“Russian and International Mechanisms for the Protection of Ethnic Minorities”
August 25 - 29, 2003, Anapa, Russia
From August 24-29, 2003, a school-seminar on “Russian and International Mechanisms for the Protection of Ethnic Minorities” was carried out in the city of Anapa. The seminar was financed by the Council of Europe, the Human Rights Project Fund of the British Foreign Office and the American Mott Foundation.
35 people from the areas of Krasnodar and Stavropol as well as from the Astrakhan, Rostov and Volgograd regions participated in the seminar. Half of them were leaders of ethnic associations and the other half were representatives of local authorities. Merja Lahtinen from the Directorate General of Human Rights and Professor Bill Bowering from Great Britain, expert on Ethnic Minorities, represented the Council of Europe. Further more, Professor Robin Oakley from Great Britain, expert in working with ethnic minorities and police in the UK, took part in the seminar. And owing to the Center’s initiative, the following representatives from the Ministry of the Interior participated in the seminar: colonel Ivan Shushkevich, Central Department for Human Resources of the Russian Ministry of the Interior, Alexander Mozgovoj, chief of the Department for Nationality Affairs of the Krasnodar regional administration, Evgenij Vasilenko - inspector from the Anapa Regional Administration.
As we did last year, we invited Nadezhda Osipova, representative from the Samara regional administration, to participate in the seminar for the Southern Federal Regions. In the Samara region there are far less migrants and refugees than in the southern regions of Russia where interethnic relations are considerably more tense. However, the Samara regional administration spends far more on ethnic and interethnic programs than the authorities of the southern regions do.
In addition to the ethnic organizations, which are included in the structure of the Krasnodar Regional Center of Ethnic Cultures, leaders from the Meskhet-Turk organization, the Shapsigy organization and the African immigrants association participated.
The fact that the administration representatives of all six southern regions not only came to the seminar, but also participated actively, was already one of the main results of the seminar.
The seminar began with an introduction of all participants, because the majority of them - leaders from ethnic associations and administration representatives alike- did not know their colleagues from neighboring regions before this meeting.
After the participants introduced themselves to each other, Merja Lahtinen talked about the primary international mechanisms for the protection of ethnic minorities.
However, we soon realized that we would not have only interethnic problems to deal with: the staff at the Nadezhda boarding house did not have any idea what was needed to carry out a seminar. We were offered the hotel’s dancing hall as a conference room, which was constantly too cool, badly illuminated and, therefore, very poorly designed to work with flipcharts and documents. Unfortunately, the boarding house staff could not provide us with a better alternative.
During the course of the seminar it also became evident that Lena, our translator from Krasnodar, who was recommended to us by the Southern Resource Center, was obviously not prepared for such complex and difficult translations that require extensive knowledge and command of very specific terminology.
As luck would have it, on the first day of the seminar a bomb exploded in Krasnodar. If anything, the terrorist act succeeded in killing, once again, innocent people. The war in Chechnya is not profitable for Russians or Chechens or any of the other nationalities living in Russia and it has long been time to stop this war. However similar actions not only add fuel to the conflict, but also promote anti-Caucasian resentments everywhere.
The participants of the seminar could not remain indifferent to the explosions in Krasnodar. A working group was quickly created, which prepared a statement to be sent out to the mass media of the Krasnodar area condemning these barbarous acts. The statement was approved and signed by all Russian seminar participants.
After Lahtinen's report, Ashot Airapetyan, the Center’s director, devoted some time to answering the following and other questions: "Are there any connections between the high living standard in EU countries and the fact that Human Rights and their protection are a high priority?" "Is it necessary to precisely define 'ethnic minority' in order to not restrain people’s rights on the base of ethnic attributes?"
At the participant’s request, the agenda of the seminar was changed, and the break after lunch was prolonged. This was an important strategic decision, as was the general decision to choose Anapa as the seminar location. As already mentioned above, most interethnic problems in the Russian Federation can be observed in the southern regions. It would be wrong to blame only the regions’ authorities, although the Samara example proves, that authorities in the southern regions have a lot yet to achieve.
