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Back to 2003 Activities

International Seminar on the Problems of National Minorities
Perm, 16-19 October

The Center for Interethnic Cooperation together with the Council of Europe lead a seminar Russian and International Mechanisms for the Protection of National Minorities at the popular Perm Region sanitarium Ust-Kacha. The previous seminar in Perm showed that we could count on the full support of the authorities of the Perm Region, and it is because we are so great, but because of all the hard work of the local authorities. They strive to support organizations that do good deeds, which you cannot say about their colleagues in several other regions of Russia. For this reason, the relationships between the authorities of the Perm region and the local national associations are placed at the highest level. Already from the very beginning our seminar was doomed to success. Igor Neganov, assistant chief of the Internal Policies Management and Interactions with the Perm Region administration, opened the seminar in the magnificent building Malakhit on October 16th at 10am. He spoke for a whole hour. It was not a dry report about the achieved successes, but a detailed analysis of the international situation in the region. His statements stressed, that the administration considers its multiethnic population to be an especially favorable characteristic that eeds serious attention. The Perm region administration concluded that the benefits derived from the development of harmonious inter-ethnic relationships far outweigh the means required for this development. In some regions of the country, national associations are given minuscule roles, which are not helpful but must be tolerated.

It is possible to say that in the statements given by the leaders from the Perm Region ethnic organizations constantly underline the good working relationships with the local administration. The director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation Ashot Airapetyan asked hese leaders (there were more than 10 people at the seminar) to speak about the existing insufficiencies. Leaders of the national communites, listing the positive examples of their activities, continued to compliment the administration. This could have happened for two reasons; the administration actually worked well, or the community directors were afraid of repression, which could take place after critical statements. The representatives of the regional government and cities conducted themselves quite modestly and nothing like dictators. Our contacts with the national association leaders were not limited only to the actual seminar. After six in the evening, we had plenty of time to socialize with each other, and there were no occasions to suspect them of insincerity. As the experience of the Krasnodar territory has shown, national leaders did not hesitate to sharply criticize the authorities. We were finally convinced that mutal relationship of the authorities and national associations here in the Perm Region are on the highest level. Adding to this, that the employees of the region and city administrations Raisa Shukina and Sergei Balatov stayed all four days with us and did not keep to themselves. Unfortunately, the representatives of Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Primorye administrations were not able to attend the seminar. The official reason was too much work. At the last minute, the mayor of Ekaterinburg ordered Maie Innokentevne Mikhailov, the Chief of the Ekaterinburg administration department, to organizate of a meeting with voters. So many thanks should be given to the representatives of the Perm and Omsk Region administrations and from the Novosibirsk because they able to find the time and opportunity to take part in the seminar. Undoubtedly, they are also quite busy, but they nevertheless came to the seminar. It can be said that they made the correct professional choice, especially for such an opportunity to listen to the experts from the Council of Europe and their colleagues from other regions. Additionally the organizers of the seminar provided an atmosphere that was condusive to good working conditions and relaxation. We were also fortunate with the translators. Mikhail Kriviniouk from Ekaterinburg not only knew English well, but had lived in London for ten years. He excellently coped with the translations.

On the first day of the seminar, Professor Bill Bowring from Great Britain spoke to the participants about the key points of the international system for the protection of minorities. It is necessary to emphasize that Professor Bowring not only is a well known researcher but also a successful advocate, who has repeatedly defended cases in the Strasbourg court. He also speaks Russian very well. As in Anapa, he constructed his statements on interesting examples and comparisions, which made his comments lively and intelligible. Merja Lahtinen, from the Department of Human Rights with the Council of Europe devoted her statements to the general provisions of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities and facilitating the Council of Europes mechanisms of control.

The appearance of Aleksey Tsukanov, colonel of police and employee of the Nizhniy-Novgorod academy MVD of Russia, generated a great interest. In particular, all of the seminar participants agreed with Tsukanovs assertion that it is necessary to emphasize the study of human rights during the training of police personnel. Tsukanov compared law enforcement bodies from different governements, which provided good food for thought. He especially stressed that the police should carry the financial responsibility for any human rights infringements made by its employees, as is practiced in Great Britain. The colonel has not only collected this information from books but has taken part in European police training exercises.

