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Irksutsk Story- Part 2
Training for Siberian Youth

The project Creation of a network of youth public associations of Russia for opposition to racism, extremism and xenophobia, carried out by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation in partnership with European-wide network UNITED, was organized to unite active young people from all over Russia. Unfortunately, we had not yet done any work in the Far East, but in Siberia we have many remarkable friends. It was for them that we decided to organize our third training. Here are two other such stories already relayed - in Tolyatti and in Yaroslavl

The following seminar, where 28 people took part, we decided to carry out in Irkutsk from December 13th -15th. This was done for several reasons, one of which was the outstanding environmental beauty of Baikal. WE were happy to show our friends, Europeans and residents of different Russian towns, this incredible lake. More than anything, however, the seminar was held in Irkutsk thanks to the active financing and organizational support of the Division for Ethnic and Inter-religious Relations of the Committee linked with the Public Ethnic Relations of the administration of the Governor of the Irkutsk Region, and his personal manager Svetlana Plakhotnikova. With authentic Siberian hospitality she took on the bulk of the work for inviting participants, organizing a venue for the training and transport. As a result of her care and diligence we stayed in the wonderful hotel Pribaikalsky. It is exactly people like Svetlana that maintain our country, so many thanks to her.

Again thanks to Svetlana, in the House of the Ethnicities of Irkutsk on December 13, 2006 we conducted a press conference, where our guests and the leader of the Liaison Committee for Community and National Relations of the Administration of the Governor of Irkutsk Region Sergey Alexandrovich Kozhenkov participated. One cannot fail to note the professionalism and effectiveness of the representatives of the local media, who within very short periods reported on the event for television. A press report can be found here:

Of course the majority of participants were from Irkutsk or the region. In addition to them, Joseph Saatashvili from Novosibirsk came, as did three outstanding representatives from Krasnoyarsk, and Suleiman Kalaev from Yekaterinburg, disregarding the time or the fact that he was pulled off the train by the police. Guests were extremely active and very much interested in describing their regions.

Furthermore, the deputy of chief the Department of Interethnic Relations of the Ministry of Regional Development, Alexander Sirchenko took an active part at the seminar. His thoughts on the plans of the Ministry and the prospects for the development of interethnic relations in Russia were extremely illuminating and they caused lively discussion among participants.

It goes without saying that the work of our partner Geert Ates from the European-wide organization UNITED and Tatiana Voytovich was central. As a side note, for their participation in the seminar they had to cross seven time zones! Their stories about the European methods of opposition to racism and to xenophobia made it possible to clearly convince our participants both of the spread of problem and of the broad community response to it.

Based on already prevailing traditions in training dedicated to the involvement of youth organizations in the active opposition to racist moods in the society, we (trainers from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation Victoria Shukhat and Ashot Ayrapetyan) always begin from the explanation of what is, strictly speaking, the typical young person of this region. The Siberians in our group came up with the following:

General characteristics of a Siberian youth between the ages of 17 and 25:

  1. Wants to earn a lot of money
  2. Does not think of the future
  3. Sporty
  4. Subject to influence
  5. Depends on other students
  6. Not spiritual
  7. Swears a lot
  8. Arrogant
On appearance, as in two such previous questions, these answers proved to be extremely far from the ideal. More importantly, we began to find more accurate approaches to these multifaceted young people. To expect immediate tolerance and a respectful attitude towards people who differ in any way from them would be naive.

So, first of all, we tried to dismantle the concept tolerance and to formulate groups answers to a question on how tolerance was advantageous to an individual, society and state. Answers were as such:

Who benefits from tolerance

  • Fulfilling governmental authority;
  • Economic and social stability in the government;
  • Complete development of socio-economic relations;
  • For reducing and preventing conflicts;
  • Economic development;
  • Development of civil society;
  • Increasing order;
  • Social stability;
  • Unity of state (socio-cultural, ethnic level);
  • Forming a positive image, readiness for cooperation and interaction with other governments and societies;
  • Observing the law;
  • Strengthening government;
  • Safety;
  • Integrity of territory;
  • Forming of a peoples nation;
  • Complete development of social relations;
  • Mutual understanding between people;
  • For positive existence;
  • Bringing together society;
  • Being ready for dialogue;
  • Mutual support;
  • Absence of social tension,
  • feeling of comfort;
  • Calm;
  • Moral values;
  • Safety;
  • Acquiring cultural values;
  • Formation of new public organizations;
  • Feeling of solidarity and unity;
  • Mutual understanding;
  • Defending rights
  • Acknowledging people;
  • Conflict of living conditions;
  • Sensation of protection;
  • Respect;
  • Belief in yourself and in the future;
  • Enriching ones spiritual life;
  • Raise level of interpersonal contacts;
  • Feeling a part of society;
  • Wide spectrum of self-accomplishment;
  • Wider social circle;
  • Guarantee of freedom of movement;
  • Raising cultural level;
  • Obtaining new knowledge;
  • Moral improvement;
We then asked participants to estimate the level of tolerance in the collective mentality of Siberians. A rating of one would be a completely appalling situation, and five, a splendid situation, for which a better alternative would not exist. The majority of respondents, as the graph shows, evaluated this level to be at a 3 an average situation. Not as bad as it is in Moscow, but quite far from perfection.

