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Training in Rostov on Don Its great that we all met here today!


From October 21st through 22nd 2004 in Rostov on Don an educational seminar (or more simply, training) on the subject Interaction between Ethnic Associations and Authorities was conducted by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation. Leaders of ethnic associations and Administrations staff from the Russian regions Rostov, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Perm, Samara, Nizhniy Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, and the Stavropol and Krasnodar territories took part in the seminar.

The seminar took place in a small, cozy hotel Aelita on the left bank of the river Don. The participants list with representatives of the authorities from the Russian regions tells about the high standard. At the seminar were: Tatyana Krasilnikova, the head of the Department of Public Relations Apparatus of the Main Administration of the Volgograd region; Yuriy Burlachko, the head of the Department for Interaction with Social Associations, Religious Organizations and for Monitoring the migration processes of the Krasnodar Territory Administration; Marina Plyasunova, main specialist of the Department of Internal politics of the Sverdlovsk Region Administration; Nadezhda Osipova, main specialist of the Department for Interaction with Social Organizations, Ethnic Issues and Religious Faiths of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Politics and Sports of the Samara Region; Raisa Shchukina, consultant of the Department of Inner politics and of Interaction with the Territories of the Perm Region Administration; Vladimir Otvagin, main specialist of the Committee for Relations with Political Parties, Public Associations and Ethnic Relations of the Rostov on Don Region Administration; Victor Victorin, adviser of the Department for Interaction with societal political associations of citizens and ethnic cultural communities of the Astrakhan region; Sergey Zakharov, main specialist of the department for International Relations and Interaction with associations and for Monitoring the migration process of the Krasnodar Territory administration; Vladimir Vysheslavov, chief specialist of the Department for Ethnic Issues and Interaction between public and religious organizations of the Stavropol Territory Government.

It is characteristic, as we were told by the State Dumas Committee for ethnic relations, that the Deputies there were all very busy with important matters, and because of that they would not be able to take part in our seminar. The new Ministry for regional development of the Russian Federation told us exactly the same. For the sake of fairness it has to be said, that Vladimir Zorin, former Minister for Ethnic Issues took part in the undertakings of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation. He is no longer a Minister, and the new Federal Ministry has currently not been organized. This means that we once again have to prove that we are not conducting our conferences and trainings for the sake of amusement. But the fact that Yuri Burlachko, Tatyana Krasilnikova and their colleagues very actively took part in the trainings for two days tells us that our work is getting more attention in the regions. The greatest success of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation was the participation of two Police colonels, Vladimir Nifontov and Alexandr Mozgovoi. This was not the first time that members of the Police came to our trainings from other regions, but until this time, in order to invite them we needed the approval of the leadership of the Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs. This time the help came from members of the Police and the authorities of the Sverdlovsk region and the Krasnodar territory.

The seminars aim was to devise a recommendation for effective interaction between the authorities and ethnic communities to create successful protection of ethnic minorities. Yet before that we had to find out whether such recommendations are needed at all. Could it be that we in Russia do not have problems with ethnic minorities at all, or they are already resolved so well that to undertake any new steps would be senseless? The majority of the participants didnt know each other beforehand, and because of that they did not have enough information on how the colleagues in other regions work, what problems there are, and what successes. For this reason the representatives of all nine regions in detail told about interaction between ethnic communities and local administration in their regions.

This part of the program and the seminar as a whole was opened by Valentina Logashova, Vice President of the cultural-educational society Roma i mir (The Roma and the world) in the Rostov region. Next, at the request of Ashot Airapetian, director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, the representatives of the northern regions continued with their presentations. The representatives of the Southern regions then joined them. Its interesting to mention that in each region there is something positive, which can be successfully adapted in other regions. In Perm there is the Regional Program for Development and Harmonization of Interethnic Relations; in the Samara region there is a division for financing interethnic programs; in the Astrakhan region there is an official policy which states that there are no native inhabitants or foreigners, but only Astrakhanians; in the Nizhny Novgorod region there is successful cooperation of the local legislative assembly with ethnic associations; in the Sverldovsk region there is the formation of a migration center with a supervisory council of leaders from ethnic associations; the Rostov region has granted citizenship to the Turks-Meskhetins. The Krasnodar territory has also something to be proud of, as its the only region in Russia with specialists for the solution of conflicts between different ethnic groups inside the Adminstration of Internal Affairs. A speech from Alexander Mozgovoi, head of this department, was received with admiration from the representatives of the other regions; then came the reports of Nadezhda Osipova and Shirvana Kerimova (leader of the League of Azerbaijani) from the Samara region. Osipova and Kerimova described how a usual conflict between Azerbaijani and Tatars in a small village turned into a large interethnic scandal because of the poor work of the local administration and the involvement of the Administration of Internal Affairs. Following these presentations, it was clear that interethnic relations in Russia are a major issue of concern. The tendency of the federal government to ignore these problems does nothing to clear up these problems; the situation has become only more acute in the following years.

