Director-General, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a special honour for me to welcome you, on behalf of the Russian Federation, to this gala concert to celebrate the UNESCO launch of the international “Cultures beyond Borders” project. First of all, I would like to thank Ms Irina Bokova for the appreciation she has shown for this initiative, for offering UNESCO backing, and for the all-round assistance that we have received from the Organization at every stage of the project’s development. Ladies and Gentlemen, Today, a highly unusual evening awaits us. Not only is the cast joining us here at UNESCO of unsurpassed brilliance; we will also witness the premiere of a unique audio-visual presentation, full of true depth and drama. If someone had asked me to choose a single sentence to describe this evening’s concert, I would without hesitation have picked the following lines of poetry by my illustrious compatriot, Yevgeny Yevtushenko: “And I myself am one massive, soundless scream / Above the thousand thousand buried here.” This concert reflects the terrible suffering and tragic fate of the many people who became the victims of the momentous and complex geopolitical events of the last century, which many countries had to endure. The echoes of these events live on in the hearts of many peoples, as is evident from the number of nationalities represented among those taking part in the international “Cultures beyond Borders” project. It is our memory of history that provides the starting point for making sense of many social phenomena and events that we face in various countries and regions today, and for taking the right decisions to tackle them. It is clear that matters of war and peace, the preservation of that which we value most highly – human life – and the careful cultivation of dialogue and mutual understanding are becoming more important than ever before. These unifying, shared human values lie at the heart of UNESCO’s activities. Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, has lent his personal support to the “Cultures beyond Borders” project, as have veteran Israeli politician President Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Nečas, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and other well-known and respected politicians. Conceptually, the piece that will be presented to us today by the Mikhoels International Cultural Centre and its writers, Mikhail Gluz and Irina Goryunova, harks back to the spiritual and creative legacy of Solomon Mikhailovich Mikhoels, a leading light of the theatre, an actor and director, a teacher, and a social and political activist, who was tragically killed at the end of the 1940s. The great Solomon Mikhoels received wide recognition during his lifetime. He was one of those rare individuals who are marked out for true acclaim. One of the great actors and directors of the twentieth century, he was there at the creation of national theatre, which came to exert a significant influence on culture. The great Mikhoels also made an important contribution to the unique phenomenon of Russian Jewish and world culture. Mikhoels rightly ranks alongside Eisenstein, Chagall and many others and, like them, has become a fixture in world culture. Without letting go of the national influences that had shaped their artistic consciousness, these artists succeeded in showing that art can transcend the boundaries of philosophy, overcoming national and even linguistic differences between peoples. This is not the first time that UNESCO has paid tribute to our great countryman: in 1990, the Organization celebrated the centenary of his birth. The Collection of Jewish Musical Folklore (1912–1947), inscribed on the Memory of the World Register at the suggestion of Ukraine, includes unique phonogram recordings from 1927 featuring the voices of eminent Jewish actors, among them Mikhoels, Benjamin Zuskin and others. I cannot proceed without mentioning the dazzling stars taking part in this evening’s programme, every one of whom has enjoyed wide recognition for many years. Please show them your appreciation! Special words of thanks must go to our guests of honour at tonight’s musical performance: the peerless Mireille Mathieu and the legendary Yevgeny Yevtushenko. We are delighted to see that you are not standing aside or retiring from an active life, but are continuing to inspire whole new generations of like-minded and sincere admirers. In conclusion, I would like to express my profound gratitude to the management of UNESCO for helping to organize tonight’s gala concert, and particularly to Ms Bokova for deciding to award the Mikhoels International Cultural Centre and a number of its most active supporters with the Five Continents medal “in recognition of their unswerving commitment to developing international cultural projects”. My special thanks go to the directors, musicians and soloists taking part in this unique concert to mark the launch of the international “Cultures beyond Borders” project. Thank you.