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The Preventative Management of Ethnic Conflicts: Training in Samara

An inter-regional training seminar took place in the Krasnoyarsk region from September 11th-12th at the respite facility Nadezhda in Krasnoyarsk region. The seminar was dedicated to the theme of Harmonizing Interethnic Relations and the Preventative Maintenance of Interethnic Conflicts. The seminar was organized by the Department of Interethnic Relations of the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation, the Department for Information Policy and Interaction with Institutes of Civil Society of the Government Department of the Samara oblast, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation (Moscow) and the House of Peoples Friendship, a government institution from the Samara oblast.

The seminar was lead by Ashot Ayrapetyan, the director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation (Moscow).

Participants of the seminar included representatives from the executive authorities of the Udmurtia Republic, Saratov and Yaroslavl oblasts, directors of ethnic public associations for the Samara oblast and other regions, Stanislav Tokmakov, a representative from the Management of the Federal Migration Service of the Samara oblast, as well as a representative from the Management of the Federal Security Service (FSB) from Samara oblast.

Representatives from the Head Administration of Internal Affairs of the Samara oblast attended, including Alexander Kromin and Aleksei Lomakin, colleagues from the Division on Information and Public Liaisons, as well as Regina Gadyeva from the newspaper Pravo (a printed organ of the Head Administration of Internal Affairs). In addition, Alexander Zubov (Administration of Internal Affairs for Samara region), Irina Polyakova (Administration of Internal Affairs for Tolyatti region); directors of the service of Police for Public Safety (MOB) Vadim Ulyashin (from the Protection of Public Order division), Arshak Matirosyan (from the district authorized police), Tatiana Kulagina (responsible for adolescent issues), Gakil Galyamov (commander of the patrol-point duty rank) and others. All took an active part in the work of the seminar, as did Liudmila Obukhova, head of the division for work with citizen management of the department authorized on human rights from the Samara oblast. The participation of the Samara administration was a highlight of the seminar, as was that of Natalia Kutyreva, a specialist from the organizational section of the Tolyatti city hall.

Seminar guests were:

   - Dr. Nikolai Fedorovich Bugai, advisor to the Department of Regional Development of the Russian Federation;
   - Alexander Nikolayevich Timchenko, advisor to the Governor of Yaroslavl oblast;
   - Natalia Pavlovna Smirnova, Deputy Minister of Ethnic Affairs of the Udmurtia Republic;
   - Yulia Borisovna Nikiforova, chairperson of the information and public liaisons subdivision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Yaroslavl oblast;
   - ,
   - Alexander Pulatovich Zuyev, director of the Saratov regional public organization Association of Forced Migrants Saratov Source and
   -Temraz Datikoyevich Bechvaya, president-chairperson of the Saratov oblast public organization Georgian Community Iveriya.

The program of the seminar training was both full and diverse. It was both a plenary session, group work, educational games, brain storms, surveys, and finally, visiting the scenic shores of the Kondurcha river. Here, it is necessary to note that two years ago, we carried out an analogous seminar, at which, in the course of two jam-packed days of brain-storming, a strategy for the development of the government institution House of Peoples Friendship was developed. During those days in August, a serious verbal battle took place regarding the fact that there is no ethnic policy, only a cultural one. All tasks of the government ethnic policy need to be examined more widely; issues of the ethno-religious sphere are indeed issues which are related to the inner safety of the government. Then, it was obvious what was needed for the precise alteration of the strategy of the institution at hand. Seminar participants enjoyed recalling those days in August when peoples efforts resulted in the development of a strategy for the further development of the House of Peoples Friendship, as well as a proclaimed mission and identifying tasks for the institution. Two years have gone by since that time, and we can indeed emphasize: much of which was stated during August is now being accomplished. One of the founders of the government institution House of Peoples Friendship became a staff member of the Government of the Samara oblast (the structure which coordinates issues related to ethnic policy in the region), affirming the regulations in a new edition, which widened the sphere of activity. More attention was paid to matters of education, training, publishing activity and interaction with various federal structures, instead of just focusing on culture. Conducting the seminar was one of the projects of the institution.