We asked the participants of the seminar, What consequences does the absence of ethnic politics have in Russia? and recorded the answers. We then asked the participants to choose the points, which are, in their opinion, the most important. This training technique is called brainstorming. The following points were most often picked.

What are the consequences of the inattentive attitude of the state towards ethnic issues?

  1. Infringement of rights and freedoms of ethnic minorities
  2. Growth of extremism and nationalism
  3. Break-up of the state
  4. Absence of coordination of the activities of different regions in the field of ethnic politics
In addition, each of the following points were chosen by four participants:
  1. Civil war in Russia
  2. Deterioration of the interethnic relations
  3. Moral degradation
  4. Deterioration of the interethnic relations
  5. Uncontrollable migration policies
  6. Deterioration of investment attraction

In the opinion of the participants, the absence of clear ethnic politics can lead to a growth of extremism in Russia. As it is known, after the recent terrorist attacks in our country more than a few politicians think that the main task of the Russian state is to increase the citizens security.

How can we fight against terrorism effectively? was the issue of the following survey. We divided the participants into four groups and gave them 20 minutes to find answers to this question. These are the results of the working groups:

How can we fight against terrorism effectively?

(group 1)
  1. Working out federal national (ethnic) policies
  2. In the field of education: education of tolerance, family - kindergarten - school - post secondary school education
  3. In the mass media: establishing the idea of tolerance
  4. Forming conditions for the flourishing, development and preservation of the different cultures
  5. A clear system for working with migrants (legislation, interaction with law-enforcement agencies)
  6. Effective mechanisms to increase living standards (social and economic)
(group 2)
  1. Forming a coordination council for interaction
  2. Conducting meetings of elders
  3. Through the mass media: introducing new rules of behavior and security at public places
  4. Relation to and cooperation with law-enforcement agencies
  5. Explanatory work with children (kindergartens, schools)
  6. Joint voluntary druzhinas (groups of citizens who patrolled the streets in Soviet times to support the polices work)
  7. Videotapes with small scenes in different languages (with explanations from psychologists regarding common behaviors, in the case of terrorist attacks)
  8. Registration and control
(group 3)
  1. Systematic migration politics
  2. Abolishing corruption
  3. Cooperation between authorities and interethnic organizations and pubic associations
  4. Education of tolerance
  5. Religious education
  6. Tolerant attitude toward authority, which maintains security (at the airport and highly frequented public places)
  7. Work of interethnic druzhinas (see above)
(group 4)
  1. Forming associations of ethnic minorities and state organizations for joint actions
  2. Forming a system of anonymous information transfer about perspective terrorist attacks
  3. Using the possibilities of mass media in the fight against terrorism
  4. Using the influence of ethnic leaders on the consciousness and world view of their communities
  5. Uncovering myths about the exploits of religious fanatics by popularizing positive ethnic traditions
As the results show, not even one of the groups suggested abolishing civil rights and freedom in order to increase the level of security. At that, all four groups pointed out the necessity of cooperation between ethnic associations and the authorities. A quite interesting result! It turns out that on one hand, the cooperation between ethnic communities and the authorities is of prime importance to the state. On the other hand, the state fails to pay proper attention to this issue. As a result, all responsibility on the interethnic issues is shifted onto the shoulders of the local regions. They hardly feel comfortable with this. The birthday turned out wonderfully! And Marina, as well as the others, was very pleased.

The following day the rain stopped, and the weather was a bit warmer. According to our plans, this day should be a decisive one. It was presumed that the participants of the seminar together should determine effective mechanisms of interaction between ethnic communities and the authorities, according to the results of the first working day. Here we shall make a small digression.

