Conference “Strategies for the Development of Russia’s Ethnic Cîmmunities”
At the small, quaint resort community of “Zvenigorod”, an hour outside of Moscow, a conference was held on February 28-29, titled, “Strategies for the Development of Russia’s Ethnic Communities”. Taking part in the conference were leaders of ethnic communities from Astrakhan, Archangelsk, Volgograd, Vladevostok, Voronezh, Ekaterinburg, Izhevska, Irkutsk, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Nizhni Novgorod, Omsk, Orenburg, Perm, Pyatigorsk, Rostov on the Don, Stavropol, Saratov, Smolensk, Syktyvkara, Saint Petersburg, Tolyatt, Ufa, Cheboksara, Chelyabinsk, and Yaroslavl. Among the participants were administrators from 20 regions of Russia. Two voulunteers working for the Center for Interethnic Cooperation also took part in the conference—Valeria Espozito from Italy, and Creelea Henderson from The U.S.
The uniqueness of the conference lay in the fact that for the first time, nongovernmental human rights organizations succeeded in covening not just ethnic leaders form various parts of Russia, but also regional administrators from those cities, to work jointly with ethnic communities. It is noteworthy that an overwhelming majority of the participants at the conference tok part in previous training workshops and seminars held by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, and we enjoy a good working relationship with them. In other words, we invited capable specialists, people earnestly devoted to helping the ethnic minority communities of our country to develop and flourish.
Participants of the conference arrived at Zvenigorod February 27 at 8 p.m. Representatives of regional administrations gathered in a small conference hall that evening at the request of the director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, Ashot Airapetian. The basic aim of the meeting was to introduce people to one another who had been working for many years with ethnic minority communities in their region.
Moreover, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation tried from the first to invite representatives from administrations in those regions, where relations of ethnic communities and authorities pass on both formal and informal planes, and not simply according to the formula—“I am the authority, you are a fool.”
Notably, only very rarely do administrative representatives from variuos regions of the country have the opportunity to come together to exchange their expertise. Rarer still does the opportunity arise for an informal gathering under such auspicious conditions as we had at Zvenigorod. As a result, the representatives of regional authorities quickly found a common language and began an interesting and spontaneous discussion about their work generally, and about their work with ethnic groups in particular.
Ashot Airapetian acquainted them with the schema of the conference and asked that the following representatives act as moderators, guiding the work groups: Alexei Suslov, deputy president of the Committee for Ethnic and Cossac Administrative Affairs, of the Volgograd region, Maia Mikhailova, head of the department for work with social and religious organizations of the Ekaterinburg Regional Administration, and Sergei Botalov, head specialist at the Department of Social and Development and Self-administrating Department of Social Relations of the Perm Regional Administration. They were entrusted to develop conference decisions the next day after lunch. The results were faithful to his hopes. All three agreed to take on the formidable task, and as the events of the following day demonstrated, they managed brilliantly.
Informal, friendly relations between the Center for Interethnic Cooperation and representatives from the Volgograd, Samara, and Astrakhan regional oblasts, and the cities Ekaterinburg and Perm, as they had hoped, produced a strong impression on representatives from other regions. It was not an accident that on the way to the conference we received proposals to conduct training workshops in their regions. Still more impressed were the directors of ethnic comunities. They were obviously pleased by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation’s role as mediator, bringing ethnic communities together with regional authorities.
The conference officially opened February 28, at 10.00a.m., with the session “Problems and Perspectives of Development of Ethnic Minorities”. After a short introductory speech by Ashot Airapetian, Oleg Popov, deputy director of the Interethnic Directorial Division for work with social-political communities of citizens and national-cultural societies of the Astrakhan Regional Administration, spoke about his experience working with ethnic communities through the Regional Aministration of Astrakhan, a region of many ethnicities and many faiths. His announcement that the essential task of his regional administration is to build a civil society made a strong impression on the participants at the conference. It is no secret, that in quite a few regions of our country, in the mouths of administrators, the words “civil society” are considered swearwords.
