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Training in Kaliningrad
Low quality of life, high quality of tolerance

The Centre for Interethnic Cooperation carried out the training in Kaliningrad from the 17th to 18th of August 2004. The theme was: УEffective mechanism of interaction between ethnic minorities and public authoritiesФ. It was financed by The McArthur Foundation, a private American fund.
It was our first training in Kaliningrad. But participants of this region already took part in our conferences and seminars. Nevertheless it wasnТt very easy for us to organize. The district of Kaliningrad in compliance with its geographic location seems to be object of particular interest of different foreign funds and organizations. They fairly often carried out arrangements in this region. For this reason local ethnic associations seem to be indifferent to similar arrangements. In a big city like Moscow many leaders of ethnic communities couldnТt imagine very well what the training might deal with. It came to, that foreign organizations paid the participants of their seminars and trainings for taking part. It could be worse.
As it turned out the list of phone numbers of ethnic association leaders of the Kaliningrad district we had in our office was full of wrong information. It proved to be not that easy getting in contact with these leaders while sitting in Moscow. The relation to Kaliningrad could be better. Moreover ethnic association leaders, of who we found out the phone numbers, didnТt ache to take part in our training. A common question we had to hear from the ethnic minoritiesТ representatives was: УWhy should we need that?Ф
It was a very complicated and unpleasant task to explain on the phone that we are outstanding, and differ from the rest of organizations.

We proceeded in a different way and contacted the McArthur Foundation with the request to permit us an additional charge to invite representatives from region administrations of Astrakhan, Volgograd, Samarra and Sverdlovsk. We had great success with our work this year in these regions and thought of exploiting the good reputation. However, one column of our success there was the active support by the local administrations.
The Fund gave its УOKФ and there was one week overall left until the training was supposed to begin.

The representatives of these regions were Oleg Popov - assistant of interethnic relationships of the Astrakhan GovernmentТs staff, Aleksei Suslov - deputy head of the Committee for Matters of Ethnicity administration of the Volgograd oblastТ, Marina Pljasunova - main specialist for domestic policies of the Sverdlovsk regionТs administration and Nadeshda Osilova - the main specialist for national affairs of the Ministry for culture, youth politics and sport for the Samarrian oblastТ. All agreed to take part in the training.

The director of the Centre of Interethnic Cooperation arrived in Kaliningrad already on the 13th of August in order to meet Alvidas Muliuolis, the leader of the public council of leaders of ethnic associations. Further both of them and Evgeni Tshajaskas, the leader of the regional ethnic-cultural autonomy of Lithuanians, visited Oleg Panasenko - chief of the department for interethnic relations of the Kaliningrad oblastТ administration. The participants of the training represented the administrations of four Russian regions and gave Oleg Mikhailovich a duly impression. He promised to assist the preparations and the carrying out of the training. As the following days should prove he kept his word. Also they achieved an agreement about the meeting on the 16th of August, when arriving officials of the governmental bodies should meet Aleksandr Korezki - assistant of the oblastТs government.

On the 16th of August Ashot welcomed his Уbacking groupФ at the Kaliningrad airport. Together, with the above mentioned representatives of the four regionsТ, arrived Victoria Shukhat - trainer of the Centre, and two of our volunteers - Danielle Fishman and Sebastian Hoepfner - from the USA and Germany. The participants lived in the УComandorФ hotel, whose owner turned out to be Alvidas. The small four stars hotel is situated in an outlying district of Kaliningrad, a cozy and friendly region. Beside the silence and coziness the hotel is well known for its modern conference rooms where quite often assemble leaders of ethnic associations.

At 4.00 p.m. on the 16th of August the meeting with the administration of the Kaliningrad oblastТ took place. Unfortunately, Aleksandr Korezki was sent for the Governor and so Oleg Panasenko was the only one to participated in the meeting. This circumstance didnТt impede an interesting discussion about particularities of interethnic treatment in the Kaliningrad oblastТ. The conditions in the region are actually original. The first point is that there are no УnativesФ in the Kaliningrad oblastТ. The Germans who lived there until 1945 were deposited. Instead of them citizens of various regions from the Soviet Union were removed here. Obviously most of the Kaliningrad oblastТ citizens are Russians. Yet there isnТt any negative treatment of immigrants from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and generally of migrants, for which our big cities are УfamousФ for. Once every citizen of the Kaliningrad oblastТ himself was an emigrant. Another particularity is that the wages of the population are on middle-low level and the mortality rate exceeds the birth rate twice.