This wonderful seminar on the banks of the Don River was able to be organized because of the financial support from two private American funds - the Mc Arthur Foundation and the Mott Foundation. These funds provide grants so that the Center for Interethnic Cooperation may hold trainings for the leaders of ethnic associations and others concerned with opposing discrimination of immigrants, ethnic minorities and foreign citizens. The efforts of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, particularly the results of the Rostov seminar, have shown that the violation of the rights and freedom of ethnic minorities, in most respects, depends on the absence of clear governmental ethnic policies.

Our seven years of experience working with regional ethnic associations has shown that there are few opportunities for ethnic communities in present-day Russia. Without the support of official organizations it is very difficult to fight against the rising swells of ethnic intolerance. In our nation, civil society is not well enough developed for non-governmental organizations to accomplish these tasks on a national scale. The results of the first day particularly showed that regional authorities are not always able to gain the attention of the federal government. On the other hand, it has become clear that in the power structures of many Russian regions there are personnel who well understand the importance of interethnic relations. Of course, they have many of their own personal agendas, and it is the heads of departments who decide what tasks will be accomplished today or tomorrow, or wont be accomplished at all. The fact that the representative authorities of 9 regions of Russia arrived at Rostov on Don and worked together two days in a row is a clear example of their interest in this work. Therefore, the most effective method of confronting the discrimination of ethnic minorities and immigrants is mutually beneficial cooperation between ethnic communities and local authorities. Before that, of course, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation will continue to train leaders of ethnic communities so that they may learn to independently defend the rights of their fellow ethnic citizens, as without their active help, nothing will be gained.

A particular text, which we named Stadniks Triangle, held very interesting answers. Aleksander Sergeievich Stadnik is department head of ethnic integration for the administration of the Astrakhan region. Stadniks Triangle has three points: ethnicity, citizen, and individual. The theme of the survey was, Who are you before anything else: a citizen, a representative of a certain ethnicity, or an individual? It must be mentioned here that representatives from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation did not take part in these surveys.

Here the same results were found as in Astrakhan and Perm, that the overwhelming majority of the participants thought the notion of individual was most important. This means that our struggle to maintain human rights is not without hope and that we cannot help but to be happy.

We may also speak much about our activities, but someone who has never taken part in these activities cannot understand nor get a feel for the atmosphere, which our trainers can create with the help of interactive games. Its important to understand that our trainers must possess particular skills in order to motivate adult men and women who, in addition to representing such serious organizations, play like schoolchildren and are very delighted to do so.

At the end of the training we asked the participants of the seminar to choose from the previous results to develop recommendations on the theme What steps need to be taken on a federal level for a successful resolution to questions in the area of inter-ethnicity? For this question, the training participants and administrators were divided into four groups; in every group there was a training participant and administrator, in addition to an ethnic community member from various regions. After 20 minutes, representatives from the groups spoke about the results from their work. As we anticipated, different groups proposed nearly identical recommendations. These recommendations are not the result of the imaginations of separate individuals, but rather constructions of real situations. In the end several recommendations were clear.

What steps need to be taken on a federal level for a successful resolution to questions in the area of inter-ethnicity?

  1. Adopting federal laws and regulations regarding the policies towards multiethnic relations in the Russian Federation.
  2. Creating federal programs About the harmonization of interethnic relations (2006-2008), and corresponding regional programs.
  3. Introducing the post of a Vice Prime Minister on ethnic issues. Creating a clear authority and a single department concerned with questions of ethnic policies on the regional and federal scale.
  4. Special financing for programs and projects dedicated to ethnic policies and harmony amongst interethnic relations.
  5. Introducing an institute for governmental grants. Such money is not wasted when spent on good experiences and initiatives.
  6. Joining the efforts of NGOs and the authorities in educating to tolerance
  7. Active support of Russians outside Russia
Of course, these recommendations are useful for both authorities and ethnic communities of other regions. But they are mainly intended for the federal authorities, which is why we asked the participants of the seminar if they agree in sending these recommendations to the executive and legislative organs of the Russian Federation. All agreed that this would be a .

The seminar in Rostov ended. It was touching to see how heartily people who didnt even know each other a few days ago said good-bye. We told all of them that we will try to carry out similar activities more often, and that they certainly will see each other again. It is a pity that this does not always depend on us. But we will try.