Ashot Airapetyan spoke to the participants about how nongovernmental organizations play a role in the fulfillment of the Council of Europes mechanisms for the protection of national minorities. He also reported the results from a similar seminar, which took place last August in Anapa for the southern regions of Russia. As in Anapa, Professor Bowrings report took a long historical journey, in order to clearly demonstrate how the idea of national-cultural autonomy was born in Russia. These reports were found to be very interesting.

Undoubtedly, the seminar participants were interested in the question, how nongovernmental organizations, in particular national associations, are able to have an influence on the implementation of the Framework Convention in the this country, and in general, what kinds of existing mechanisms can these associations use for the protection of their national groups. Professor Bowring and Merja Lahtinen gave detailed reports on these topics during the seminar. In particular, Professor Bowring spoke about the alternative report of the Russian Human Rights Protection organization at the session of the Committee UN on the Liquidation of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. It should be mentioned that a representative from the Center for Interethnic Cooperation participated in this working session. Merja Lahtinen spoke about the official report to the Russian Federation about the fulfilling the Framework Convention in the country, and also about the visit by the experts of the Council of Europe of Russia to acquaintance themselves with the situation. She stressed the importance of the alternative report, which can be composed by any nongovernmental organization and further directed to the Council of Europe. The participants of the seminar then gave reports on how the Framework Convention was being fulfilled in their regions.

As well as in Anapa, the seminar participants Since Sergei Neganov gave a detailed report on the first day about the approaches of the regional management of international questions and about the accomplished work with the national associations, leaders of the national assocations from the Perm they spoke for two. Each of them wanted to speak at great length about the current achievements of their respective organizations, and about the support, which the authorities have rendered to them. Leaders from the Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk national associations were deeply moved by these reports. It is a pity that there are no representatives from our authorities here. They would have learned a lot from their Perm counterparts, they said. They listened with great interest to the statements of their colleagues and thoroughly prepared their own speeches. Of course, the most interesting reports came from the regions where both the administration and national association representatives were able to participate. Representatives from Novosibirsk left lasting impressions. The speeches given by Marina Dobrovolskaya, Novosibirsk City Administration Department on Work with Social Organizations, and Iosif Saanashvili, president of the Georgian National-Cultural Center of Novosibirsk, gave ample proof of the informal relationships between the Novosibirsk city officials and the national associations. Moreover, we have found a new ally in our difficult business with Marina, and so the realistic possibility to work in Novosibirsk has appeared.