After meeting the administration an excursion was organized for the guests from the mainland.
We were astonished by the poverty and the absence of modern buildings in the Kaliningrad hinterland. It seemed to us, as if we werenТt in the centre of Europe, but anywhere in the deepest east.
During the Soviet regime the public authorities tried to eliminate all memories of the Germans. They didnТt wish to build up something, which would be commensurable with the GermansТ achievements. For a long time the USSR didnТt pay attention to the Kaliningrad oblastТ. As a result the foreign tourists coming there donТt admire the tremendous amenities of the scenery and the multitude of medieval castles, but what we made out of it during the past 60 years. A good publicity for Russia, no doubt!

Later we went to the famous Kurshskaja Kosa. ItТs a thin stripe of land from both sides surrounded by the Baltic Sea, some dozen kilometers of gorgeous beach, in the middle a splendid forest and sandy dunes - an extraordinary beauty.
On the 17th of August the leaders of the ethnic associations of Kaliningrad filled the conference room of the УComandorФ hotel.

The training started with the introduction of the participants. Victoria divided all participants of the training into pairs and gave them 5 minutes to find out the most important information about the partner. After this procedure every member of the training introduced his partner to the group. Because of being representative of different regions and countries a lot of colorful description was added to the introduction details.
After getting to know each other, the basic objects, of which ethnic associations should be aware of, was discussed. In which connection the representatives of the public authorities of the different Russian regions were the most energetic composing lists of possible objects. Further the participants of the training - citizens of the Kaliningrad oblastТ - choose the 3 most relevant out of the lists. The following objects scored highest:

The main object of NGOТs in the Kaliningrad oblastТ:

  1. The creation of a House of Friendship (HOF)
  2. Initiation of financing NGOТs through the oblastТ
  3. Creation of a regional program of ethnic politics
  4. Adaptation of migrants

In the course of the discussion a further particularity of the Kaliningrad oblastТ was found out - the absence of migrantsТ streams, which is not very surprising taking into account that countries next to Kaliningrad like Poland and Latvia have a higher living standard. In addition, because of the huge Russian territory it was never easy to get here, and now, after the introduction of the Уvisa regimeФ, getting to Kaliningrad became even more complicated. Is that good or bad?
And generally, are migrants a blessing or a curse for Russian regions?
Ashot asked the representatives of the different oblastТs to give a short answer concerning the own regionТs experience. The Kaliningrad citizens heard the guestsТ answers with great attention.
Furthermore, of AshotТs request, the participants were asked how a civil society should be defined according to their opinion.
Victoria divided the participants into 4 groups, so that guests from different regions were organized in separated groups.

After gathering opinions one person from each group brought the results of the work forward.
Here are the results:

What does civil society mean?

  1. Tolerance
  2. Respecting different ethnicities and cultures
  3. Knowledge and observance of laws of the country, constitutional rights and duties of citizens
  4. Ideological and political pluralism
  5. Equality
  6. Knowledge of the language, the history of the different people and the oblastТ they live in
  7. Access to education
  8. Power and society on a par with, e.g. the power for the society and not the other way
  9. A careful treatment of culture, environment and historical memory
  10. Bringing up the children with the wish to study the laws
  11. The state duty to improve the live conditions of its citizens carrying out social programs (children, old people, ill people, orphans, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.)

Civil society

  1. Patriotism
  2. Totality of social rights
  3. Democratic development
  4. Guarantee for all constitutional rights
  5. Solidarity to conserve the freedom
  6. Solution of ethnic problems
  7. The president and the people are united
  8. Economic development
  9. High morality and spirituality
  10. Democratic care

Civil society means:

  1. Transparence and publicity of public authorities
  2. Partner-work between public authorities, NGOТs and business
  3. Democratic principles of a social order
  4. The priority of human rights and freedom compared to collective rights
  5. A constitutional state
  6. Independence of the mass media and the possibility of a public dialog
  7. Language, culture, tradition and faith
  8. Economic conditions
  9. Development, adequacy of the third sector

The group of administrative officials expressed the last definition. ItТs not difficult to see that the definition is clearer and more concrete. It means that in the last decade a serious change happened in Yekaterinburg, Samarra, Astrakhan and Volgograd.
They just allowed local citizens to adapt to the new economic conditions with more efficiency. On the other hand it can be hardly said that in these regions the civil society has been completely emerged, yet. The higher standard of living in these regions is accompanied by some negative phenomena, like Nazi youth groupings, nationalistic publication in the mass media and lots of rightТs violation of ethnic minorities by representatives of law-enforcementsТ organs.

