volunteers representing 15 countries not only colorfully described their work at the Hermitage, but also shared about their experiences in the volunteer sector in their own countries, participating in workshops and in lively discussions about different ways of running volunteer work. The Head of the Volunteer Service, Mikhail Kozhukhovsky, gave a presentation about the increase in the qualifications of volunteers and about his methods of training them, based on his many years of experience working at the State Hermitage.
The Volunteer Service, created at the Hermitage in 2003 in honor of the 300-year anniversary of St. Petersburg, today constitutes one of the oldest volunteer organizations in Russia.
The projects of 2015 have been bright highlights in the cultural fabric of life in St. Petersburg, and the Volunteer Sector at the State Hermitage was once again nominated for the most “Effective Volunteerism,” a designation which it has received each year consecutively since 2013.
Governor of St. Petersburg Georgii Sergeevich Poltavchenko opened the forum with words of support for the participants. The Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Engagement, S.V. Pospelov, and the Chairman of the Committee for Youth Politics in Saint Petersburg, R.Iu. Abdulina spoke about the important role of volunteerism, and together with delegations from volunteer unions and chairpersons of city and federal regions participated in various sectors of the forum.
The II All-Russian Volunteer Forum took place in Moscow on the 3rd and 4th of November, 2015.
At the forum of active citizens “Community,” more than 3,500 representatives of non-profit organizations, civic activists, volunteers, and representatives of businesses and government agencies from all over Russia gathered in Moscow. Never in the modern history of Russia has the subject of volunteering, and the civil activism associated with it, been given attention at such a high level.
On the third of November, honorary guests, representatives of federal authorities, and regional leaders visited different work sites relating to eight areas of volunteering: social, medical, event-focused, cultural, corporate, inclusive, Victory volunteering, and emergency volunteering. All of the participants were able to learn the stories of successfully completed projects in the fields of volunteering and patriotic education, projects by the largest NGO’s, and were also able to participate in dozens of workshops and discussions on interactive platforms.
Since 2003, the State Hermitage Museum has actively participated in the development of the volunteer movement. Because of this, the organization and supervision of “Cultural Volunteering” was entrusted to volunteer director M. Y. Kozhukhovsky.
Mikhail Kozhukhovsky moderated a discussion on the “Role of Volunteering in Culture and Educational Activities”, which several distinguished guests attended. The guests included the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, Advisor of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Tolstoy, Director of Museum of Contemporary History of Russia Irina Velikanova, and representatives from museums, artistic associations, and volunteer organizations. While speaking about the role of volunteer groups, the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinsky, stated that the Agency intends to help volunteers in organizing cultural activities throughout the country. During this event, representatives of the state participated in lively and heated discussions. The Presidential Cultural Advisor, Vladimir Ilych Tolstoy, expressed concern over the dangerous precedent set by the arrest of a library director in Moscow and expressed his hope that professionals will not suffer because of their professional activities.
As a result of the productive discussions at this site, as well as the work of the different groups there, proposals for development and volunteering in cultural and educational activities were collected and a draft was then prepared by those present to be sent to the federal authorities and presented to the President.
On the 4th of November a ceremony took place to award prizes in several categories to the best volunteers in the country: “Promotion” – for contribution to the development of event volunteering; “Mercy” – for contribution to the development of medical volunteering; “Enlightenment” – for contribution to the development of cultural volunteering in emergencies; and the special nomination “Victory-70” – for the contribution to preserving the historical memory of the country.
To recognize the importance of volunteer work, and active citizens, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, arrived on the 4th of November, National Unity Day.
“It’s very important for any country and any people, and especially for a country as diverse as Russia, with its multiethnic and multi-religious composition, to remember what triumphs and tragedies occurred and when. If we look at the history of our country, we see that when we were united, we always achieved brilliant victories. Therefore, it is important to be aware of ourselves as one people, despite the diversity of our country”, – said Putin, congratulating all the participants on the holiday. In his speech, the President spoke about the need to support public organizations, noting “they better understand the people and more effectively handle the needs and requirements of them than government organizations.” Addressing the representatives of the non-governmental organizations, volunteer movements, as well as youth and student associations of the country, Vladimir Putin expressed his gratitude for their work, which made an impact “in his heart”.