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Training in Samarra: “International and Russian Mechanisms of Cooperation between Ethnic Associations and Governmental Agencies”


Once again, between the 28th and 29th of June 2004, the hospitable Samarran earth was the location for one of our trainings. In Tolyatti, the training-seminar “ International and Russian Mechanisms of Cooperation between Ethnic Associations and Governmental Agencies” took place. It was organized by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation and the Jewish Organization “Tsvi Girsh” (Lower Novgorod), with the support of the Samarra Regional Ministry of Culture, Youth Politics and Sports.

The Seminar was carried out within the framework of a partner project called “Introduction to Positive American Experiences in the sphere of Interaction between Ethnic Minorities and Governmental and Non-governmental Organizations, ” with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and within the framework of the “PARTNER” project, which is put into practice by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

The first training cycle took place in Lower Novgorod. It was very interesting for us to compare the problems, the level of the organization, and the project ideas expressed by leaders of ethnic NGO’s of two big cities from the Volga Federal District (VFD).

Already before the training in Samara began, it was clear that Samara was an advanced and socially mature region.

One organizer of the training from the district’s administration - Nadezhda Petrova Osipova - is the main specialist of the Department for Cooperation with Social Organizations, Ethnic Issues and Religious Faiths of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Politics and Sports of the Samarra district.
She told us that the number of leaders of ethnic public organizations that wanted to participate was significantly greater than the space and financial capabilities of the project. Somebody had to be denied participation in the training, and instead given a promise to be supplied with all the materials distributed at and information about the training. This didn’t really substitute for going to the training, but it allowed all who wanted to take part access to the micro projects we came up with.

Participants in the training were:

  • Represents of executive authorities organs for the Minister of Samarra district
  • Scholars/sociologists
  • Journalists
  • Leaders of regional social ethnic-cultural organizations (Russian, Tatar, Chuvash, Mordvinian, Azerbijani, Chechen, Armenian).

The training highlighted the more current problems of the ethnic situation in the Samarra region.

  • The media incites interethnic tension
  • The growth of xenophobia in the native population toward migrants
  • The region’s archaic national politics
  • The neglected status of migration policy
  • No comprehensive work with adolescents to develop tolerance
  • The media isn’t really interested in the problems of native populations
  • Not well thought out ideas of the Russian state
  • Insufficient financing of NGO’s by the government

It’s interesting that in importance, problems of financing here were in 30th place, whereas 5-6 years ago they were designated as the most important.

The leaders of the native ethnic organizations (Tatar, Chuvas, Mordvinian,) also named education reforms that threaten the existence of small province schools.

Among the other problems named were:

  • Infringement of the rights of immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus by law enforcement agencies
  • Complexity of obtaining citizenship and carrying out the registration process.
  • Absence of a special program to train local citizens for the arrival of immigrants
  • Absence of a complex program to work with adolescence (to train tolerant treatment in the society)
  • Absence of directional programs to create a positive image of people of different ethnicities (of immigrants).
  • A low level of legal education of NGO leaders
  • Illegal migration
  • The media isn’t interested in the problems of native populations
  • Discrimination against Russian speaking people in other former Soviet republics, which complicates the interethnic situation in Russia.
  • The wounded pride of ethnic Russians, which results in increasing Russian nationalism.
  • Superior character of the realization of ethno-cultural policies
  • Ignorance of different cultures and the subsequent appearance of social- economic conflicts
  • Differing levels of socioeconomic development of different ethnic groups
  • The passive attitude of Russians toward their own problems
  • The “House of Friendship between Peoples” isn’t engaged in human rights issues
  • The different priorities of NGO’s and the government

One of the problems in realizing regional ethnic policies revealed at the training is the state of the governmental culture institution House of Friendship between Peoples (HFP). HFP possesses an annual budget of 6 million rubles. At the same time, another program was realized in the region, called: “Different, but not strange - peace through culture,” in accordance with which 3.5 million rubles are allotted annually to support ethnic culture, ethnic education, ethnic media, and scientific research.

Funds for the carrying out of ethnic holidays are also allotted from budgets of different levels.
This excellent resource, granted by the state to NGO’s, is to satisfy the ethnic-cultural needs of the region’s population.

But despite the fact that at this time sociologists are recording an increase of xenophobia, and that in recent times there have emerged instances of worsening interethnic relations (for example, in the village of Sukhiye Avrali of the Yelkhovskiy region and the village of Mar’yevka of the Pestravkiy region), there are still newspapers, including the Volga Nightfall, which continue to inflame interethnic tensions.

This means that the availability of a financing budget and the special governmental foundation the House of Friendship of Peoples, which is occupied with conducting ethnic activities, haven’t acted as a panacea for the increase in xenophobia.