Thank god that these problems donТt exist in the Kaliningrad oblastТ. But there are other problems. Maybe theyТre not that acute, but they still exist.
First of all there is a growing competition between the communities. In Moscow, for example, this stadium of development of ethnic communities happened 8 years ago.
On the first view it seems very strange, that adult people, who built up an organization to protect the interests of their ethnic group, spend so much time and energy to fight with other organizations, each of them aspiring to represent the same interests of their ethnic group. Commenting the results of the working groups, Ashot announced that Уcivil societyФ means, that every human being of every organization has the right to state his or her point of view and at the same time itТs important to treat these different points of view with respect.
And even more important is the ability to find a compromise. ItТs especially important to come to an arrangement when one has to work with public authorities.
In Russia barely appears the first sprout of civil society, which doesnТt mean that itТs impossible to cooperate effectively with public authorities.
The fact that representatives of officials from different regions came to take part proved that such cooperation is possible.

The first day of the training ended, but the participants didnТt disperse. We gathered together to have dinner in the small but beautiful hotel restaurant. Having conversations on the banquet and on the balcony and drinking Spanish wine drew people together, particularly when the wine costs only 90 rubles.
ThatТs another particularity of the Kaliningrad oblastТ - Europe is not that far, itТs around the corner.

On the second day of the training, according to the request of Oleg Mikhaijlovich, the guests form Yekaterinburg, Astrakhan, Samarra and Volgograd talked about experiences of interactions between ethnic associations and governmental bodies. It was a very interesting conversation of authentic professionals. For example, Oleg PopovТs story about the Astrakhan oblastТ governor Gushvin (who all of a sudden died a day before) impressed the participants a lot. The fact that the governor personally knew all names and patronymic names of the ethnic societiesТ leaders of his district and invited them five or six times a year to a special meeting, was a new experience for them. Oleg asked for a minute of silence in commemoration of Anatoly Gushvin.
Aleksey Suslov told about an agreement, which was signed by the administration of the Volgograd oblastТ and the leader of the ethnic community. The content of the agreement deals with the joining in of the law-enforcement agencies of the region to interact with both the official and the ethnic leaders.
Nadeshda Osipova told us about the УHouse of Friendship between PeopleФ (HFP), created with the great effort of the oblastТ administration, and about the positive and negative experiences which went along with it. She gave an overview of the program УRebirthФ which provided, in the year 2004, six million rubles to projects of ethnic associations. She told us about the Center support of migrants, which was created acting upon the initiative of ethnic associations from the Sverdlovsk oblastТ and financed by the oblastТ administration.

After these settlements and at suggestion of Ashot, Danielle addressed to the meeting what from her point of view civil society means. Of course, Danielle as a student of the Harvard University studying the culture of the Slavic people isnТt an expert. But she lives in a country, which made great efforts in the last decade facing with racism and xenophobia, a country, which not in theory but in practice knows what political correctness in the media means.
ThatТs what Danielle told the participants:

Civil society

Hello, my name is Danielle. I work a volunteer with the Center for International Cooperation. I am from America, and Ashot asked me to tell you about my opinion of what the term "civil society" means as an average American citizen. I thought a lot about this question, and I came up with the following definition. Ready? think that a Civil Society is one in which every member has equal opportunities to participate in the social dialogue that continuously molds the structure and conventions of that society and actively takes advantage of those opportunities so that the current state of the society reflects the interests and needs of all its members. In a civil society there are many types of mechanisms by which people can participate society. Firstly, they can participate in the processes of creating or revising the system of governance that regulates society through whatever actions available to them: either direct participation, indirect participation through an elected representative, or influencing the participation of others by the expression of their opinion. This leads to the second mechanism, which is the dissemination of information through an independent media, which allows members of society to be relatively well informed about the world around them and about the choices and options they have in their lives, as well as to inform others as to their ideas, interest, etc., and thus participate in social dialogue. Members also have the opportunity to gather together in person and discuss and debate their ideas.In order for these processes to exist, a civil society must of course be governed by the rule of law. So it seems that a 'lawful state' is a prerequisite to a civil society, so that the rights of the members to participate fully in society are protected. Also the form of government must enable citizens to participate in creating the rules by which society is governed, through electing representatives who will in turn represent their interests, as in a democracy. I also think itТs important to remember that 'civil society' is an ideal that we strive for, not yet a reality. For example there are many limitations that prevent people from participating in society, such as unequal access to education, which then affects people ability to participate, either because of illiteracy or ignorance of the opportunities available to them. For example, in the US we sometimes have a voter turnout of less than 50%, so can we really say that all members of society are participating in molding their form of governance? Also, there is the problem of people speaking different languages. For example in the US we have more and more people who only speak Spanish, but our official language is only English. If they are prevented from participating in social dialogue because it is not in their native language, can we really say that they have equal opportunity to participate? To get closer to our ideal of civil society we need to constantly address these issues to ensure the active participation, and therefore the protection of the interests, of all members of society. Thanks