Close to 30% of the entire population in the Krasnodar area are migrants. This means that almost every third person in this area is non-Russian. Leaders of Armenian, Azerbaijan, Kurdish, Tadjik, African and Turk-Meskhetin communities participated in the seminar, thereby representing those ethnicities that have considerably increased in the southern Russian regions over the last decade.
The local population is rather unhappy with the situation, with the Stavropol area being the principal focus. The war in Chechnya has strongly affected conditions in this area. Never ending troop displacements, the terror act in Budenovsk, the flow of migrants-- all of these are conditions that do not help to improve the interethnic climate.
This seminar was certainly the most difficult one the Center carried out during the six years it has been working in promoting minority rights and interethnic cooperation. It is, therefore, especially rewarding that the majority of participants were satisfied and pleased with the seminar and its results. The location of Anapa definitely played an important role in the successful realization of this seminar. We were lucky with the weather and thus were able to enjoy not only a modern seaside resort, but also a very tolerant city, which allows its visitors to stroll around without carrying their passport on them at all times. Everybody was treated respectfully regardless of his or her nationality or citizenship.
The original seminar agenda included the presentation of an alternative report by Niara Gafarova from Crimea. Unfortunately she was not able to attend the seminar. Instead we asked the participants to prepare short reports on the interethnic situation in their regions adhering to the articles specified in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The reports were given for each region by both representatives of ethnic communities and representatives of regional administrations.
Although the reports were informal in character, they provided a great opportunity to learn about the work and experience of other regions in the field of interethnic problems and problem solving. Since these reports had not been foreseen in the original seminar agenda, the participants had the complete right to refuse to do them. However, the representatives of the authorities especially took this task very seriously and, consequently, the seminar became much more interesting than expected.
The participants used the long break between particular seminar sessions to prepare their reports. It was interesting to see that, after discussing the issue extensively, the public organizations from Krasnodar area decided to give a short individual reports rather than a joint one. The statements made by Dursun Balaev, representative of the Regional Krasnodar Society of Kurdish Culture “Akhmed Khani”, and Madzhid Chachukh, representative of the Society of Adyg-Khasi from Sochi, left a special impression.
Before the reports were given, the participants attentively listened to Dr. Robin Oakley from London and to Ivan Shushkevich from the Central Department for Human Resources of the Russian Ministry of the Interior.
Dr. Oakley talked about the relation between ethnic minorities, police and authorities in Britain. Ivan Shushkevich explained how policemen in Russia and in foreign countries are trained to work with ethnic minorities. Both speeches were received with great interest.
Dr. Oakley’s report, in particular, revealed that complaints of ethnic minority representatives about police and law-enforcement bodies are not a strictly Russian phenomenon.
The participants also took great interest in Professor Bowring’s report on "Experiences Of The Use Of The Framework Convention In Various European Countries For The Protection Of National Minorities And Combating Discrimination".
On the fourth day, the Council of Europe experts left Anapa and the second half of the seminar began. Our trainer Victoria Shukhat started this interactive part of the conference by asking the participants to sum up their entire positive as well as negative critique regarding the previous three days. It turned out that the reports were considered to have been the most interesting feature of the seminar so far.
Indeed they did reveal very interesting information, including the following:
In Astrakhan’ the leaders of ethnic associations meet with the governor once a year. The regional administration considers the construction of a civil society to be it’s basic task, where ethnic associations and local authorities work together to come to an agreement; In Krasnodar, a Center of Ethnic Cultures has been functioning for more than ten years financed with money from the local authorities. As opposed to the Moscow House of Nationalities, where representatives of ethnic groups are merely visitors, in Krasnodar, it is their Center; Krasnodar regional administration has a department for nationality affairs, where employees work to prevent conflicts between representatives of different ethnic groups; in the Rostov area, more Meskhet-Turks live than in the Krasnodar area, but the majority of them received Russian citizenship a long time ago; in the Volgograd area, a program to promote interethnic consent has been developed, etc.
We asked everybody to email us his or her reports. Unfortunately, we have not received any as of now. But as soon as we do receive them, we will place them on our web site.
The seminar participants criticized the bad acoustics and illumination of the conference room and the poor translation. Sarvar Todorov, the leader of the Meskhet-Turk community in Krasnodar pointed out the lack of concrete results, which for him meant granting Meskhet-Turk people Russian citizenship. While we certainly agree that they should be granted citizenship, the objectives for this seminar did not include the decision of such specific problems.
