Society problems

The architect of the Russian presidential protocol reveals why “the French model prevailed” – Société & culture

MOSCOW, January 1. / TASS /. When modern Russia’s presidential protocol was still being worked out in the early 1990s, foreign models and national traditions were taken into account, former Kremlin protocol chief Vladimir Shevchenko told TASS in an interview marking the 30th anniversary of the break-up of the Soviet Union. In addition, he explained why the French version, and not the American version, for example, was used as a prototype.

“The presidential protocol that I had created [under Mikhail Gorbachev] was in effect for just under 18 months. We weren’t meant to finalize it. When the Soviet Union collapsed, I proceeded to create a Russian presidential protocol, ”Shevchenko revealed.

He recalled that before that, the Soviet Union only had the official protocol of the Foreign Ministry. This explains why the experience had to be borrowed from other countries with presidential regimes.

“The Americans, as I found out, never had any special protocol at all. All of their procedures seemed eclectic to us. The French version was used as a basis, while other features and details were borrowed from our own past practices, ”Shevchenko said.

The United States ended up appreciating the protocol procedures developed by Russian specialists, he recalls.

“We deserved this appreciation, because we have always strived to be the best in all respects,” insisted the former chief of presidential protocol.

His ideas have since been used by his counterparts in other countries of the former Soviet Union. Shevchenko still calls some of them his disciples.

“We have worked a lot in the CIS circles, and naturally they used our protocol as a benchmark,” Shevchenko explained.

In the beginning, the lack of funding was a serious constraint, laments Shevchenko.

“In fact, funds were scarce from the first days when the presidential protocol began to be reconstituted in 1990. The financial problems were already being felt at the time. At the beginning, we had to limit the list of participants delegated to negotiations abroad, ”he said.

Forced to take shortcuts, the team led by Shevchenko showed great resourcefulness.

“Before I retired (in 2000 – TASS), I had a team of 13 to 15 people to rely on. To get the job done, I could only count on a handful of helpers, ”recalls Shevchenko. “Nowadays, the protocol department has a much larger staff,” he noted.

The core of his team consisted of specialists with whom he had worked in the office of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party responsible for serving delegations.

“In the 80s and 90s, there was already a well organized team, and when the USSR broke up, I kept it together and recruited it to work on the official protocol of Russia”, he remembers.

In other countries, the transition from the Soviet protocol to the new Russian protocol procedures was carried out calmly: “There was the red flag. Fine. Today, he has been replaced by the tricolor. Many traditions, for example, the laying of wreaths and flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the foot of the Kremlin Wall have been preserved.

In many ways, the official protocols of different countries are similar.

“There are welcome and farewell ceremonies, private conversations behind closed doors and with other delegates present, lunches or banquets and some cultural events,” Shevchenko explained. “At the same time, by preparing [for a foreign leader’s visit to Russia]What is acceptable here needs to be fully explained, and whenever Russian officials go abroad, the host’s customs and traditions need to be scrutinized just as carefully. “

Shevchenko stressed that “this is crucial” because local and ethnic traditions exist in the protocols of all countries and they must be studied and respected in order to avoid any embarrassing situation. “

Shevchenko avoided commenting on aspects of Russia’s current presidential protocol, but said in general he was “proud of Russia”.

“I can see that on the Russian side everything is done very spectacularly and competently. That says it all, ”he said.

Customs vary across the world. The former Kremlin chief of protocol is strongly critical of the latest trends he sees in some countries.

Shevchenko shared the opinion of one of his British colleagues who, in response to his bewilderment at the inappropriate dress of some prominent figures at international meetings, replied: “Soon there will come a day, when you will jump out of your seat. with amazement when someone shows up [at an official ceremony] in a black tie and tails wearing sneakers.

Shevchenko is now 82 years old. In 1990, he established and headed the protocol office of the first president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. This service did not last, however. After the coup d’état of August 1991 and the signing of the Belovezh Accords on December 8, 1991, the country’s days were numbered. On December 25, Gorbachev announced his resignation, and on December 26, the upper house of the Soviet parliament, the Supreme Soviet, voted in favor of a declaration of dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In January 1992, Shevchenko took the reins of President Boris Yeltsin’s protocol department, which he headed until 2000. And until 2011, he held the post of Russian presidential adviser.

Shevchenko described the American protocol as eclectic because the United States, like some other countries, has decentralized protocol services. Protocol functions are distributed among different bodies at all levels of power.

The centralized model is its antipode: a service is responsible for international contacts of officials representing all branches of power. This type of model exists in France, from which the architect of the Russian presidential protocol was inspired.