ItТs to say that due to an old habit of Victoria from time to time interactive games are played among the participants. On the one hand it helped the people to repose from the long performances of their colleagues and on the other hand to develop working skills in a team.
Before the phase, the participants of the training determinated the basic objects, with which ethnic associations of the Kaliningrad oblastТ are confronted, and familiarized themselves with the forms of solutions of analogue problems situated in diverse Russian regions. Further small groups were formed and the participants received the task to work out arguments in favor to the HFP in Kaliningrad. In connection to that, assumptions were made that the creation of such an institution could furthermore help the workout of other problems.
The results of that group you can see below:

Arguments pro creating the House of Friendship between People:

  • Increasing the peopleТs culture in the KaliningradТs oblast on the whole
  • Increasing the image of the oblastТ
  • Creating conditions to protect and develop the language, tradition and culture
  • Upbringing with patriotism and friendship between people, regions and states
  • Adequate technical equipment to satisfy the ethnic-culture demand for the HFP
  • HFP as an attraction for investors

  • Polyethnicity of the region
  • Creating conditions to maintain the ethnic cultures, traditions and languages
  • Creating a positive image of the region, like e.g. tolerant region (in Russia and abroad)
  • Supporting the civil initiatives of NGOТs and enlarging the social network between the partnerships of the administration and the society
  • Creating condition for productive interethnic cooperation and understanding

  • A positive image of the oblastТ through peaceful interethnic relations (avoiding interethnic tensions)
  • Culture-ethnic centre, spare-time centre, music hall or a library
  • Creating an ethnographic museum of diverse ethnicity within the HFP, to attract tourists
  • Publishing ethnic press (printing house for the use of all), founding a radio and TV station
  • Group working for children and adults, the development of ethnic trade (e.g. transition to self financing) and employment

  • Integrating people to one civil society
  • Maintaining and providing the culture, traditions, languages and way of life of the ethnicities living on the boarder of the Kaliningrad oblastТ
  • In afford to economize the budget: creating a basic resource (HFP) would help to optimize the assignment of resources

After analyzing the results the participants started again discussing in small groups and working out concrete steps how to put the main objects into practice. The results look like following:

Concrete steps to put the main objects into practice:

  1. House of Friendship between People
    1. Speaking in public to the Governor and provincial council spokesmen
      • about the HFPТs conception
      • about the work program
      • about business plans
    2. PR activities (work with journalists, public organizations, etc.)
    3. Governor - department which prepares resolutions like a committee for real estate
    4. Committee sorts out lodgments
    5. List of staff members
    6. Creating a State institution HFP of the Kaliningrad oblastТ (like a pilot project of tolerance)
  2. Elaboration and adoption of a purposeful and complex program to develop ethnic-culture skills of the population
  3. Creating a centre of legal support for requests related to migration, human rights, etc.

  1. During the election campaign the candidate who supported our objectives obtained about 100,000 votes
  2. Forming a public opinion
    1. Informing the administration of the oblastТ (by post mail)
    2. Mass Media
    3. Popularization of different experiences from regions of the Russian Federation
  3. Seeking for financial means
    1. private business
    2. individual means and donation
    3. grants
    4. Addressing to the administration of the oblastТ taking into account the motivation for investigation means from the local state budget

So the first Kaliningrad training ended. With his last words Ashot Airapetian expressed his hope that the obtained results will not only remain on the paper. Oleg Panasenko suggested to establish a Council of ethnic associations, in which suggestions about the HFP are prepared for the administration of the oblastТ. The leaders of the ethnic associations decided not to shelve this question. As a consequence a working group was established headed by the leader of the German organization Victor Hofman.
The parting of the training participants, the inhabitants of Kaliningrad, was more than touching. We found new friends and allies. We completely took off the difficulties we had with organizing the training (УWhy should we need that?Ф). A new question arose: УWhen will we have a training in Kaliningrad again?Ф

© 1993-2003

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