“Negotiations with the authorities for the effective protection of national minorities. Organizing a public campaign" Training in Ekaterinburg, July 18 - 19, 2003
Is everything calm in Ekaterinburg?
We arrived in Ekaterinburg late on July 16 and we were lucky. Just that day the “Church on blood”, built on the grounds of the Ipat’evskij house where 85 years ago Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered, was consecrated. By the time arrived at the church it was already late at night and the church was surrounded by a mass of people. Due respect should be given to the architects and builders for the beautiful church. That night it looked simply majestic. Some argue that Governor Rossel built the church especially before the regional elections, which will be held in September, to create good publicity for him. Even so, the elections will soon be finished. New governors will come and go but the church will stand for centuries; a church that symbolizes the repentance for murder and moreover for the killing of the innocent children of the last Russian emperor. Unfortunately, repentance cannot be offered by the executors of this barbarous action, or by those tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, who sincerely believed that in order to construct a new more justified world, bloodshed and total violence was necessary. Instead, it is now the current residents of Ekaterinburg who wish to show their repentance (though it is strange that still today the area is still named after Sverdlov). It is very likely that the building of the church will become an attraction for thousands of believers, or simply for tourists, to visit Ekaterinburg. But will Ekaterinburg become an example of tolerance, not only towards other political beliefs, but also towards other religions and cultures?
What we have seen from TV broadcasting proves that, in the heat of the pre-election battle, any campaign measure is considered acceptable. For instance, regional TV channels broadcasted anti-Tajik programs containing obvious accusations, which were not aimed at concrete persons, but rather at the Tajik nationality as a whole. Unfortunately, such occurrences continue in a region that is considered to be one of the healthiest regarding interethnic relations. This proves that it is important to maintain interethnic cooperation through continuous efforts, rather than expect one single effort to sustain longevity. The struggle against racism and xenophobia is similar to maintaining a piece of equipment, for instance, a vehicle—if it is not cared for on a continuous basis large problems will develop.
The training started on July 18, at 10 a.m. in the country boarding house “Shishki”, which is located 20 km from Ekaterinburg.
This was our second training in Ekaterinburg, and this time the training was not limited to participants from Sverdlovsk region. We invited participants from Vladivostok, Orenburg, Perm’ and Novosibirsk. Furthermore this training lasted three instead of two days and was organized with the help of representatives of the regional administration. They selected a very nice place of accommodation, and at their request the reception of non-resident participants was organized during the entire day of July 17 in the House of Peace and Friendship in Ekaterinburg. The guests and participants of the training were treated to coffee, tea and tasty sandwiches.
Grigorij Vertegel, deputy director of the Department of public and religious organizations in the Sverdlovsk Administration, Marina Plyasunova, secretary of Consulting Council on Nationalities of Sverdlovsk area, and Maya Mikhailova, chief of the Department of public and religious organizations of the Ekaterinburg City Administration, attended the training and were the most active participants.
Before starting the training we considered whether it would actually be necessary to carry out the traditional brainstorm with the leaders of ethnic associations on problems related to interethnic relations. Nonetheless, we decided to do so, as representatives of other regions besides Sverdlovsk were also present at the training. We found it useful that non-resident participants specified their city when they formulated a problem. Furthermore we designated between the problems of the administrative representatives and those of the association representatives. Afterwards the participants had to choose three problems from the list, which in their opinion were the most urgent. The following four problems received most votes:
No financial means
NGO Leaders are not experienced enough
Lack of governmental policies regarding nationalities and lack of mechanisms to interact with the mass media
Further problems mentioned:
Dissociation inside of ethnic groups
No cooperation with the mass media
No experts regarding nationality questions
Little attention from the authorities (Vladivostok)
No nationality policies from the state
Nobody needs internationalism
Discrimination on the basis of ethnic background when searching for work (Orenburg)
Deportation of Tadjiks (Novosibirsk). No mechanisms to interact with authorities.
No dialogue between authorities and ethnic associations as partners
Ethnic Associations do not inform authorities about problems
The work of NGOs is not professional enough (Sverdlovsk area administration)
Policies regarding nationality affairs are not realized systematically
Not everybody who pays taxes has the right of self-expression
Common nationalism in the local education system
Lack of specialized officials
Antagonism between leaders of ethnic associations
The mass media looks for scandals
No comparative analysis of ethnic problems in the different regions City and regional authorities oppose each other
The standards of international law are not realized
thnic leaders are manipulated during election campaigns
It is very difficult for Diaspora representatives to travel abroad
Problems to create a consular department
Lack of legal education
The experience of CIS countries is not been analyzed
Direct transfer of European and American experience to Russia
Indistinct migration laws
Ethnic NGOs are isolated from each other (Ekaterinburg city administration)
No systematic work within the ethnic associations (Ekaterinburg city administration)
Ethnic associations do not participate in interethnic projects
Why should Russians be responsible for everybody?
