Chirac says 'spasibo’ for top Russian award

Former French president Jacques Chirac has become the first foreigner to receive Russia's highest state award for humanitarian work. At a ceremony in Moscown on Thursday, he was honoured for his contribution to making Russian culture more accessible to th

Chirac travelled to Moscow especially for the ceremony, which was held in the Kremlin. President Dmitry Medvedev thanked the former French leader for establishing closer ties between Russia and France.

“Jacques Chirac’s keen interest in Russian culture has had a positive influence on our mutual ties. As a result, 2010 has been declared the year of France in Russia and the year of Russia in France,” he said. 

And Chirac recalled how he became attracted to Russian culture.

“With this award I received a great honour from Russia. I happened to be a student of a Russian professor, and he taught me to love Russia, Russian culture, its literature. Our two countries have always been attracted to each other. Together we've written many pages of history. Dear friends and dear President, the era of ideology has passed away, Russia has stepped onto a democratic path. That's a difficult mission, and the results that are much respected. In a way Russia owes its new rise to natural resources, but much more it owes it to the will of its people and its intellectual resources,” Mr Chirac said in his address.

The former president is known to have translated one of the gems of Russian literature, Pushkin’s classic novel in verse: 'Eugene Onegin'.

Previous recipients of the award are the Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Aleksy II and the writer Aleskandr Solzhenitsyn.

The State Award was established in 1992 but was overhauled four years ago. The prize ceremony is traditionally held on Russia Day and is hosted by the president. The prize categories include art, science and humanitarian work.

All those who win get a cheque for around $US 200,000.