P.S.

On November, 2nd The Center for Interethnic Cooperation directed a recommendation to the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Boris Gryzlov, Chairmen of the State Duma developed by the seminars participants in Rostov on Don.

We are realistic, and also understand that this will hardly create a 180-degree turn in the states politics on interethnic issues. But as a Lithuanian proverb says: In order for the door to open, one has to knock.



Educational seminar on the subject Interaction between Ethnic Associations and Authorities - an Austrian view

From October 21st through 22nd 2004 in Rostov on Don an educational seminar (or more simply, training) on the subject Interaction between Ethnic Associations and Authorities was conducted by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation (CIC). My name is Patrizia. I am from Austria and currently working as a volunteer at the CIC for six months. I arrived in Moscow at the beginning of September and so far I have only been in the Capital of Russia - Moscow. I was very excited to see more of this vast country, especially since going south at the end of October sounded very inviting, hoping the weather there would be warmer than in Moscow.

Our accountant Zhenya, the trainer Marina, Ferdauz representative of the Tatar Organization of Niznij Novgorod and I went on the night train from Moscow to Rostov on Don. The journey itself was an adventure! Our train was scheduled at six oclock in the evening and when we got to the rail station it was already waiting, green as most of the Russian trains with coupes that make you feel at home, thanks to neat curtains, flowery carpets and wooden walls. Outside the rail station was cloaked in yellowish and black steam, along with the light rain it could have been the film setting for a Dr. Zhivago movie. And then the train left heading for the south of Russia.

After dinner we slept trough the night and soon after the breakfast we arrived in Rostov on Don. Our Hotel where the training took place was a wonderful small little Hotel that was set like an American Motel right by the riverside of the Don. After checking in we had time to go to downtown Rostov we walked through the streets and enjoyed the wonderful warm fifteen degree Celsius weather. Rostov compared to Moscow is much more laid back and has the charm of an southern summer residence, with clean streets, parks and renovated old buildings. We where amazed by the amount of shoe shops!

Back in the Hotel we had dinner with most of the training participants, who had arrived in the meantime. Sitting, and later dancing, in the hotels restaurant we got acquainted with each other in a very relaxed atmosphere. The training began at ten oclock in the next morning in the hotels conference room. The seminars aim was to discuss experiences of the interaction of authorities and ethnic communities in the regions of Russia and develop recommendations for more effective cooperation, both on regional and federal level. Administrations, staff, and leaders of ethnic associations from the Russian regions Astrakhan, Volgograd, Saratov, Novosibirsk, Perm, Samara, Nizhniy Novgorod, Sverdlov, Stavropol and Krasnodar were invited to participate. Honestly, it was very difficult for me to remember all the names since most of them, as they do not sound familiar at all to me. Representatives of Tatar, Gipsy, Polish, German, Korean, Azerbaijan, and Armenian, Jewish along with the representatives of above named Russian regions all set around one table. Not being able to follow everything that was said, due to a lack of knowledge of the Russian language, it was still very interesting to watch people interact and how their attitude changed. My job was to capture the training with the camera, which was quite a difficult task since the digital camera worked very slowly and, therefore, I always photographed the moment following the one I intended to. The coffee breaks and supper again offered time to talk in a less formal way. In the evening we had a real Russian, or better multiethnic, banquet where we also celebrated the birthday of one of our trainers. For me it was quite an experience, for the first time in my life I could watch and listen the Russian way of saying cheers along with dancing. There I have to remark that I was amazed how much All-Russian men love to dance!

The next day also went by very fast, finishing off with the handover of the training certificates. Then most of the participants left for their trains and airplanes heading back to their home regions, but not without exchanging phone numbers, visit cards, lots of good wishes and expressing their hope to meet again. The rest of us, mostly from the CIC, spent the evening in our hotel room having a nice recollection of the last two days before our train left at two oclock at night, again heading to Moscow, back through the famous black earth of southern Russia. The following day was passed by traveling, watching the Russian countryside through the window and thinking of all the new experiences and new friends.

All in all, Im very grateful that I got the opportunity to take part in the seminar. Although I have to say that I think that Russia still has a long and hard way to go, Im confident that these training seminars are first steps in the right direction to deal with ethnic differences building up a peaceful, multicultural, Russian society.

1993-2003
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