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Tolerance is a strange word

Results of the seminar in Samara


At the resort Hope, one hour drive from Samara, from August 16th till August 17th the seminar Mechanism of forming tolerant relations to immigrants and to ethnic minorities took place. The seminar was financed by the American private foundations MacArthur and Charles Stuart Mott and by the administration of the Samara Region. The fact that local government organs were financing one third of the expenses of the seminar is a new phenomenon, not only for the Center for Interethnic Cooperation but also for a lot of Russian non-governmental organizations. Here some of our opponents can say that they know a lot of non-governmental organizations that have regularly received financial aid from governmental organs for a long time. We also know them. These are, as a rule, governmental non-governmental organizations. This means that formally they are non-governmental but in fact they are more governmental than the real governmental organizations. It is just not customary for our officials to give the money to strangers, even when these strangers are doing very useful work which also benefits the government. For the sake of fairness we have to mention that this phenomenon is also widespread in the United States and in the countries of the European Union. Admittedly the proportions of supposed and real non-governmental organizations are different there. As the Center for Interethnic Cooperation managed to convince the local governmental organs that providing resources will be of use not only for the national communities on the region but also for the local administration, the local governments organs of the regions of Samara, Perm, Sverdlovsk, Krasnodar and Krasnoyarsk, decided to finance the seminars of the Center. At the same time, we have to stress that the financial aid of the governmental organs is not for the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, but for its seminars. In the case of the seminar in Samara, the administration provided accommodation for the participants from Samara at the resort Hope.

We organized so many seminars and trainings in Samara that this time we have lost count. We know a lot of the national leaders in the region of Samara very well. However, this seminar was one of the most difficult ones that the Center for Interethnic Cooperation has ever carried out. The problem was not the fact that the participants understood the word tolerance in different ways but that the mutual relations between the participants were not always constructive and sometimes not really tolerant. The only guilty one for this phenomenon was the administration of Samara region. If you think that the government is not giving sufficiently attention to the Samara national communities, as you can see it in a lot of regions of Russia, you are mistaken. Everything is just splendid in these regions. Just like in Soviet times, the authorities gather the necessary people and this people quietly listen and entirely approve of any initiatives of the representatives of the Party and the Government. In the Samara Region, the regional administration is giving out huge for Russian measures - funds to national organizations. Furthermore, a few years ago in Samara the House of Peoples Friendship was founded for the national organizations. The building, with an area of more than 500 square kilometres, is situated outside of the Samara city center. However, unlike the House of Nationalities in Moscow, in the House of Peoples Friendship the national organizations got offices, and unlike in the Center of National Cultures in Krasnodar, the national organizations do not pay rent for their offices, and also received free furniture, phone connections and even regular salaries. This is the main guilt of the region of Samara. The administration treated the national organizations like serious partners, but the leaders of these organizations started behaving like little children. As a result, questions regarding the detailed plan, like which organization will receive which location and where this location will be, became an obstacle in the relations between the national organizations.

For the sake of fairness we have to say that the permanent change of the authorities structure added fuel to the flames, on the federal and the regional level. Ramzan Abdulatipov was vice Prime Minister and Minister for Ethnic Issues in Russia. In the Government of Kasyanov, Abdulatipov was not a minister any more, but the Ministry remained. However, after different structural changes the Ministry for Ethnic Issues was abolished and only one minister with very restricted authority remained. In the Government of Fradkov they did not even want this one minister. The problems of interethnic politics became the responsibility of the Ministry for Culture that neither had corresponding authority nor the wish to solve problems in this field. Indeed in the region of Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk and now also in Saratov structural changes took place, and as a result, interethnic problems are now dealt with in a subdivision of the Ministry of Culture. Consequently, the House of Peoples Friendship in Samara turned out to be in the heart of the Ministry of Culture of the Samara Region and is concerned only with questions of the development of ethnic cultures. On the other side, in the Samara Region, like in other regions of Russia where there are lots of immigrants, there is a high level of xenophobia, which became the reason for the appearance of skinheads and other nationalist groups. Should the House of Peoples Friendship ignore these problems and only deal with cultural issues or should this, as it is not hard to guess, pretty expensive governmental structure try to solve problems in the field of interethnic relations? That was the main question of the seminar in Samara. The main intrigue was the fact that the participants - leaders of national organizations, officials of the administration, experts and journalists specialised in the field of interethnic relations had very different ideas about the future of the House of Peoples Friendship. We knew in advance that the seminar would produce not only confrontations of different positions but also of different interests.