In Samara oblast, such educational seminars for directors of public organizations, representatives of the authorities and human rights structures are not a rarity, and it is especially at such informal meetings that public organizations exchange their experience; representatives from different structures learn to hear and listen to each other. Thanks to game techniques, skills for how to act in situations of conflict emerged, and different situations of model behavior were explored, including even those concerning the ethno-cultural sphere.

In accordance with genre events, the seminar-training did not administer extensive reports and appearances regarding issues of interethnic relations. After all, it was not a scholarly conference, and one cannot fail to note only a few showings of these themes.

Nikolai Bugai, advisor to the Department of Interethnic Relations, clearly and emotionally spelled out the condition of the ethnic question in modern Russia and outlined the most severe problems. It is essential to note that Nikolai Fedorovich Bugai worked for more than fifteen years in the federal agencies of government authority in the structures that are responsible for ethnic policy, and was witness and participant in the repeated appearance and disappearance of these structures. Today, in the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation, a Department of Interethnic Relations exists, and its coordinational activity in the sphere of ethno-religious relations is appreciated by all. The department is constantly focusing its attention on different regions and their associates there, which allows them to realize that their activity is important not only at the regional scale, but at that of the state as well.

Seminar guests heard about an interesting experience in respect to the early identification of interethnic conflicts in the Republic of Udmurtia, information which came from Natalia Smirnova, first deputy to the Ministry of Ethnic Policy of the Republic of Udmurtia. A whole ministry exists in this region, in addition to the fact that a House of Peoples Friendship is being formed there. It was very interesting for Natalia Smirnova and the director of the House of Peoples Friendship to take note of the Samara experience in the implementation of their ethnic policy.

The presentation by Alexander Zuyev, chairman of the administration of the Association of Ethno-Cultural Organizations of Saratov oblast, was saturated with information. He shared information about the summer of 2007 in Volsk, when he, together with other leaders of public organizations, happening to be in the epicenter of a conflict, succeeded in remedying the situation. What needs to happen in the first few minutes, when the conflict alights? What words need to be heard, to act in difficult situations in harmony with police officers and what preventative measures need to be taken so that Kondopoga does not happen again? This topic was covered by Alexander Zuyev.

Yulia Nikiforovna, a colleague form the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Yaroslavl oblast, broke the police officer stereotype. It is not so often that one has the opportunity to talk with a merry, competent, energetic, wise and emotional representative form the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The leaders of ethnic organizations of Samara oblast had much to share with the guests from different regions, discussing their activity and presenting their vision of the preventative maintenance of conflicts. L.A. Kolesnikova (Mordovian Cultural Center Mastorava), Shirvan Kerimov (LASO), Badri Chezhiya (Georgian Center Mamuli), Marat Beligov (Chechen Center Vainakh) and others contributed. Leaders of these organizations are united by one daily laborious public activity, not always visible to the members of the organizations, but significant at the regional, oblast and city level. These organizations possess knowledge of constructive and proficient methods to hold up working with authorities, municipal powers and other regions.

Participants first had to get to know one another. On the request of the trainer, the auditorium filled with pairs, who, in the course of a few minutes, found out everything possible about their partner. Following this, each presented his or her partner, and not only the ability to find a common language with ones attentive partner, but also mutual respect, benevolence, and a sense of humor emerged from all mini-presentations. After this process of getting to know one another, people were now closer, more interested and more open, when only one minute before, people were practically strangers. Sequentially, we were convinced of how useful it is to work in a team with astounding people from different regions, of different ethnicities and with different mother tongues to be united as one, with the goal to make the world a better place to live. Not all directors of ethnic organizations of Samara oblast were able to take part in the seminar, but it is all the more valuable that that director of the Kazak national-cultural organization Ak Zhol and A.N. Kan, president of the Association of Koreans of Samara Oblast were able to tear themselves away from the city commotion and business to take part in the final part of the seminar.