Farux Mirzoev, of the Sverdlov Cultural Society, “Somon”, spoke about the nongovernmental migration center, who want to found ethnic communities in the Sverdlovsk region. Oksana Yung spoke about internet centers, founded in 25 regions of Russia on the initiative of th German Federal Ethno-Cultrual Autonomy. According to Oksana Yung, ethnic communities of these regions have the opportunity to use the internet through the centers. Alekander Grankov, Department Chair of the Commission for Social Relations within the Jurisdiction of the Saratov region, spoke about joint duty of the police and representatives of ethnic communities, about founding ethnic villages, where each society builds its own ethnographic open-air museum. A strong impression was made on the conference participants by the presentation of Larisa Buranovoi, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Ethnic Politics of the Udmurtia Republic. It turns out that in the Udmurtia Republic, they long ago learned to seek funding of projects for ethnic communities, not just in the lines of the local budget, but also from international organizations. Therefore, in Udmurti, therole of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation is filled by the local administration. She herself orders training workshops for directors of ethnic communities and creates opportunities for specialists from countries of the European Union to work with local ethnic communities. And, finally, a trip to Spain is planned for directors of ethnic communities of the Republic of Udmurtia, in connection with a joint project aimed at teaching local expertise there. Simply miraculous, it can’t be considered anything less.
The prsentations continued until lunch. After lunch, participants broke off into working groups. Each participant decided for himself which group he would work with. Each of the three groups was provided with a private hall in which to work. The procedure for choosing a working group is indicated in the Index. Procedure of decision making by working group is resulted in the Appendix. As expected, most of the participants convened in the first work group, which considered strategies for cooperation between ethnic communities and authorities.
Questions for discussion by the work groups were as follows:
Group 1: Strategies for Cooperation between Ethnic Communities and Authorities
What sort of machanisms are necessary for more effective work between ethnic communities and authorities:
Ethnic community assocaitions
Independent experts taking part in the production of decisions by authorities
Special representative organ
What should local authorities do in order that ethnic communities may more effectively work with representatives of their regions’ ethnic nationalities:
Increase financing of ethnic programs
Create expert groups of representatives from various ethnic groups
Conduct contests and dispense grants for private projects
How should ethnic communities cooperate with law enforcement agencies?
How shouls ethnic communities construct their relationship with the police, immigrations officials, national mass media
Working group ą1 decided that for effective work between ethnic communities and authorites, the following steps are necessary:
I Ethnic community associations
Special representative coordination organ (Assembly, Senior Council, Congress)
Creation of a Ministry of Russian peoples for ethnic affairs
II It is necessary to conduct contests and dispense grants for private projects for participation of expert groups from the representatives of ethnic groups, and likewise create a social project fair
III Permanent commissions dealing with legal organs, and with the Social Chamber in regional dumas
Lobbying of interests of social organizations through the structures posessing the powers of legal initiave
Create fields of negotiation and discussion
Presence of representatives of ethnic communities at meetings of the executive and legislative branches of government
Current and permanent sources of informations for ethnic social communities about useful programs and projects through the mass media and internet. Exchange of information on the site “electronic Russia”
Working group noted the following mechanisms of cooperation:
Through grants, creating a permanent dialogue of ethnic communities with authorities, including municipal social laws
Creation of an Association of ethnic communities
Creation of a Consultative Council to work with executive authorities
Cration of expert groups to work with legislative authorities
It is necessary on the principles of social partnership to involve delegated representatives of ethnic communities in the development of state programs, directed to the decision of the program of ethnic politics
Organs of state power must cooperate to form tolerant awareness of the of violence in relation to ethnic minorities
Creation of Houses of Friendship, for the joint organization of holidays
Financing projects of ethnic communities
In the opinion of the working group, the interest of ethnic communities is essential. The creation of conditions for the activities of ethnic communities
Consideration of the question about resource center
Financing of socially meaningful projects by authorities
Cooperation with the Duma must be initiated
Use of those mechanisms such as deputy hearings
Consultative organ at the Duma
Order to the deputy
Working group defined how it is necessary to build cooperation with law enforcement agencies. For this it is necessary to:
Constantly working meetings, roundtables, exchange of information
Creation of thematic television and radio programs
Competitions of journalists. Training seminars for mass media, permanent headlines in the printed media, press conferences
Development of a target program preparing directorial teams
Group 2: Defense of Ethnic Minorities and Coordination of Efforts for Opposing Racism and Xenophobia
Should ethnic communities defend the rights of representation of their ethnic group
Must a case go to court, if a state or public figure by his applications or his actions offends the honor and dignity of a people and anethnic group
Must the rights of foreign refugees and immigrants be defended
Is coordination of efforts necessary to ethnic communities for effective protection of ethnic minorities
With which Russian organizations is it necessary to cooperate for the successful solution of this issue
Is it necessary to cooperate with international organizations for more effective oppoeition of racism and ethnic intolerance
What else is necessary to do for ethnic communities for th edefense of representatives of their ethnic group
Results of the second working group took the following form:
1. The group decided that ethnic communities must defend the rights of representatives of their ethnic groups
Representation of NGO’s should take part in the resolution of conflictual situations (police, prosecution, mass media)
It is necessary to conduct judicial consultation, training for federal legislation
Mediators are necessary, and translators
2. Ethnic communities must take the defense of the honor and dignity of their ethnic goup to court when it is offended
The suit may be brought by ethnic NGO’s, a civil department, through rights defense organizations and consulates
The rights of refugees and immigrants of any nationality must be defended, including Russian
3. The group decided that the defense of ethnic minorities is more effective through ethnic organizations
4. This includes providing help through ethnic NGO’s to refugees and immigrants
In the opinion of the working group, ethnic communities must coordinate their efforts
Models of work
Council of NKO directors
Permanently acting round tables
The working group deduced that organs of power were interested in coordination in the event of ethnic conflict
5. Cooperation with Russian organizations
Representative and executive organs of state authority and organs of local self-management, rights defense organs
Ngo: Council of Veterans, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Women’s Union, Youth Organizations, Regional and Russian resource centers, rights defense organizations, trade unions, and political parties
Business (through NGO members)
Mass media: electronic and print media
In the opinion of the working group, it is essential to cooperate with international organizations
European Council, UNESCO, Strassbourg Court
Activities of NGO’s in the defense of ethnic groups
Providing help in adaptation
Friendship of Peoples School
Coordination of NGO’s with TV
Extracarricular activities of children
Group 3. Strategies of Cooperation among Ethnic Communities and Other Organizations
Should ethnic communities consolidate their actions
Which models of consolidation are preferable: horizontal or vertical
Can an ethnic organization effectively work without a permanent staff of working professionals
Can ethnic communities effectively work without assistence, computers, and internet access
Where and how can ethnic communities find financing
What must ethnic communities do to attract more members of their ethnic group to their line of work
1. Working Group III decided that consolidation was necessary for ethnic organizations
Joint problem solving
Lobbying of interests before authorities
Shared goals among ethnic groups
Formulation of social opinion
Exchange of ideas, experiences
Legal consultation for all
Creation of a resource center
2. In the opinion of the group, it is necessary to apply reasonable overlap of regional and federal means of association to ethnic cultural organizations
3. Necessary for effective work:
Staff of workers
4. In the opinion of the working group, Ethnic organizations cannot effectively work without assistance, computers, and internet access
4. The group decided that ethnic organizations can find financing in the following ways:
The working groups wrapped up their discussions at 18.30, 28 of February. In the evening, a cultural program was organized for the conference participants. Aigul from Chelyabinsk, Safiet from Krasnodar, and Asel from Ekaterinburg, sang popular Russian and ethnic songs. Representatives of German organizations Maria Raising from Miassa, Oksana Yug from Astrakhan, Alekander Reider from Saratov, Irina Trautvein from Smolensk, quickly formed a choir and completely professionally samg German and Russian songs. When the dancing started, it turned out that Airat Mustafin from Archangelsk and Elena Dusalina from Orhenburg danced professionally. Valentin Ivashchenko from the Ukrainian NKA of Saint Petersburg also danced beautifully. Thus, the cultural program was a brilliant success. As a result, conference participants socialized not just in conference halls, but also in inofrmal surroundings. Surprisingly, even in their free time, participants continued to discuss questions of interethnic relations. So, the realization of similar measures far from the noisy city, where participants live a few days together, completely justified itself.