That is why the representatives of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, Ashot Airapetian and Victoria Shukhat, started the seminar by establishing the rules for the work. Victoria wrote on a big sheet of paper several rules to guarantee a successful realization of the seminar and proposed that the participants fill in this list. Then she cut out those points that not everybody agreed on. In this way, with the consensus method, the rules for the realization of the seminar were selected. We have to stress that in the resulting list the points Dont interrupt each other and Behave kindly towards everybody remained. At the request of Victoria all the participants signed the final list of rules. Soon it became clear that this procedure did not prevent emotional explosions and unkindly statements.

What kinds of problems exist in the region of Samara in the field of interethnic relations? The interrogation of the participants of the seminar started with this question. After that, Victoria wrote all the comments of the participants and asked the participants to choose from this list the three most important points. As we expected, the opinions of the participants drifted apart. The problems that got more than four points are:

Main problems - Samara 2005

1. The menace of xenophobia .

2. The lack of a State national policy

3. Full-scale violation of human rights

4. The lack of control over adherence to the law

5. The lack of an active position of the citizens to defend their own rights

6. Misinformation about the cultures of ethnic minorities by the mass media.

We have to stress that the problem of the Menace of xenophobia took the first place in the list. Also the analysis of the other problems of the list showed that the main problems are in the field of interethnic relations and that they are of juristic or informational, but not of cultural character. It showed that in the Samara Region it is truly a big problem to create tolerance.

Then the coffee break was announced. Exactly in that moment Aleksandr Zhivaikin, deputy chief of the Government of the Samara Region, and Leonid Belyaev, deputy chief of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs (GUVD) of the Samara Region, arrived. First of all, they were informed about the problems that exist in the Samara region, according to the participants of the seminar. Then, according to the seminar schedule, the representatives of the administration and of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs of the Samara Region spoke about their understanding of the existing problems. Aleksandr Zhivaikin made it quite short. He had been working as chief of the Department only for eight months and thought that the Samara Region was and will remain a calm region concerning interethnic relations. He was willing to examine any proposition coming from the leaders of the national organizations for further cooperation with the administration of the region. Aleksandr Ivanovich announced that the administration is ready to sign an agreement stating their cooperation with the national organizations, and that it also wants to help them to gain the signature of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs. Leonid Belyaev admitted that since last year his attitude to the work with national organizations had changed a lot. He explained his position, and also why the tension between the different ethnic groups in the region keeps growing. After their speeches the representatives of the administration and of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs answered various questions of the seminar participants.

After lunch when the guests from the officialdom of the seminar had left, Ashot Airapetian observed in his speech that the Samara Region is the only region in Russia where representatives of the administration of this level agree to sign a three-sided agreement of cooperation. Admittedly, in Tatarstan a similar agreement was already signed. However, Tatarstan is a national republic and therefore the relations to other nationalities are obviously of a specific character. In the regions of Sverdlovsk and Krasnodar the project of a similar agreement remained unsigned. Ashot appealed to the leaders of the national organizations to not let such an opportunity go and to sign the mentioned agreement.

As it was planned, the chief of the House of Peoples Friendship, Eugenia Nikulina, spoke about the Houses activities and gave some information about this institution. She said that according to its regulations, the House of Peoples Friendship can be engaged in the field of culture only. After the speech of Eugenia Aleksejevna, Ashot Airapetian told the participants how the Center of Ethnic Cultures in Krasnodar and the House of Nationalities in Moscow work .

Further Ashot Airapetian asked to the participants to think about what the House of Peoples Friendship can do to solve problems regarding interethnic relations in the Samara Region. What happened afterwards is nearly impossible to describe. The behavior of some participants matched more to an oriental bazaar: a lot of emotions, insults and accusations. The strangest thing was that nobody acknowledged the necessity of enlarging the authorities of the House of Peoples Friendship. It seemed that for the majority of the seminar participants, it is less important what the House is doing than who gets to wheel it. At this point we would like to thank Shirvan Kerimov, the leader of the League of Azerbaijanis in Samara region, and Lada Kupaeva, CVR Poisk, who helped Ashot with their quietness and reason to maintain control and to successfully deal with this part of the seminars work.