Sarvar Todorov used every opportunity to speak up; his statements were always very sharp and had an immediate connection to the problems of the Meskhet-Turks in Krasnodar. Ashot Airapetyan, director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, never cut him off, though Sarvar repeating the same complaints over and over eventually began to tire the audience.
The last day of the seminar was devoted to finding compromises. The Meskeht-Turks in the Rostov area have received Russian citizenship, while in Krasnodar they have not, although both regions are included into the structure of the Russian Federation and submit to Russian and international law. Apparently in the Rostov area a compromise was found, which allowed solving at least some problems.
Maybe the lack of results in Krasnodar can be explained by the fact that the Meskhet-Turks poorly understand or do not want to understand at all, what a compromise means. “They closed our mouths and noses. You say, ‘Search for a compromise!’ We’d do so with pleasure. But how are we to breathe?” this was Sarvar’s answer to the task of searching for a compromise.
His position was obvious: according to Russian Federal law, the regional administration was obliged to grant him Russian citizenship. The administration, in return, took the stance that it had not caused this problem and since the Turkish groups had not arrived to the Krasnodar area a long time ago, it owed them nothing.
As mentioned above, it was not the aim of the seminar to reach an agreement on the problems of the Meskhet- Turks in Krasnodar. The reports of the Kurdish and the Shasugskij leaders also showed that members of their ethnic communities were facing a lot of problems in their regions that required a solution. Solving all these conflicts will definitely require very difficult and hard work.
However, our objective for this seminar was more general: teach techniques to find compromises as a means to solve interethnic conflicts not only for Meskhet-Turks but for representatives of all ethnic groups. The idea of a compromise is to find that area where the interests of all parties coincide. Thus the aim of the Anapa seminar was to unite the participants as much as possible instead of promoting disputes and confrontations between different parties.
During past trainings, interactive group games had proven very effective in achieving this objective. Our trainer, Victoria, organized a couple of interactive games and both the leaders of ethnic associations and the administration representatives participated with pleasure. Further more, these interactive games proved that the seminar participants were indeed ready to and could work in a multiethnic team consisting of members from both parties, ethnic minorities and authorities. By now we had found a possible area of compromise, which suited all. And on this basis we constructed a final game.
The participants were divided into 4 groups and given the following task: they were to imagine the year 2008, and were to report to a newspaper journalist what all had changed or not changed for better or worse in the southern regions of the Russian Federation during the past 5 years.
The reports exceeded all our expectations. Some groups presented very interesting outlooks, which could be quite suitable to attract investors. By 2008 manufacture production will have increased by 22 %, agricultural production by 12 %, and tourism by 200 %. Moreover, the problem of the Meskhet Turks will have been solved "within the legal framework of the Russian Federation", and interethnic relations have become much better. Utopia?
Yes, sitting in cold rainy Moscow and reading the latest news reports, it does seem a utopia. But the seminar took place in Anapa. For five days nobody was rude or tried to deceive us. We did not see the drunk and aggressive young people on the streets of Anapa that we so often see on the streets in Moscow. In comparison to last year, the number of visitors to Anapa increased by 50%. It is easy enough to determine what effect this increase has had on the city’s income. Next year the number of visitors will be even higher. Maybe, within 5 years time, every city in the southern regions will be as quiet and pleasant as Anapa is now?
The seminar participants decided that in 2008 problems of tolerance and integration would no longer exist. They would all have been solved through a program for the social adaptation of refugees, thanks to the scientific research of interethnic problems, by explaining ethno-psychological features of the main population living in the region through mass media, through the realization of training programs, beginning in kindergarten continuing through high school, with the help of projects especially designed to introduce and promote tolerance and through a National Development Program for the Southern Regions of Russia. The participants further listed the following organizations and institutions as having played an important role in achieving the specified results rendering financial and organizational support: United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, federal and local authorities, charitable foundations, commercial businesses and ethnic communities.
At the end of the seminar Sarvar Todorov suggested that those, who felt they had gained something positive from participating in the seminar, should lift their hand. Everybody lifted their hands.