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Yekaterinenburg An Volunteers Inside View from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation

When our small group from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, (including Ashot, the head of the Non-governmental organization (NGO) and Masha, the head of an NGO for Jewish youths, and three volunteers, Jackie, Markus and Stephan) concluded our 10 day stay the youth camps of Novosibirsk, we proceeded to lovely Yekaterinburg: our last stop on our trip through Siberia. We already arrived at five oclock in the morning by train. What we did not expect was the awfully cold weather in Yekaterinburg. In Novosibirsk we were spoiled with about 30 degrees of sunshine every day. Yekaterinburg welcomed us with a mere five to eight degrees. Ashot, already familiar with the city, toured us around the centre. Unfortunately, we were not very successful in finding a nice cozy place to have breakfast to warm us a bit up. Only in the town hall of the city, we found a nice place which was to open at 9am. Refreshed and warmed up, we looked forward to our first meeting with the representatives of various ethnic groups in the city of Yekaterinburg, beginning with the coordinator of interethnic groups in the city. It was however somewhat tricky to find her. Comically, after more than 30 minutes erring around and after dozens of corridors, we finally found the right office. After having a nice chat with her, about the problems and projects in Yekaterinburg, we headed off for the interethnic house. Enjoying a small break, we could collect forces for the conference in which we took part. The topic of the conference was Human Rights and democracy. The aim of the conference was to create a discussion with philosophy students and the delegation of the European Union (EU). At the end, however, the conference was more like a lecture. The speeches were, however, highly interesting as the EU delegation was composed of high ranking experts in the realm of human rights and democracy. Interesting questions were, for example, if democracy can exist without human rights or does democracy already involve human rights? We also discussed the situation in Russia in regards to statements made by President Vladimir Putin about Russias own version of democracy and about the new law restricting the work of NGOs.

Unfortunately, some of our group became ill so that we had to cancel some meetings.

The second day saw another interesting conference, where the representatives of various ethnic groups and the EU delegation from Germany met to discuss the final conclusion of their joint year-long project involving migration laws in Russia and the issue of integration of new Russian immigrants.

The third day, we took part in a conference of different ethnic leaders in the Yekaterinburg region. They discussed the projects which have been just finalized and further measures they will take. At the end of the conference, our group had the opportunity to present our experiences and work we had in Novosibirsk. Before leaving for Moscow, a friend of Ashot, the head of the Yekaterinburg militiamen, with which Ashot did training for tolerance and democracy with, invited us to his home. I do not exaggerate when I say that we received a real feast at his place. All of us truly we really enjoyed ourselves. It was the best good-bye from Yekaterinburg we could imagine. Despite the cold and points of illness, we had a great time in Yekaterinburg which we will surely miss.

Markus Eicher

August 20, 2006


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