The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004. It is named after Lake Valdai, which is located close to Veliky Novgorod, where the Club’s first meeting took place.
The intellectual potential of the Valdai Discussion Club is highly regarded both in Russia and abroad. More than 1,000 representatives of the international scholarly community from 71 countries have taken part in the Club’s activities. They include professors from major world universities and think tanks, including Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, Stanford, Carleton Universities, the University of London, Cairo University, the University of Teheran, East China University, the University of Tokyo, Tel Aviv University, the University of Messina, Johns Hopkins University, the London School of Economics, King’s College London, Sciences Po and the Sorbonne.
Valdai Discussion Club’s regional programmes – the Asian, Mid-Eastern, Russian-Chinese and Euro-Atlantic Dialogues – have drawn considerable attention from the international expert community. The Club holds sessions at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
Only in recent years, the Club’s conferences have been attended by many leading politicians, experts, public figures and cultural figures from Russia and other countries.
Russian participants have included Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister (attended as President of Russia in 2008-2012); Valentina Matvienko, Chairperson of the Council of the Federation; Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma; Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sergei Shoigu, Defence Minister; Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office (2011-2016); Igor Shuvalov (2008 – 2018), First Deputy Prime Minister; Sergei Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow, and others.
Foreign guests have included Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2004-2014); Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland (2000–2012); Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Islamic Parliament of Iran; Heinz Fischer, Federal President of the Republic of Austria (2004–2016); Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa (1999-2008); Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic (2003-2013); Wolfgang Schüssel, Federal Chancellor of Austria (2000-2007); François Fillon, Prime Minister of France (2007-2012); Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998, 2006-2008); Dominique de Villepin, Prime Minister of France (2005-2007); Fu Ying, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, National People’s Congress; Volker Rühe, German Defence Minister (1992-1998); Krzysztof Zanussi, Polish film and theatre director and producer; Moshe Ya'alon, Minister of Defense of Israel (2013-2016); Robert Skidelsky, Member of the British House of Lords; John Mearsheimer, Professor, University of Chicago; Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group, and many others.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with the participants of the Valdai Discussion Club’s annual meetings every year since its founding.
In 2014 the Club moved away from the format of “telling the world about Russia” to practical work aimed at forming the global agenda and delivering a qualified and objective assessment of global political and economic issues. One of its main objectives is to promote dialogue among the global intellectual elite in order to find solutions to overcome the crises of the international system.
The Club actively collaborates with opinion-makers across various fields such as international relations, global politics, economics, security, energy, sociology, communications, and so on. In 2018, the Club is operating the following five core research programmes:
Eurasia and Asia
Between War and Diplomacy: Hybrid Foreign Policy in the Digital Age
Emerging Global Commons and Related Problems
The Future of War
Between Openness and Restrictions: Shifting Balance of Power and Russia’s Strategy in the Global Economy
The non-profit Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2011 with a view to expanding its activities to new areas, including research and outreach work, regional and thematic programmes. In 2014, the Foundation assumed all responsibility for management of the Club’s projects.
Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (CFDP)
Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO University)
National Research University Higher School of Economics
The Board of the Foundation for Development and Support is responsible for the Foundation’s affairs. The Board is chaired by Andrey Bystritskiy, renowned Russian media manager, author of articles and publications, and media and communications researcher. Fyodor Lukyanov, well-known Russian international relations and foreign affairs expert and editor-in-chief of the “Russia in Global Affairs” journal, is Research Director of the Foundation. The Foundation’s day-to-day activities are run by Executive Director Nadezhda Lavrentieva, Honoured Economist of the Russian Federation, and former top manager at major Russian media outlets (NTV Plus, RIA Novosti, TASS Russian News Agency).