Training Seminar in Volgograd
The training seminar in Volgograd took place on March 25 and 26, 2003. The experience in Astrakhan had shown that when the local administration participated in the organization of a training, the problem of whether the leaders of the ethnic associations participated was solved by itself. Nataliya Konischeva, administrator of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, found references on Aleksej Suslov – assistant chief of the Committee for ethnic affairs and affairs of the Cossacks – on the Internet. Without difficulties we found his work phone number a little later. Aleksej Suslov immediately began searching for a country boarding house where the training could be held. The boarding house, “Akhtuba,” situated on the bank of the Homonymous river, was recommended to him. Then the employees of the Committee made a list of the leaders of interethnic associations who would participate in the seminar. As in Astrakhan, the administration preferred to carry out the seminar during weekdays. The experience of the training in Astrakhan had proven that the more administrative representatives participated in a training, the more disciplined it was carried out. For this reason we invited five representatives of the regional and city administration.
As in Ekaterinburg, the preliminary list of training participants was impressive. To our surprise, almost all came to the training. Together with us, that is Ashot Airapetyan, director of the Center, Irina Kropotkina, financial director of the training, Viktoria Shykhat, a young but much demanded trainer, and Galina Ustinov, representative of the MacArthur Foundation, the number of participants totaled 25. As happened in all the 7 regions we worked in before, representatives of German and Jewish organizations took (a rather active) part in the training. Yet here, from five Armenian organizations, nobody was present.
The bus with the training participants left from the city administration building at 6.10 p.m. and we arrived at the country boarding house at 8 p.m. The boarding house consisted of separate, comfortable campers. We did not agree beforehand who should be staying in which camper. Each camper had a different number of rooms in it, and the rooms had varying amounts of beds in them.
It took twenty minutes, if not more, until everybody had their place, but the following days showed, that everybody was satisfied with the residence. Our conference room was in the House of the Fishermen. The modern design and the good illumination made the conference room rather cozy. From then on everything went smoothly. As in all other regions we worked in before, no one in the Volgograd Region had ever organized a seminar for the leaders of interethnic associations and gathered them together in a country house before. As a result of this, we began the training seminar already having positive attitudes towards us, as visitors from the capital who created this positive precedent in Volgograd.
The seminar began with Victoria’s traditional question: “Please name the most urgent problems that ethnic associations face in the Volgograd Region.” Ashot Airapetyan asked the participants to regard this as crucial since it wasn’t simply a question but a valuable opportunity to interrogate the people who were the experts on this in the given area.
The number of problems recorded totaled 54. Kholmad Komilov, leader of the local Tajik organization, was extremely disturbed about a new law concerning foreign citizens, due to which the registration of Tajiks coming to Volgograd for seasonal work, had become an insoluble problem.
Sultan, a young Dagestan, noted the absence of spirituality in people; a spirituality which could be trained with the help of religious education.
Sadly, the issue of human rights violations was not pointed out by any participant.
Well, it happens that Russia is not a lawful state because the authorities, both local and federal, don’t try to maintain their citizens’ rights (and even more so, non-citizens’ rights).
The participants of the seminar chose four problems, which in their opinion were the ones that should be most urgently dealt with in the Volgograd Region.
The problems, that were considered most important, are the following:
1. The lack of policies and strategies regarding nationalities.
2. Little activity of the ethnic non-commercial Organizations
3. The absence of a center to unite different nationalities.
4. The lack of spiritual (religious) education
After identifying the main regional problems Galina Ustinov spoke in front of the participants. For the leaders of ethnic associations, who had heard about grants but never received them, her speech was especially interesting. Galina Vladimirovna not only talked about the Mac Arthur Foundation but also about different foundations that exist, how they work, and where it is possible to find useful information about them, etc.
It is necessary to emphasize that, in spite of the fact that some of the leaders sat together until late, all participants were equally present the next morning at 10 a.m.
A tremendous liveliness stirred up among the participants when they were asked to analyze examples of successful and unsuccessful negotiations.
Evgenij Khrupnov, assistant director of the Historic and Ethnographic Museum, “Staraya Starepta,” noted the reception of a written approval from the governor regarding the distribution of two buses to his organization as an example for a successful negotiation. As a negative example, he stated that two years had passed and he had not yet received the buses. This was not the only example of that kind.
It seemed to us that the leaders of ethnic associations, as opposed their colleagues in business structures, were pleased with the process of the negotiations but not with the results.
As we did in Astrakhan, we decided to end the training seminar with an interactive game, the aim of the game being for everyone to take on another participant’s position. We asked the administration representatives to take on the role of ethnic community leaders, and the latter to take on the role of administration representatives. The subject we chose for the fictional negotiations was the creation of a center to coordinate the policies on nationalities in the Volgograd Region.
The game was great entertainment. Boris Gekht, leader of a German organization, superbly acted out the role of the Governor of the Volgograd Region, and he did not refuse anybody anything.
The analysis of the questionnaire filled out by 21 participants showed the following:
The trainer’s work was valued on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest:
- professionalism – 9,95
- new information – 8,47
- practicality – 9,14
- application – 8,9
The question, whether the training was useful for the participant’s further work, was answered with a medium of 9,42.
In response to the question as to whether it would be useful to coordinate the efforts of the different ethnic associations throughout Russia, 18 participants answered with yes and 3 refrained from answering.
Altogether the training seminar in Volgograd was carried out successfully.