Level of Tolerance in Siberia in 2006

Of course when a problem is presented, it is very important to find a valid solution to correct the complex situation. Therefore, the question that remained in the foreground was:

What needs to be done to help Siberian youth be more tolerant? To answer this question, we turned to the seminar participants, who answered:

We need to work with:

  • Family
  • Kindergarten (circles, sections, clubs, camps)
  • School (learning languages and about cultures)
  • Student society (Youth collective, exchange, volunteering)
  • Tolerant adults
What we need:
  • Financing, grants
  • Opening new sports centers, interethnic festivals (on sports and culture)
What needs to be done:
  • Create an informative environment, beginning from birth;
  • Kindergarten, parents (parents + child training)
  • Intercultural support, inter-faith links and connections (holidays)
  • Propagating a healthy lifestyle (promoting sports)
  • Stimulating the development of public position on youth (youth center)
  • Abiding by the law (beginning in school, university)
  • Creating a youth political organization (youth parliament, so their legislations had proper backing)
  • Creating a youth network (in each populated are of Irkutsk so they could look after disseminating materials)
  • Raise the status of achievements done by ethnic public organizations (attracting media, authorities, TV and other public organizations; using popular areas, authoritative, charismatic personalities, organizing events and discussions online)
  • Governmental funding for youth projects with ethno-cultural components;
  • Creating work places for youth;
  • Carrying out conferences and seminars;
  • Popularizing cultural traditions through mass-media;
  • Carrying out and participating in youth interethnic holidays and exchanges;
  • Developing interethnic sports events;
  • In a regional framework carry out events in middle school Learning about traditions and customs of different peoples.
  • Intercultural camps for children and students;
  • Student exchange between regions and countries;
  • Student interethnic group (trips to summer cams with ethno-cultural and educational programs)
  • Students helping with integrating the of children of migrants
  • Educational work in the family, at school (groups, sport teams)
  • Lessons on tolerance by specialists, work in a collective.
  • Raise the prestige of tolerance through mass media (cool to be tolerant)
  • Work with mass media (advertising)
  • Film, video, audio;
  • Disseminating literature, leaflets, brochures (for free);
  • Interethnic projects, actions, joint ventures;
  • Spiritual-moral training (learning about different religions) with illumination from media!
The variety of the proposed forms and ways to build tolerance in the youth sphere bears witness, in our opinion, to the fact that there is a huge need for this work and youth are eager to take action on this issue.

Like at previous trainings, our task was to introduce participants to the idea of a network of youth public associations as the most effective means to opposing the increasing threat of fascism. The idea was welcomed with a lot of enthusiasm and following this, participants in groups outlined what was necessary to support tolerance at a city level, at a national level and on an international level. It appears that this plan of action turned out to be stimulating and realistic.

What needs to be done to support tolerance: City

  • Distributing materials in conventional and unconventional ways
  • Different theme every 3 months
  • Holding concerts with a variety of performers
  • Working with other public organizations and political parties
  • Organizing diverse protest actions
  • Dissemination of posters and leaflets
  • Training lessons
  • Interethnic holidays
  • Sports contest
  • Friendship Week (at school)
  • Chat (SMS, online)
  • Marches
  • Flash-mob
  • City programs
  • TV, radio programs
  • Advertising
  • Volunteers
  • Football games
  • Festival of extreme sports
  • (Computer) games championship
  • Televised theatre put on by students
  • Disco
  • Ethnic religious events
  • Thematic competitions (Tolerance, Georgia, etc.) e.g. poster competition
  • Tea festival
  • Ethnic days
  • Holiday of ethnic dishes
  • Actions against drugs
  • Competition of press materials on ethnic achievements with educational seminars
  • Youth teleconferences
  • Internet journal
  • Flash mob
  • Establishing links with other networks
  • Organizing a culture day/week
  • Flash mob: Smile at someone ethnically different
  • Publishing a journal Diaspora
  • Network of summer camps
  • Advertising through central media
  • Talk show, teleconferences
  • Mass distribution of posters and leaflets through the internet
  • Friendship caravan with creative performances
  • Games championship
  • All-Russian competition on a theme (e.g. Outlook on Armenia)
  • Friendship camp with camping and volunteers
  • Letters to the president from all public organizations
  • Letters to Voronezh
  • Competition of socially oriented advertising
International level
  • November 16 Day of Tolerance
  • On this day international concerts with diverse performers
  • Charitable actions, famous stars, media,
  • Creating a site
  • Carrying out international conferences (organized online)
  • Creating socially oriented advertising (TV, posters)
  • Mass sporting events to support tolerance
  • Games championship
  • Letters to the president from different countries
  • International camps
  • Press competition materials on ethnic achievements
Among other things, our work always involves the training of the leaders and creative qualities of our young activists. Therefore one of the tasks requested was to devise slogans in the support of tolerance, and the results were extraordinary. The contributions of those who participated, as well as the content, were remarkable and completely reflected the basic idea of this seminar:


  • We are different, we are many, and we are united!
  • Be patient with yourself and others- lets live together in friendship!
  • Be tolerant, be successful!
On this elevated note our seminar ended, after which our entire group visited the museum of Baikal, where a very interesting excursion and excellent tour guide awaited us. We returned to Irkutsk in the evening. The following day we had to return to Moscow. We calculated that for the 16 hour seminar in Irkutsk, we had to fly for 12 hours, and for Geert it was 14! Nevertheless, we were very happy with the results, and overjoyed by the work of the people who we met during these two days. Certainly, we promised our Irkutsk friends to return in 2007, and we hope to be able to keep our promise.


If you have some interesting information about interethnic
situation in your region or about activity
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