No national objectives that unite everybody No mechanisms to legalize migrants
No representation of ethnic minorities in authorities
Weak connection to the ethnic native land
High staff fluctuation
The main result of the problem gathering was a wide array of positions amongst the training participants. We experienced this situation before during other trainings in other regions. The wide spectrum of positions shows that the leaders of ethnic associations do not have a uniform position regarding the problems of ethnic minorities. Hence, there is no uniform policy to solve these problems.
In all the regions of Russia where we have carried out activities, the leaders of ethnic associations commonly complain about the lack of financial means. They consider the state to be responsible for financing their own activities. Nothing or very little is said about human rights.
Russia is not a lawful state. Only recognizing the infringement of human rights, especially if a person has a non-Slavic appearance, does not solve this problem, and only creates new, sharper problems. The rights of the ethnic minorities cannot be protected simply by incendiary songs and dances performed on ethnic holidays. Therefore the basic strategy of our training was to explain that members of ethnic minorities have certain rights, and to teach the leaders of ethnic communities how to effectively protect them. As a theme for the training we chose “Realization of a Public Campaign”.
At the beginning of the training Viktoria Shukhat, our young and talented trainer, told the participants how effective the organization of a public campaign can be towards the protection of ethnic minority rights. Afterwards the participants determined three issues that concerned them, and for which they wanted to realize a public campaign.
These were the issues of concern:
Fighting Islam phobia
Introducing multicultural contents into education
The participants worked in small working groups and under the instruction of the trainer they determined the target groups of their public campaign, a the basic slogan, what organizations are needed to form a coalition for a successful campaign, who are they going to involve as volunteers for its successful realization, and what concrete activities their campaign will involve.
The results were the following:
Fighting Islam phobia
Slogan: Islam – a kind and peaceful religion
1. The population of Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk area
2. Men and women
3. Representatives and priests of other confessions
4. Mass media representatives
5. Representatives of power structures (Ministry of the Interior, FSB, Ministry of Justice, State Parliament?)
6. Official specialists for relations with public and ethnic organizations
8. Experts from the Nationality Council Military personnel Politicians.
9. All public organizations, ethnic centers, regional branches of political parties, Veterans’ associations, human rights organizations etc.
-Committee for relations with religious and ethnic organizations (city and region)
-Human Rights Commissioner
-Ethno-cultural autonomy of ethnic Muslims and others
-Muslim religious administrative center and “DUMZAR”
-Regional branch of the “Association of Russian Patriots” (political party)
-"Association of Afghanistan Veterans and Association of Local War Veterans”
-Regional TV Channels ("Islam Today", "Bessen Dajra", "Minem Ilen") Press, Newspapers("Saf Chishma", "Istina")
-Regional Roma representatives and Jewish community "Menora"
-Russian ethnic centers
-Popular personalities from the region (Polosin, Prokhorova, Malashenko) VIP – politicians (Kobzon, Borodin, Primakov, Aushev)
-Muslim volunteers–Moslem duty- Teaching Islam "Dauvat"
-Non-Muslim volunteers– on the assumption that they are interested in the subject and/or on receiving new knowledge on Islam
-"Dividend" from an activity– division of success stimulus
-Demonstration of positive results
-Mutual aid: we - you, you - we.
-Promotion of the half-slogan (“Zhirinovskij on polygamy”)
-Attraction of scientists from the Maximilian Institute in Munich, Germany
-appeals, open letters
-Organization of Muslim cells
-Statements in theaters regarding the subject
-Participation in discussions
-Inform political parties about Islam phobia
-Exhibitions on Islam culture Explain the rule of secular laws, common right and Shariata
-Lectures in various halls "Medicine – Islam – Esoteric”
-Press conferences with representatives of Chechen communities on Islam related subjects
-"Terrorism – juridical category or method to express protest” (lecture)
-Quotations and theses from the Koran Joint activities with representatives from other confessions
-Cooperation with human rights organizations
-Realization of thematic lectures “Great people in Islam”
Our address – Russia!
- People looking for a permanent residence
- Members of migrants’ families
- Countrymen of community leaders
II. Authorities dealing with migration:
- Visa offices
- Regional employment office
- Ministry of Economy
- Public safety militia
- Ural University
- Public migrants organizations and human rights organizations
- Representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the CIS countries
