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Training Seminar in Astrakhan

Power – what a sweet word!

 

There had been another training seminar of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation (CIEC) on the subject “Interaction between Ethnic Communities and Government Organs” in the conference hall of the hotel “Lotos” in Astrakhan on the 18th and 19th of February 2003. We traveled to Astrakhan by train. The train was going two nights and one day straight to the south. And all along we were positive of a southern sun and a southern heat. The sun was in fact southern, but concerning the heat we had been mistaken. It was not the worst that there was a temperature of minus 16 degrees. The stormy wind coming from the Caspian Sea was simply beyond endurance. Our try to walk trough the old part of the city turned into small sprints. We sprinted from one shop to another. In the shops we tried to get warm and to prepare ourselves for the next sprint on the street. They didn’t heat the foyer and the corridors of our hotel; even the rooms weren’t really warm. Indeed, warm welcomes expected us in the Section for Interethnic Relations of the Department for Work with Nationalities of the Administration of the Astrakhan oblast’ (region), and in the Russian-German House and in the Uzbek Cultural Center. Right away worth mentioning that we have worked in many regions but nowhere such an impressive delegation of local authorities attended at our trainings as in Astrakhan. Before the training seminar we met with Aleksandr Sergeevich Stadnik, the chairman of the Department of Interethnic Relations, and with Oleg Pavlovich Popov and Viktor Mikhalovich Viktorin, both employees of the Department. At the end of our visit in the Administration we had a meeting with Vitalij Yakovlevich Mizov, the chairman of the Department. This was a pleasant surprise for us, as far as it is no secret that the more southern the region the more complicate it is to find a common language with the local administration, especially if the question is nationalities, living in the region. It is visible on the streets of Astrakhan that the national composition of the city’s inhabitants is very multifarious. We haven’t seen so many different face contours and figures of eyes and we didn’t hear so many non-understandable languages, neither in Rostov-on-Don, nor in Krasnodar or even in Moscow. However, we didn’t feel any tensions in these peoples, and we didn’t see the hordes of militia on the city’s streets implementing the total check of the “passport system” we are used to. As in all southern regions of Russia, also in the Astrakhan oblast’ (region) there work and live many immigrants. Besides, in difference to Moscow, there are considerable less places of employment, and the concurrence on the labor market is therefore considerable higher.

In a word, there are enough problems in the given oblast’. However, the local authorities do not tend to explain the existing difficulties with the crafty manners of the newcomers, as it often happens in other regions of Russia. On the contrary, the leadership of the oblast’ aspires not to allow that conflicts because of concurrence on the labor market get a national coloring. It is characteristically that the gubernator meets once a quarter (of the year) with the leaders of national communities. That is a very simple and quite effective mechanism of representing the interests of peoples and national groups living in this southern territory. And in general, Astrakhan is a special city. The Caucasus and Asia realities mix with the Russian one. Alas, there is an ethno-cultural museum in the very center of the city, even in the center of the Kreml. In the museum visitors can familiarize with the customs and life of the peoples living on this piece of earth.

In Astrakhan, as before in Perm’, the local administration undertook the work of inviting the leaders of the local national communities to our training. Unfortunately, the only hostel in the Astrakhan oblast’ which worked also in winter were booked until May. Thus we had to carry out our training in a small, but very nice conference hall of our hotel. On the morning of the 18th February it turned out that not all leaders of national communities kept their promise to come, which they had made to us and to the employees of the local authority organs. As always, leaders of German, Jewish and Tatar communities came to our training seminar. That testifies the level of these organizations on an all-Russian scale and their aspiration to be always well informed about all events connected with national themes. Among the participants were also our good friends that w knew already from our training course in Moscow: Bakhodir Aminov, the leader of the Uzbek national community, and Shamil’ Tagan’yazov, the leader of the Turkmen national organization. 

In addition, in the training seminar took part representatives of the municipal administration as follows: Tat’yana Aleksandrova Mordasova, the chairman of the Department of Relations with the Public of the Astrakhan Administration, and Vyacheslav Anatol’evich Simirnov, the chairman of the Department of Work with Public, National and Religious Civil Communities of the Astrakhan Administration.