As a result, the participants of the seminar, divided in four working groups, put together their recommendations for a further expansion of the activities of the House of Peoples Friendship between Nations. Like in a bad movie, the loudest participants of the seminar left, demonstrating that they were interested only in the process and not in the result. The second day turned out to be a lot quieter. The situation was calm enough that Victoria could carry out some interesting games. The main task of the day was to combine all the recommendations that were made in the working groups on one single list, since, as expected, there were a lot of repetitions. They did it that way: the recommendations of the working groups, wrote with soft-tip pen on big sheets of paper, were hanging on the walls of the conference hall. Victoria read aloud the results. During the reading of the second, third and fourth group, whenever the participants of the seminar found a repetition, Victoria erased these paragraphs. Yet this was not all. The final list was proposed to the working groups, but it was not approved by all the participants of the seminar who considered their participation on the second day of the seminar necessary. As Ashot Airapetian required, Victoria read the final list of the recommendations point by point and erased the points that not everybody agreed on. In this way in the final list only the recommendations which all the participants of the seminar agreed on remained. Starting from the results of the list, Ashot drew on a big sheet of paper the structure of the proposed House of Peoples Friendship. He asked the participants if this plan corresponds with the obtained results. All agreed. So the recommendations look this way.

The proposed structure of the House of Peoples Friendship by the region of Samara

The functions of the juristic center:

Information about human rights in the juridical practice

Monitoring center human rights violations on ethnic basis (legislative initiative)

Hotline for people whose rights were violated

Service of public control

Juristic consultations and legal accompaniment

Statistics of violations of human rights on ethnic basis

Meetings between representatives of Central Directorate of Internal Affairs and the Public council one time in the 3 months

Juridical office for work with ethnic associations, individuals and organizations that deal with problems of realization of law

The functions of the organizational and methodical center:

Annual report in front of the public for financing problems and the conducted work of the HPF

Bring in changes of the Regulations HPF

The functions informational and analytical center:

Information about the activities of the House of Peoples Friendship by the regional mass media

Carrying out press conferences in the HPF

Educational activity what consequences the xenophobic menace can have

Brochure the ABC of interethnic tolerance rules of behavior and contacts between different nationalities

Setting up of a homepage for the HPF

Booklets, posters, methods, journal Ethnic groups and culture

Monitoring of the ethno-national and migration situations

Ethnographic expeditions in the region

Monitoring of the mass media

Reacting to publications that humiliate national sentiments and worsen interethnic relations

The functions of the working center:

Ethno-tourism

Museum of costumes and objects of the life of several nationalities

Shop for selling costumes and objects from the life of several nationalities

Multicultural caf?

Skilled service for social questions and job placements

The functions of the educational center:

Setting up of an educational center to support the education of public officials, municipal workers, representatives of law-enforcement organs and migration services

Carrying out trainings on tolerance for pupils, students and policemen

The functions of cultures and sports:

Support of national cultures

National types of sports

After that, Victoria divided the participants in two groups. One consisted of the national leaders, the other of all the rest. She asked what national organizations can propose for a successful functioning of the House of Peoples Friendship. The results are the following:

Contribution to the House of Peoples Friendship (HPF) of Nations; First group (leaders of national organizations) )

1. Ethno-tourism

2. Sport hall (Somonyen, Vaynakh)

3. Caf? with national dishes

4. Free juristic consultations (League of Azerbaijanis )

5. Excursions Poles in Samara

6. Tourist routes in the region (Mastorava)

7. Project work (Georgian center)

8. Center of consultations for project writing

9. Repair of the offices

10. Methodical help in cultural and educational institutions

11. Messenger help

Contribution to the HPF; Second group

1. Private funding of activities

2. Public council as an intellectual resource to make suggestions

3. Writing common projects with HPF

4. Making a museum of ethnology

5. Transmission of ethno-cultural information (pupils, students, the population and the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs)

6. Participation in monitoring

7. Preparation of informational basis about the Diaspora

8. Social-humanitarian aid

9. Trainings ethno-cultural competences (with Central Directorate of Internal Affairs)

That was the end of the seminar. The participants of Samara left, and the members of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation put the obtained results into the computer and prepared the project of appealing to the Governor of the Samara region, Titov, requesting that he familiarize himself with the results of the seminar.

The next day at noon, as planned, we visited the House of Peoples Friendship and handed the results of the seminar to all the participants.

We have to stress that the representatives of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation principally did not take part in the discussions. That means that all the recommendations about the structure of the House of Peoples Friendship were made by residents of Samara. We came back to Moscow with ambivalent feelings. We had organized a brainstorm, and the recommendations turned out to be very interesting. If one day the House of Peoples Friendship puts these recommendations into practice, it will be a serious precedent in Russia. Yet maybe these recommendations will stay on the paper, as we have experienced it several times before in our practice. Only time will tell.

1993-2003
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