2000-05-07 - Vladimir Putin
"Distinguished citizens of Russia, dear friends,
"Today I am addressing you - no one but you - because it is you who have entrusted me with the highest government post in the country. I understand that I have taken on an enormous responsibility, and I know that in Russia the head of state has always been and will be the one responsible for everything that goes on in the land. Upon leaving the Kremlin, the first President of Russia, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, said the words that got embedded in the memory of many people. He said - and today he repeated those words in this hall: "Take care of Russia." It is this job that I view as my paramount duty as president. It is the discharge of this duty that I will also demand from my co-workers, from people serving together with me. In this patriotic endeavor I also count on help from my countrymen, citizens of Russia, from all those who care for the fate of our Fatherland.
"Today I would like to thank also my supporters, all those who cast their votes in the elections for me. You backed those first steps which had already been taken. You believed that together we would be able to change our life for the better. I am profoundly thankful to you for that.
"I understand, however, that your support is only an advance payment to government as a whole and, of course, to me, who today is taking the oath as President of the country.
"I am also addressing those who voted for other candidates. It is my conviction that you voted for our common future and for our common goals, for a better life and for a strong and prosperous Russia. Each of us has his or her own experience and views. But we must be together as we have a great deal to do by joint effort.
"Today is a truly historic day. I would like to focus on this fact anew: indeed, for the first time in the history of our state, in the entire history of Russia supreme power in the country is passed on in the most democratic and most simple way - by the will of the people. It is passed on lawfully and peacefully. Any change of guard always is a test of the constitutional system, a test of its strength. Yes, in our country it is not the first test; clearly, perhaps, it is not the last one. But we have passed this test and this landmark in a dignified manner. We have proved that Russia is becoming a truly modern democracy. Peaceful succession of power is the most important element of political stability, stability which we all were dreaming about, seeking and working for.
"The road to free society was not simple or easy. There were both dark and bright pages in our history. The building of a democratic state is far from complete. But a great deal has already been done. We must cherish what has been achieved and preserve and advance democracy. We must make sure that the government chosen by the people works in the interests of the people and protects the Russian citizen everywhere, both in our country and abroad, and serves the public. This is a position of principle, and a tough one. I have been standing up for it and shall do so in the future.
"It is for today's solemn event that we have gathered here, in the Kremlin, this day. It is a sacred place for our people. Here, in the Kremlin, is the nexus of our national memory. Here, in the Kremlin, the history of our land has been decided over the centuries. And we have no right to be "Ivans denying our roots." We must remember everything. We must know our history, know it as it is. We must learn its lessons and always remember those who built the State of Russia, who upheld its dignity and who made it great, strong and powerful. We will carry on this memory, and we will preserve this continuity. And we will pass on to our successors everything the best of our history, everything the best.
"Distinguished citizens of Russia! We believe in our strength. We believe that we can truly transform and change our country. We have common goals: we want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, wealthy, strong and civilized land, a land in which its citizens take pride and which commands respect in the world.
"Over the past few months, here in Moscow and meeting people in Russia's regions, I have been sensing our understanding and your support. And it is fairly often that on the squares and streets of our cities I heard from people, from most ordinary people, very simple words - but words of great importance to me. They would say: "We trust you, we pin our hopes on you. Just don't fail us." I can assure you that in my actions I will guide myself exclusively by state interests. Perhaps, I will not avoid mistakes. But what I promise - what I can really promise and do promise - is that that I will work openly and honestly.
"I believe it my sacred duty to cement the people of Russia together, to rally citizens around clear goals and tasks -- and to remember every day and every minute of my service to the Fatherland that we have one homeland and one people, that all of us have one common future. Thank you."