In the main hall, on the 29th of February at 10.00 a.m., the participants’ discussed the results reached by the working groups. In presenting their results, group I inspired a discussion about who should take part in the consultative council, working with the executive branch of government. Polat Djamalov, director of NKA Kazaks in Moscow and concurrent vice president of Moscow Interethnic Consultative Council under the direction of Moscow, thought that the work of this council would be more effective, if among its members were included representatives of state authority. The other half of group I under the direction of Aleksei Suslov were of the opinion that ethnic organizations should work independently and present authorities with fully developed project proposals. Ashot Airapetian noted the irony of Aleksei Suslov, a representative of state authority, suggesting that ethnic organizations work independently, while the directors of ethnic organizations considered action without authorities’ involvement ineffectual. A vote was taken.
The tally indicated that the majority of participants thought that the Consultative Council would work best without the participation of authorities.
It should be said, that discussion of the results of the working groups proceeded without any sharp disagreements. After the voting, the results became the decision of the conference. This proves that working groups were well balanced and that good specialists were really active in the groups, and that they found precise formulations. Participants at the conference brought a number of additional comments, of secondary nature, that were not addressed by the comments of the other participants. Ashot Airapetian requested that their additional comments be put in writing. Generally, they look like the following:
Work Group III
It is necessary to answer the question of strategic financial organization. To set ambitious goals and locate active sources of financing for their realization.
It is necessary to prioritize the allocation of financial sources
A budget must be empolyed in all cases, especially in the case of international projects.
Methods of attracting representatives of one’s ethnic group depend upon the character of the ethnic community—dispersed, or communal residence
After establishing the decisions of the conference, the discussion began. A few of the presenters commented on the results of the conference, others talked about the work of hteir regional organizations, considering their information useful to the others. At 14.00 p.m., the official part of the conference was declared closed. Â 14.00 îôčöčŕëüíŕ˙ ÷ŕńňü ęîíôĺđĺíöčč áűëŕ îáú˙âëĺíŕ çŕęđűňîé. Those who wished to inform their colleagues of their activities, or listen to others were able to gather after lunch in the conference hall. And regardless of fatigue, the majority of participants gathered anew at 15.00 p.m. to confer with one another. Ultimately, they convened until 17.30 p.m. The conference closed, and half of the participants returned to Moscow that day. The other half left on a bus early the next morning, to the Congress of Peoples of Russia. We bid our guests farewell as friends. We have conducted many events. But that was our largest and most successful event to date. This is not only in our estimation, but in the estimation of the conference participants.
Below are the results of the survey
Total # of surveys: 44 1. How do you rate the level of organization of the training and conferences, conducted by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation in 2003?
satisfactory –2 (5%)
unsatisfactory –0 (0%)
bad –0 (0%)
difficult to answer –8 (18%)
no answer –5 (11%)
2. How do you rate the choice of themes and relevance of trainings and conferences held by the Center in 2003?
good –26 (59%)
satisfactory –10 (23%)
unsatisfactory –0 (0%)
bad –0 (0%)
difficult to answer –5 (11%)
no answer–3 (7%)
3. Were the results of these events helpful for you and your organization?
yes –35 (80%)
no –0 (0%)
difficult to answer –6 (14%)
no answer –3 (7%)
4. Is the informational network established on the internet by the Center useful in your opinion?
yes –40 (91%)
no –0 (0%)
difficulty answering –3 (7%)
no answer –1 (2%)
5. Do you consider the “Interethnic” pages on the internet useful?
yes –38 (86%)
no –0 (0%)
difficult to answer –6 (14%)
no answer –1 (2%)
6. How do you rate activities of the Center for Interehnic Cooperation in 2003, as a whole?
good –31 (70%)
satisfactory –6 (14%)
unsatisfactory –0 (0%)
bad –0 (0%)
difficulty answering –4 (9%)
no answer –3 (7%)
Thus, not a single participant rated our work unsatisfactory.
Director Center for Interethnic Cooperation