Ambassador George F. Kennan's Remarks at the Kennan Institute's 25th Anniversary Dinner, October 4, 1999.
REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR GEORGE F. KENNAN
AT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE KENNAN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED RUSSIAN
WOODROW WILSON CENTER
OCTOBER 4, 1999
Ladies and Gentlemen, I had not planned to say very much on this
evening, and it's a very good thing that I had not planned it, because
I could not picture this myself.
I'm absolutely overwhelmed by this occasion, by the number of my good
friends, old friends, valued friends whom I see around me and, of
course, by the tribute given here to the Kennan Institute.
Yes, it was about 25 years ago, a group of us were disturbed at that
time, because we felt that Russian studies were entering into a period
of decline and there didn't seem to be anybody who could really do
anything about it, and we decided to set up an institute which would
be as we then said a 'center of concern for the study of Russia' all
over this country.
And we -- for various reasons, it was decided to set it up here in Washington. It was run pretty much along the lines that we thought it was going to be, and they proved to be sound. But the institute also turned out to have results, advantages which we had never even imagined or pictured at that time.
Something was needed here that this institute met. It met the challenge that was everywhere around. Well, I can only say I can't speak of it as it is today. It's some time since I've seen it; but one of the bases behind these reasons I mentioned for setting it up: the need for concern. There was a recognition of something which is very much true still today -- that when it comes to the relationship between great peoples, that relationship is not finished, not complete when it only consists of the military relationship, the economic, and the political. There has to be, and particularly in the case of
Russia, there has to be another supplementary dimension to these relations -- and that is the dimension of the meeting of people -- in
the work of the intellect, in the respect for scholarship and history, in the understanding of art and music and in all the intuitive feelings that go to unite us even in the most difficult times to many people in Russia.
That's all I can say to you now. I'm going to close this with a very frivolous note and one which a number of you will recognize. This was
a fable by the Russian fablist - it's by Krilov (sp?), I think. It told about the fly who rode all day on the nose of an oxen while they
were working in the fields and when at the end of the day came back into the village they came down the village street, and the fly, still on the nose, bowed to the villagers to the right and left and said, "We've been plowing." Well -- that is what I have been doing with the Kennan Institute.
In response to an inaudible question, Ambassador Kennan said:
Yes, I think that we ought to make every effort to meet them on the academic and cultural plane, even though there are great problems, questions, difficulties on the political level.
Let us, for goodness sake, do keep some people who are deeply interested in Russia and who can go over there, study and interchange ideas with people in Russia and gain respect.
The Russians are very impressed when somebody abroad shows a knowledge of their culture. Real scholarship has almost a religious quality to
it. It's a dedication. You have to love it and you have to put other things aside when you do it.
If the scholar does his job, does it honestly, imaginatively, but recognizing his dedication is to the truth -- the truth not just in the factual dimension but also in the intuitive and analytical dimension -- if he does this, he is going to be useful to people beyond himself and beyond his colleagues. If he loses that scholarly integrity, he is going to lose that usefulness. That's my feeling about the Kennan Institute.