- Human Rights Commissioner
- Tax authorities
1. Public organizations
- human rights organizations
- migrants’ organizations
- ethnic organizations
- religious organizations
2. Migration office
3. Visa offices
4. Human Rights Commissioner
5. Employment office
6. Editorial staff form the newspaper “Paternal Region“
7. Regional information agency
8. Ministry of Labor
9. Administration from the “Dawn” community
10. Deputy Pugovkin V.I.
11. Consular department of the Ministries for Foreign Affairs of the CIS countries
12. Union of industrialists and businessmen
1. Creation of an office that welcomes migrants with the help of the community
2. Realization of joint training seminars with the Visa offices, employment office, tax authorities, and communities
3. Address the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Labor with the offer to include expert commissions into their structures that represent the public
4. Preparation of an information booklet on migration
5. Creation of a database of all jobs
6. Work with mass media, competition
7. Meet students and teachers from Ural University
8. Interaction with the business sector
9. Meeting "Russia, we are your children"
10. Round-tables with human rights activists and human rights commissioners and release of the information booklet
11. Allocation of migrant community leaders
12. Consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1. Attract volunteers from migrant environments (help with the registration of documents)
2. College students from the humanities department (practice + experience)
3. Human Rights Activists (realization of idea)
4. Employment office (improvement of the campaign through the help of specialists in this field + in the field of job search)
5. Esoteric groups (people of the world), migrant settlements
6. Voluntary journalists
7. Charitable organizations (ĺ.g. "Doctors without frontiers")
8. Red cross
9. Members of public organizations
Introducing multicultural contents into education
Ethnic education – the basis for mutual understanding
1. Department of Education
2. Ethno-cultural public associations
3. Individuals, parents
5. Council of Nationalities for the regional authorities and mass media
6. Deputy corps
7. Creative VIP-personalities, publishing houses
1. NGO: advisory council for nationality affairs
2. Department of Education, city Ekaterinburg
3. Ministry of Education, Sverdlosk area
4. Union of Journalists, Sverdlovsk area
5. Committee for Social Policies, Regional Duma
6. Programs of the Houses of Friendship
7. Theater, opera, ballet, Children’s theater, Philharmonic, Rhythms "Romen"
8. House of the Creative Pioneers
9. Interethnic library
10. Educational institutions
11. Arts school
12. Educational organizations of ethnic centers
1. Study languages, cultures, traditions
2. Communication with compatriots
3. Receive professional knowledge and skills
4. Participate in socially valuable projects
5. Form one’s image
6. Generate systems of ethnic education
7. Possibility to meet well-known people.
8. Creation and realization of joint projects
9. Meetings, camps, parties, clubs to meet people
10. Participate in a grant competition
11. Participate in public events and discussions
12. Contribute to create a civil society
Plan of activities for 2004:
January – December – Series of public statements (official appeals, references, press conferences)
January – February – Slogans, symbols, flyers, conferences, round-tables…
March – Festivals of ethnic culture, theater, TV, music
April – Lobbying at all levels
May – Seminars, exhibitions
June – Parade (Family-children Day), holidays
July – Support meetings, monitoring
August – Week of ethnic cultures
After every stage, each group reported on the results of their work. Sometimes there were such fierce disputes that it seemed almost impossible to reach a common denominator. In between the theoretical work, interactive games were played, which practiced discussing and agreeing on a joint strategy in a limited period of time. The participants were most delighted by a game called "The Electrified Cord". Two groups had to get from one side of the rope to the other without touching the rope and without letting go of each other.
The team that spent more time on preparation was able to get all the team members to the other side of the "cord" on the first try. The other team was not as successful and had to start over three times. After the game the participants analyzed the reasons for their success or failure.
It is necessary to emphasize, that during the course of the training the trainer, Victoria Shukhat, and the director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, Ashot Airapetyan, continuously pointed out parallels with other countries and regions. And during the second day of the training Ashot Airapetyan took an hour to inform the participants about Russian and foreign mechanisms to protect ethnic minorities.
At the end of the training the participants completed the questionnaires. The training was evaluated on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. An analysis of the questionnaire showed the following results:
Professionalism of the trainer – 9.38
Novelty of the received information – 7.31
Applicability of the received information– 7.20
Organization of the training – 8.58.
To the question “What did you like best during the training?” Lilia Tsentner, leader of the ethno-cultural Tatar autonomy from Vladivostok answered: “Everything”. Maya Mikhailova, chief of the Department on work with public organizations of the Ekaterinburg city Administration, noted: "Goodwill and tolerant attitudes towards different opinions". Viktor Sayapin, chief of the Russian National Center emphasized: "Open and democratic".
On June 20 at 6 p.m. the conference was over and the bus arrived to pick up the participants. However it turned out that only five people were going back to Ekaterinburg on the bus. Most of the participants returned in cars with newfound friends amongst the leaders of ethnic associations from Ekaterinburg.
However in itself the training is not yet finished. As mentioned above, local television programming broadcasted anti-Tajik programs. Two days later a round table on the "Maintenance and Protection of Ethnic Minority Rights in the territory of the Sverdlovsk area” was held in the Human Rights Hall of Tat’yana Merzlyakova’s center. The Center for Interethnic Cooperation initiated the round table. Leaders of ethnic associations from Ekaterinburg and local Human Rights Activists attended the round table. Fifteen minutes before the round table began, Ashot Airapetyan spoke with the camera teams from the leading regional TV channels. Also TV journalists, invited by Tat’yana Merzlyakova, recorded the first part of a round table, in particular, the statement made by the leader of the Society of Tajik Culture, Farukh Mirzoev. Thus, the authors of the anti-Tadjik message were met with spoken adversity. The participants of the round table not only discussed the interethnic situation in the country, but also agreed to carry out such meetings regularly with human rights activists. Representative Tat’yana Merzlyakova reacted to this idea rather favorably. Hence, the first joint public campaign of the leaders of national associations of Ekaterinburg began