The main part of the seminar-trainings agenda was formed by interactive forms of work; brain storms, in the course of which participants found and suggested answers to the trying issues on the route to harmonizing interethnic relations and preventing conflicts. In the flow of one of the storms, seminar participants thoroughly analyzed the causes for the appearance of interethnic tensions and local conflicts. Thirty-eight participants made up this seminar, working in small groups. Participants, divided into four teams, named the main causes of the emergence of interethnic tension:

First Group:

  1. Ignorance of traditions and cultural values of people who live in Russia
  2. Absence of a thought-out social policy
  3. Not accepting the cultures of other people
  4. Decline of moral potential of youth
  5. Un-administered migration process
  6. Influence of mass-media on social opinion
  7. Religious extremism
  8. Influence of concerned structures from the outside
  9. Presence of hidden racism (phobia) in society

Second Group:

  1. Presence of several ethnic groups of different religions
  2. Cultural differences (traditions, customs)
  3. Mass media
  4. Different economic conditions of existence
  5. Hostility to foreigners
  6. Everyday conflicts
  7. Indifference of authorities to NGO work
  8. Deficiencies in guidance at home and at school

Third Group:

  1. Conflict of interests (political, economic, criminal)
  2. Non-compliance with the demands of cultural and spiritual life
  3. Everyday conflicts
  4. Interests of a third strength
  5. Manipulation of public opinion (mass-media)
  6. Migration process
  7. Cultural conflict
  8. Social tension in society
  9. Not observing the law
  10. Lack of dialogue between authorities and diasporas

Fourth group:

  1. Social inequality an division between poor and rich
  2. Conflict of commercial and political interests
  3. Political manipulation: unfair politics
  4. Fall of the USSR and destruction of government ideology
  5. Moral and spiritual crisis of ideals
  6. Insufficient interaction between Main Administration of Internal Affairs and NGOs
  7. Lack of a distinct united governmental system for educational work and progression
  8. Lack of a distinct governmental ethnic and migration policy
  9. Hidden xenophobia in legislature institutions and political authorities of
  10. Lack of interaction between authorities, local self-governance and ethnic organizations
  11. Incongruity of legislation, normative documents and legal acts

Diverse causes for the emergence of problems is not a reason to avoid resolution. Although there are many abstract ideas in the list, real people who make decisions on this or that matter stand behind them, influencing situations in one way or another.

For the following stage of the training, representatives of ethnic organizations and authorities drew an oral portrait of a typical police officer, and people involved in human rights organizations created a portrait of a typical representative of an ethnic minority. In one way or another, these personages relate to the interethnic situation in each region, as the interethnic situation in the region is relatively dependent on how these individuals behave.

According to seminar participants, this is how the typical officer and private look (the number of individuals who supported this statement is shown in brackets):

  1. One of us (5)
  2. Needs Money (6)
  3. Not socially defended (5)
  4. Corrupt (3)
  5. Disciplined (4)
  6. Educated (3)
  7. Owns situations (3)
  1. One of us (5)
  2. Needs money (6)
  3. Not defended socially (5)
  4. Corrupt (3)
  5. Disciplined (4)
  6. Callous (4)
  7. Not tolerant (4)
  8. Rude (3)
  9. Bound by sterotypes (3)
  10. Little educations (3)
  11. Owns situation (3)

This is how an ideal police officer (how s/he should be) appeared to representative of ethnic minorities:

  1. Professionally prepared
  2. Socially protected
  3. Well-paid
  4. Responsible
  5. Physically prepared

For the point of view of a police officer, a typical representative of an ethnic minority has the following characteristics:

  • Emotional
  • United to people from the same area, community
  • Enterprising

In the opinion of seminar participants, with the appearance of new people, the cultural differences of migrants can raise the following problems:

  • Increase in criminality from their side
  • Increase in criminality in relation to them
  • Growth of social tension
  • Growth in the number of migrants outside of the legal realm (illegal migrants)

Yes, we seminar participants are different, representing different ethnic cultures: Russian, Mordovian, Chuvash, Azerbaijani, Chechen, Georgian, Tadjik, Roma and others. Amongst participants in the seminar were police officers, officials, directors of ethnic organizations, women and men, Samarians and non-Samarians, young and old, but this time there was a lot that united us. In a game on the theme What unites us? again, four groups took part.