It seems that the presence of authoritative representatives of the authorities makes the leaders of national communities behave restrained and not showing activity. The following picture can be usually observed in Moscow: leaders of national communities willingly criticize the authorities in the lobbies, and prefer then to “approve entirely and completely of the decision of the party and government” during the meeting with them.

However when our trainer Viktoria Shuhkat proposed to the participants to specify the problems existing in the Astrakhan oblast’ in the international sphere, the leaders of national communities named 41 problems. The problems are as follows:

Problems

1.                  Conflicts with a national background

2.                  Passivity of members of the NGO

3.                  Situation of requirements of the NGO

4.                  Financing national organizations

5.                  Self-financing

6.                  Registration of newcomers

7.                  Interaction with law enforcement bodies

8.                  Steady changes of ministers of national affairs

9.                  Absence of means in the budget for national problems

10.              Study of the national language

11.              Absence of means in the budget for the language studies

12.              Politic tricks with the leaders of national communities

13.              Interference in the affairs of the NGO by the municipal administration

14.              Special attitude towards petering peoples

15.              Difficulties in uniting regional NGOs in all-Russian organizations

16.              Social adaptation of new settlers

17.               Receiving citizenship

18.              Equality of all peoples before the law

19.              Tolerance

20.              Knowledge about the activities of communities and the administration

21.              There is no proper reporting on the national problem in the mass media

22.              Concurrence of leaders within national communities

23.              Split within the NGO

24.              Agitations in the places of residence

25.              Bad coordination of work of authorities of different levels

26.              Different positions of the municipal and oblast’ (regional) administration

27.              Thrust decay in the own people

28.              Rise of national consciousness

29.              Search for partners

30.              Native language in all educational institutions

31.              Self-elimination of the federal center

32.              Laws at a regional level

33.              Peaking of national problems

34.              Absence of a Ministry of Nationalities

35.              National culture and politics

36.              Necessity of new forms of contacts between NGOs and authorities

37.              Educational classes in places of compact residing

38.              Organization of succession

39.              Legal problems

40.              No specialists for fundraising

41.              Who receives grants (everybody except of national NGOs)

42.              Privileges of communities

 

Then Viktoria ask all participants to choose three most important out of all listed problems. According to the results of this short survey the four most important problems are as follows:

Main problems:

1.       Financing

2.       Absence of an Ministry of Nationalities

3.       Contacts to mass media

4.       National education

And then happened something quite unexpected. Aleksandr Stadnik stood up and proposed to the participants of the training to add a fifth point, that was “Human Rights”, to the list. When all persons present agreed, on proposed to put this point on the first place. Worth mentioning that Aleksander Stadnik works already for years with national communities of the oblast’, and perfectly knows the national situation on the place and the leaders of national Diasporas. Furthermore the Siberian-born man turned out as a rather temperamental person. This made our training even more interesting. Just he proposed concrete mechanisms for the solution of problems existing in the region by the introduction of a separate article in the budget of the oblast’ for the realization of concepts of the national politics  (min. 3 million rubles a year). This was an excellent hint for us and for the national leaders for a successful choice of the topic of negotiations, both during the training and after it. Further Viktoria talked about the modern theories of negotiations. After this lecture the participants were divided into groups and developed arguments indispensable for negotiating. It is interesting, that the arguments of the different groups were differently. Here the outcomes of work of two groups:

First group

Arguments:

1.                   Legitimacy

2.                   Interests of the territory

3.                   Mutual responsibility

4.                   Systematic and priority

5.                   Protection of human rights with allowance of ethnic belongings

6.                   Equality of ethnic groups

 

Second group

Arguments:

1.       Constitutional right

2.       Responsibility of the state

3.       Language of each nation is a state value

4.       Only the knowledge of the national language and its writing give the growing up generation the possibility to study the history, traditions and culture of the people

5.       The disappearance a nation’s language will lead to the nation’s disappearance

6.       Wish of parents that their children learn the native language (according to social inquiries)

7.       Only completely satisfied necessities of the representatives of each nation can lead to peace and consent

 

The participants of the training got one more problem. They should write what they consider as important for the preparation of negotiations.