Nikolai Ponomarev, who manages the Sector of the National Policy Committee on National Affairs, Religious and Social Organizations from the Omsk Region administration, proposed to conduct a similar seminar in Omsk. On the second day in the evening, representatives from the Omsk Region invited us as guests, and we discussed in depth the particulars of further collaboration. Nikolai Ponomarevs energetic speech was met with a storm of applause. He preferred to speak not about results but about that which is necessary to do for successful work in the international sphere. He emphasized that effective protection of national minorities assumes the successful protection of human rights in general. The Sverdlovsk delegations statements, which were given by four people, gave two impressions. On the one hand, it is obvious that the the international situation in Sverdlovsk Region is considerably more stressed than in the Perm Region. The comments given by Adam Kalayev and Farukh Mirzoyev gave concrete examples of the discrimination against ethnic minorities. The provincial and city authorities' known opposition contributes little to the celebration of tolerance and mutal respect. On the other hand, the number of migrants in Ekaterinburg is considerably more than in Perm, and in general, these two cities have different rhythms of life. In order to understand this, it suffices to compare the airport and railroad stations of both cities. If in Ekaterinburg the level of transportation is not much different from that in Moscow, then in Perm little has changed since the collapse of the USSR. It was not by chance that we had serious problems with the Hotel Urals administration in Perm. On the night before the beginning of the semiar, we created a headquarters to meet our out-of-town participants. Naturally the hotel administration was informed of this, however, hotel employees did not want to impart the information about the location of the headquarters to the Omsk and Novosibirsk seminar participants. They probably had a lot of other more important things to do. In the end, our participants had to find their own way to the sanatorium Ust-Kachka. It was also unpleasant, when on the night of October 19th a car, which we had reserved, did not arrive at the santitorium, and it was necessary to undertake emergency measures, in order to take the Council of Europe experts to the airport. The leader of the Jewish national- cultural autonomy of Perm, Eduard Kiselgof, showed the participants antisemitic leaflets, which he had found in the city. The good relationships between the authorities and the national associations are, of course, quite necessary, however, there is still much to do in the Perm Region for the introduction of European standards. It is important that the regional administration understands this well. It is no accident that in the next years regional budget nearly 6 million rubles have been reserved for the realization of work in the sphere of international relationships. Completing the parallels between the Perm and Sverdlovsk regions, let us note that the Center for Interethnic Cooperation has very good relations with the authorities in the Sverdlovsk region as well as in Ekaterinburg. In general, it is not suprising that for some reason our work obtains more understanding and support in the norther regions of the country. Both representatives of the Chelyabinsk region, Aleksandr Kuznetsov from the Chelyabinsk Jewish Center and Marina Raizing from the German Center Renaissance located in Miass, Chelyabinsk Region verified that sharply negative attitudes are not observed in the region, as are characteristic for Moscow and the Moscow Region and several southern regions. From the statements it is possible to conclude that in the Chelyabinsk and Omsk Regions the means allocated for international programs is considerably less than in Perm.

Nadezhda Seluk, from the Association of the Indigenous Small Peoples from the North Primorskiy Territory, is deserving of special admiration. In order to take part in the seminar, she had to change planes twice and then take a train. As was explained by her comments, the committee, which deals with the problems of the international sphere in the Primorskiy Territory has been eliminated. Moreover, Nikolai Duba, an employee from the Primorskiy Territory administration who took part in our training in July 18-20 2003 in Ekaterinburg, was transferred to another department. It turns out that his participation in our seminar was in vain, and again we have no acquaintences from the Primorskiy Territory administration. The number of migrants in the territory is almost the same as in Russias southern regions, therefore, our seminar should present a great interest to the workers of the territorys administration. According to Nadezhdas words, the Indigenous Small Peoples of the Primorskiy Territory have basic problems such as survival and the protection of their ethnos culture. There are larger problems connected with the territory, where the indigenous small peoples live such as businessmen perdiodically attempting to privatize their land.

As well as in Anapa, the seminar participants On the third day of the seminar Victoria Shukhat, our professional trainer joined us. Her interactive games allowed the seminar participants to develop practical variants for the use of information, which was gathered on the first two days, and also a break from the formal setting of the seminar. Work on the first three days showed that in the northern regions of the country the relations between the local authorities and national associations, as a rule, are good. The problems, with which the representatives of the national minorities face in this region, are connected more with the problems of a socio-economic character and could eventually be reflected in public opinion. Therefore, a social campaign was selected as the basic tool for the effective protection of national minorities rights, which is lead by the national associations and the local administration. Participants of the seminar received corresponding materials. Victoria spoke to them about the basic rinciples for the organization of social campaigns. She then divided the participants into four groups and asked them to find necessary slogans, using the text from the Framework Convention to find necessary slogans, which should become a corner stone for an appropriate public campaign.

During this seminar, we found out that the associations of the national organizations, created during our first training in Perm not only continued to exist, but also has achieved a number of appreciable results. The creation of the House of Nationalities of the Perm Region, at the request of this association, is included in the regions future plans. After the realization of a roundtable by our Center in Ekaterinburg, the resident representative of human rights held a meeting with the national associations and migration services, and it was decided to carry out such meetings once per quarter. This means that there are benefits from our work. Most of the seminar participants did not previously know each other, but after these four days, they parted like close old friends. Perhaps this is not a result?