First group
  1. We are people
  2. We live in one country
  3. The wish to live better (we need security in the future)
  4. Tendency towards professionalism
  5. Respect for traditions (family, society)
  6. Demand for protection (laws, social society)
  7. We are seminar participants

Second group
  1. Territory
  2. Language of contact (government language is Russian)
  3. Legislation
  4. Concern for family
  5. Concern for the future
  6. Personal relations
  7. Social problems
  8. Respect for culture and traditions
  9. Wish and opportunity to jointly solve problems
  10. Ethno-political situation

Third group
  1. United territory
  2. Legislation
  3. Moral norms
  4. Educational system
  5. Safety of society
  6. Mutual responsibility
  7. Increase in personal well-being
  8. Language of government
  9. Improvement of image

Forth group
  1. Citizenship, citizenness (constitution, laws)
  2. Russian language
  3. Stability in society and in government
  4. Concern for the future
  5. Security and protection
  6. Ability to self-actualize
  7. Growth of populations prosperity
  8. Culture, religion
  9. Dissatisfaction of the social sphere
  10. Ability to receive education and professional growth

The results of this group work showed that we have a lot more in common, despite a few apparent differences. Yes, we are people, united by a common language, territory, laws and norms of behavior. We all dream and worry about the well-being of the future, and for this we need to know how to live, create and build a future.

The sum-total of the seminar-training was the development of recommendations from colleagues of human rights structures, representatives of the authorities and national-cultural associations for the improvement of interethnic relations in the regions.

In detail, police employees talked about the necessity of a special order of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on the interaction of institutions of internal affairs with ethnic public organizations. In the opinion of seminar participants, there needs to be a special structure within the Ministry which corresponds to interaction with public organizations. For colleagues of the division of internal affairs, a course on the special ethno-religious features of the population of the region is proposed.

National-cultural associations propose signing a special agreement between NGOs, human rights organizations and authorities on joint activity. In the work practice on site, regular educational seminars must take place for colleagues from district divisions of the internal affairs ministry and for representatives of national-cultural organizations.

Representatives of the authorities prepared the following recommendations:

  • ensure the of monitoring of interethnic and inter-faith relations, transfer information to power structures, forecast the situation;
  • on the site of the House of Peoples Friendship train the specialists responsible on special ethno-cultural and ethno-religious features the methodology of averting conflicts, and the techniques of negotiations;
  • strengthen the interaction between federal authorities, regions, and institutes of civil society in opposing extremism;
  • hasten the adoption of concepts of a governmental ethnic policy of the Russian Federation;
  • hasten the adoption of the federal goals program Ethno-Cultural Development of Russia;
  • direct more attention to the centers of tension in the Southern Federal region (Ingushetia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Dagestan);
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs- develop a normative-law act and instructions on the regulation of possible interethnic conflicts;
  • develop measures on the preventative maintenance of extremism in the youth sphere;
  • introduce Cultural Training of Interethnic Contact as a new subject in general education institutions in the Russian Federation;
  • recommend that mass media illuminate a positive view of migrants in the socio-economic development of the region and of the Russian Federation.

It is necessary to give credit to the organizers of the seminar-training: despite the difficulty of discussing problems, the conversation turned out to be open, unconstrained, which contributed to the lighter movements of the program. In the raft game, whole groups had to each find a place and stand on a small piece of paper for a minute. It turned out that this was not an easy task, even if those who were stronger picked up others and stood on one leg. In another game, participants, by turn had to use silly gestures to describe representatives of the authorities, police officers and migrants. The team who most quickly and amicably reacted to a conflict situation, proposed by a trainer, won.

These cheerful interludes in the serious program of the seminar-training revived the atmosphere, eliminate weariness, allow for informal communication of different, but not strange people, who were presented with certificates, exchanged addresses, telephone numbers, photos and wishes to meet again.

This is how, on the banks of the Kondurcha River, one more seminar was carried out, during the course of which bridges were built for work between different structures, regions and people for the benefit of the future. Samara is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith region; representatives of 135 ethnos live here, as do 23 religions. Tolerance, peace and respect were formed by centuries in Povolzhye, and have always been valued for the existence of our regional Samara association, and today, these are features which we need to open up and, simultaneously, preserve.

Nadezhda Osipova
of the Department on Information Policy and Interaction with the Institutes of Civil Society of the Department of the Government of the Samara oblast


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