The outcomes were as follows:

1.       Study the subject of the negotiations

2.       Making inquiries about the participants of the negotiation process

3.       Study the different aspects of the negotiation’s subject (legal, humanitarian, financial, etc.)

4.       Definition of purposes and problems

5.       Development of strategies of negotiations

6.       Collection of information about the expected opponents (personal characteristics, interests, weak and strengths, etc.)

7.       Making inquiries about common interests

Analyses of information and development of final strategies of the negotiations and preliminary solutions

Further there was a short, but interesting game. It should be trained how to start negotiations with the authorities. The role of authorities’ representatives was to play their selves, thus Aleksander Stadnik played himself. The national leaders and the left participants were divided into three groups. The groups took the game very seriously. In a very short time were developed quite interesting projects. For instance, the group led by Viktor Viktorin preferred for the discussion with the “authorities” the following project.

 

“National Folklore Ensemble”

Purpose: development of national culture and its demonstration to other peoples living in the region.

Arguments:

1.                  We have already a worthy group of a high level and with performed concert program

2.                  We could perform on the City’s Day and national holidays - free of charge

3.                  We got an invitation to take part in an all-Russian competition and an international festival “Munich 2004”. There they could worthy represent the city/ oblast’

4.                   If we win the money price in Munich, we will use the price as given means for the further work

5.                  As the idea supported by A. S. Stadnik, the group is ready perform in the regional TV with a concert program

6.                  We plan to establish a children group of the Ensemble

7.                  Means to the amount of ___ are necessary

8.                  We organize a charity evening for the employees of the administration – entrance-fee $ 100 ($ 50 for the meal, $ 50 for the costumes). The ensemble’s performance is guaranteed.

The game “starting negotiations” was marvelously interesting and demonstrated visually the weak and miscalculations of the negotiating persons form the “national communities”.

In the beginning of the next training day Galina Ustinova, the representative of the MacArthur Foundation reported on the foundation and on programs financed by the foundation.

The culmination of the training was the role game “negotiations with the authorities for a special article in the budget of the Astrakhan oblast’ for the realization of national politics”. To say it in another way, we chose the idea said by Aleksandr Stadnik in the beginning of the training as subject of the negotiations. The intrigues of the interactive game finished in that way that all representatives of the authorities (among them Stadnik) played the roles of the leaders of national communities. The leaders of national organizations played the role of the authorities. The pleasure of the Turkmen leader Shamil Tagan’yazov was boundless. In the course of the training he kept the representatives of the administration and us in a constant strain because of his temperamental replicas and expressions. He required more or less the role of the gubernator, and got it. Then one could see, how Aleksander Stadnik, the representative of the Administration, persuaded him to help with the passing of an special article in the regional budget and how he rather severe and imperiously (with an Turkmen accent) declared: “The budget is not rubber. We cannot finance everybody".

 It was even strange to see how adults, serious people, devoted their selves so passionately to the play, and played so interesting in for them unusual roles. The only explanation for this phenomenon was that they earlier, maybe even unconsciousness, put their selves on the place of their opponent, and thought about how the would behave/ handle in such a situation. Maybe, for that reason the negotiation ended successfully, as the parties found a compromise solution?

When the training ended and we said goodbye to the participants, we had the firm intent to return once again to Astrakhan, as we liked the city and the people. We have known before, that we can successfully work with national communities in Perm’, Samara or Ekaterinburg and count on the severe support of the local Administration. We thought that the cold climate and bigger distance to the Caucasus is the determinative factor for the absence of serious international problems. In Astrakhan we understood that this all is not so simple. In this case another formula fits – the cadres decide everything. It is possible to cooperate successfully with the authorities of the Astrakhan oblast’, because they are really interested in a further improvement of the international situation in their region. Therefore, our work is in demand there.