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 Club aims to promote dialogue of Russian and international intellectual elites and to deliver independent objective scholarly analysis of political, economic, and social developments in Russia and the world.
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 70 countries have taken part in the Club’s work. 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 Tehran, 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.
The Valdai Club’s regional programmes, the Asian, Mid-Eastern and Euro-Atlantic Dialogues, have drawn considerable attention from the international expert community. The Club holds a special session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The Club’s meetings have been attended by many leading politicians, experts, public figures and cultural figures from Russia and other countries. Russian participants have included Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office (2011-2016); Vyacheslav Volodin, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office; Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister (attended as President of Russia in 2008–2012); Igor Shuvalov, First Deputy Prime Minister; Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sergei Shoigu, Defence Minister; Sergei Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow, and others. Foreign guests have included Wolfgang Schüssel, Chancellor of Austria (2000–2007); Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy (1996–1998, 2006–2008); Dominique de Villepin, Prime Minister of France (2005–2007); Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative; Volker Rühe, German Defence Minister (1992–1998); François Fillon, Prime Minister of France (2007–2012); Krzysztof Zanussi, Polish film and theatre director and producer; Shlomo Ben Ami, Israeli Foreign Minister (2000–2001) and Security Minister (1999–2001); Franco Frattini, Italian Foreign Minister (2008–2011); Robert Skidelsky, Member of the British House of Lords; Ján Čarnogurský, Prime Minister of Slovakia (1991–1992); Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic (2003–2013) and many others.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with the participants of the Valdai 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 within the global intellectual elite in order to find solutions to overcome the current global crisis.
The Club actively collaborates with opinion makers across various fields, including international relations, global politics, economics, security, energy, sociology, communications, and so on.
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.
The Foundation’s founders are the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (CFDP), non-profit partnership Russian International Affairs Council, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO), and the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE).
The Board of the Foundation 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 the Foundation's Research Director. The Foundation’s day-to-day operations are managed by Executive Director Nadezhda Lavrentieva, Honoured Economist of the Russian Federation, and former top manager at major Russian media outlets.