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Sunday 25 June

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Summer School of Tolerance
8

The Baikal lake is the deepest and the most ancient lake in the world. Its splendor, immensity and incomprehensibility astound at the first sight and leave such colorful memories that if you close your eyes and think of Baikal you still see a very bright picture.

It took us five hours to reach Irkutsk from Moscow by plane and then four hours more by bus to Bazarnaya bay on a Small sea. It seemed that after such a long journey we’ll be exhausted and sleepy, but no – the magic air of Baikal not only awoke, but also charged us with such a big amount of energy, that it become possible to sit near the campfire for the whole night and to enjoy the nature and worm company.

The Summer School was situated at the lake shore, and the place where we had our meetings was called “Arc”. It was a wooden building in a shape very much reminding of an actual ship. Like Noahs’, our arc also had three levels and for five days we used it to ramble the waves of leadership, tolerance and friendship.


 

Twenty young people from Buriat, Belarus, Ukrainian, Tatar, Polish and Armenian ethnic organizations and student unions of Irkutsk Universities took part in the work of this Summer School that was organized by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Irkutsk Region Authorities.

At the beginning, just to get to know what’s modern youth look like and how they see themselves, we asked participants to create a portrait of a modern young person. The results were

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- Student

- Sportsman

- With stable income

- Purposeful

- Advanced PC user

- Active user of “Vkontakte.ru” social network website

- Participant of youth organization

- Wants to be significant

- Wants to excel

- Looking for his/her ways

- Intelligent

- Knows the names of RF president and prime minister

- Literate

- Lost

- Has bad habits: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs

- Tries to self-esteem on someone else’s account

- Cynic, egoist

- Politically passive

- Lack of patriotism

- Chauvinist

- Stereotype influenced

- Follows crowd instinct

- Evades army service

- Prefers western way of life, criticizing it at the same time

- “Dom-2” spectator

5

The portrait appeared to be quite contradictory. But not due to survey mistakes, but as a reflex of the reality. Our modern young person is far from univocal in his/her deeds and statements.

The Summer School participants were trying to figure out reasons of conflicts and extremism among youth. Here we have five main reasons that they worked out:

 

- Stereotypic mind

- Herd instinct

- Need to excel

- Lack of understanding of civil society among youth

- Economic reasons

 

 

Logically correct that the next topic for discussion were attempts to find out solutions for conflict situations. After quite a hard discussion it was decided to make some role-playing games to take the heat out a bit. The core of these games was that some common everyday situations were represented from the other angle – girls were playing boys’ roles and vice versa. Plus ethnic component was added. The situations to be played were: Caucasian boy tries to attract and got acquainted to a Russian girl – firstly in a bus full of people reacting to this situation, then at the market with a Caucasian majority, and finally at a night club. The aim of these games is for participants to temporary walk in this person’s shoes to feel the emotions and experience of a real conflict situation party. The participants took these games very seriously and enjoyed them much.

Need to be mentioned that we had lots of discussions with a repeating idea that tolerant attitudes could be spread among youth only under the guidance of “right” leaders able to provide their equals with the true meaning of this foreign word. Working in teams, participants marked a long row of qualities impossible to be a leader without. So the leader has to be:

- Creative

- Wise

- Educated

- Open-minded

- Communicative

- Able to listen to others

- Leading a healthy life

- Expansive

- Kind

- Cultured

- Modern

- Purposeful

- Good speaker

- Able to get sympathy and confidence

One of our main aims was to strengthen participants’ leadership qualities and to obtain their ability to promote the ideas of tolerance, equality and friendship among their equals. That’s why we organized polls after workshops to figure out who showed the better leadership qualities among the participants. On the other hand we tried to help the participants to work as one team. We used interactive games on these purposes.

The apogee of the third day appeared to be a trip to the island of Ogoi with the Buddhist stupa. There are thousands of stupas in the whole world, while only two in our country – one in Kalmykiya and the other at Ogoi island. It’s hard to be tolerant if you do not know the history and culture of the region you live in. You can be stunned by the beauty and splendor of Baikal itself and the holy Buddhist stupa. The participants enjoyed the trip very much. Especially the opportunity to visit the eleventh interregional ethnocultural interethnic festival “Jordyn Games”. It’s impossible to represent by words the creative atmosphere of the event – everything’s very bright from the traditional costumes and you hear unforgettable sounds of Buriat melodies! We had opportunity to try famous Buriat “poses” and to buy some ethnic souvenirs. The only negative moment of this holiday – a lack of gender equality. Only men can rise upon the Jord mountain and women can only listen for their boasting about the beautiful sights you can see from the top. And nobody can tell why it’s forbidden for women to go there – just a taboo, and that’s it.

One of our main aims was to strengthen participants’ leadership qualities and to obtain their ability to promote the ideas of tolerance, equality and friendship among their equals. That’s why we organized polls after workshops to figure out who showed the better leadership qualities among the participants. On the other hand we tried to help the participants to work as one team. We used interactive games on these purposes.

The apogee of the third day appeared to be a trip to the island of Ogoi with the Buddhist stupa. There are thousands of stupas in the whole world, while only two in our country – one in Kalmykiya and the other at Ogoi island. It’s hard to be tolerant if you do not know the history and culture of the region you live in. You can be stunned by the beauty and splendor of Baikal itself and the holy Buddhist stupa. The participants enjoyed the trip very much. Especially the opportunity to visit the eleventh interregional ethnocultural interethnic festival “Jordyn Games”. It’s impossible to represent by words the creative atmosphere of the event – everything’s very bright from the traditional costumes and you hear unforgettable sounds of Buriat melodies! We had opportunity to try famous Buriat “poses” and to buy some ethnic souvenirs. The only negative moment of this holiday – a lack of gender equality. Only men can rise upon the Jord mountain and women can only listen for their boasting about the beautiful sights you can see from the top. And nobody can tell why it’s forbidden for women to go there – just a taboo, and that’s it.

Back to the training we had a difficult and serious topic coming – the social projecting. Our aim was not only to tell the participants about social projects, but also to teach them to create social projects that could draw attention and funding. Here I want to stress the participation in this summer school of Svetlana Konovalova – Head of Department of Ethnoconfessional relations within the Irkutsk Administration, and of Evgenia Nazarova – the CIC Financial Director. Their experienced suggestions made an invaluable impact in the development of the participants’ project thinking.

For example, one of the projects that was created by the participants during the training, was supposed to been realized in Irkutsk on November 30th as a big Ethno-party. As to make a rehearsal, our participants gathered near all the inhabitants of the tourist camp where we carried out our training, and organized an ethno-party. It took them only a few hours to think over and to create a program with a big number of performances and different kinds of contests. We all enjoyed two hours of a good stage show!

The other interesting project created by the participants concerned a work with orphanage children. This project is very difficult and impossible to be realized without the support of the authorities and educational experts. But nevertheless there’s a strong need for such a project, and not only in Irkutsk region.

As the result of the Summer School the special video was created that you can see visiting “Vkontakte.ru” social network, group “Youth and Tolerance” (http://vkontakte.ru/video.php?gid=8829394). And the participants even created the Hymn of Tolerance! The Baikal School appeared to be 100 % successful and we very much hope that it will become traditional.

Marina Nikiforova