Today it is necessary to propose and designate new priorities for carrying out ethnic policies in the region, and in the foreground of this pursuit are: human rights questions; the creation of mechanisms for monitoring media that incites interethnic conflict; projects to promote tolerance in youth and student environments; and activities aimed at the mutual adaptation of immigrants and the native population.

The leaders of Chechen and Azerbaijani ethnic cultural centers, who in May of this year took part in a training visit to the UK (within the framework of a Russian-Britain project called: “Ethnic Minorities and Access to Justice”), gave a presentation to the seminar participants. They familiarized those present with the work experiences of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality, with the governmental Commission for Racial Equality, and with Scotland Yard, the subdivision of the Police Office responsible for fighting racial crimes. It was interesting to hear about the work of the Greenwich Council, where every new policeman in Greenwich (the most multi-ethnic region of London) has to go and take classes on the ethnic particularities of Greenwich’s population.

A lot of attention has been devoted to examining the experiences of US social organizations, and in particular, of CAMBA (Church Avenue Merchant’s Block Association), which helps solve the social adaptation problems of migrants in the Brooklyn area of New York City. Together with the police department, the organization creates instructional videos for the police on immigrants and Muslim communities; realizes the "Mosaic" youth project; releases booklets and posters for the promotion of tolerance, etc.

The participants of the seminar were in agreement that today it is necessary for the Samarra region House of Friendship of Peoples to orient their actions toward the realization of ethnic-culture policies while taking into account the experiences of other countries that have survived such a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in their societies.

A large part of the training was devoted to the search for ways to create mutually beneficial collaboration between the regional authorities and social ethnic organizations. Therefore, Victoria Shukhat, the trainer from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, asked the participants to formulate a list of what kind of practical use the authorities could get from the project activities of ethnic associations.

We obtained the following results:

  • Assistance in the organization and carrying out of ethnic, scientific, enlightening, advertising, and informational campaigns
  • Assistance in solving social problems (disrupting dangerous social phenomenon: extreme drunkenness, criminality, drug addiction, etc.)
  • Assistance in improving the legislative base in the sphere of ethnic policies of the Samarra region
  • Forecasting possible ethnic conflicts and making proposals to prevent them.
  • Training of potential ethnic community leaders from a number of young activists loyal to the regional authorities
  • Acquisition of skills for tolerant relations in the collective of the project participants
  • Experience of the cooperation of ethnic NGO’s (in collectives) in the solving of similar (general) problems

On the second day of the seminar, the participants worked out a few project ideas, and those that got the most support were:

  • The creation of a human rights defense center on base of the “House of Friendship of Peoples”
  • Organizations of youth schools of tolerance
  • Improvement of the legal base of interaction between regional authorities and ethnic associations.

These lines of work turned out to be most relevant today in our multi-ethnic community. And, for the realization of these projects, IREX and the Ministry of Culture (in compliance with the Samarra Act “Different, but not Strange - Peace through Culture) are allocating funds in the amount of 120 thousand rubles. At the seminar a competition for these projects was declared. Therefore we invite all interested organizations to prepare an application for a project. The competition goes until the 1st of August 2004.

The necessary conditions for participation in the competition are a coalition of a few social organizations, active participation by the local or regional authorities in the realization of the project, and the organization’s own contribution of not less than 30% of the total cost of the project. More detailed information on the conditions for participation can be found on our website at http://79.174.72.86/~intereth/News/210704_1.html.

The possibility of realizing their own project ideas inspired many of the training participants. It was easy to compose a list of recourses necessary for participation in the project and that were available to the social organizations.

  • The time of the leaders and members of the NGO
  • An office/headquarters for the NGO
  • Office equipment
  • Transport
  • Connection (Internet, Fax...)
  • Free distribution of material in the media
  • Voluntary donations
  • Sponsors
  • Using of the results of other projects
  • Budgetary money
  • Image support
  • House of Friendship of Peoples
  • a location, office equipment, connection to the Internet, a library
  • Off-budget sources
  • Use of the media
  • The time of government bureaucrats
It was interesting to see the list that the training participants wrote down in response to the question: “What prevented the realization of such relevant project ideas in the past?”
  • There was no information about the existence of grants
  • The situation in the regions has changed: the changing of priorities from culture to: the youth, the media, the growth of xenophobia (migration politics), and the defense of rights.
  • Change in the priorities of NGO development
  • There was a lack of understanding of the NGO’s responsibilities for the situation in the region.

Aleksander Nikolaevich Popov, the chief of the department for cooperation with social organizations, ethnic issues and religious faiths of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Politics and Sports of the Samarra region, expressed an unconditional approval of the active positions of ethnic social associations.

But the main result of the training will be the projects submitted to the competition. The competition has begun, and we wish all participants good luck.


Nadeshda Osipowa
Victoria Shuxat

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