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Wednesday 22 February

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Training in Moscow, 28th-29th April 2009, “Youth and Tolerance”

From 28th to 29th April, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation in cooperation with the Department for Gender Studies of the Russian State Humanitarian University in Moscow held a seminar-training concerning “Youth and Tolerance”. To the delight of the organizers, the training not only turned out inter-universitary, but also interregional. Students from the Russian State Humanitarian University (RGGU), the Moscow Financial-Juristic Academy (MFJA), the Moscow State University of Design and Technology, the Moscow Lomonossov State University, Russian State Pedagogical University St. Petersburg and AF Volgograd Academy of State Service (Astrakhan), which, despite the fact that the seminar took not place during the warmest days in May, arrived on time and plunged into the subject under discussion with interest.

We, Ashot Ayrapetyan and Anastasia Svjasova, having conducted trainings with youths in more than 15 regions of Russia, notices that more girls than man take part in such activities. The gender component is one of the most important in our lives. Once a very smart and bright man said: "For me, the world has two nationalities: men and women, and all other differences are not as frightening as those." The training began with a very lively game, where we divided the participants into 4 groups, and gave them 2 minutes to think. We asked them to describe what exactly is uniting them. Versions were different, but for the most part, it turned out that all of them are students, many names start with the same letter, the majority of those present for the first time at this event. Next, we divided the participants into groups of institutes. Those who were from universities, representing a minority in the training, united in one group. We asked the children to invent a slogan associated with the theme of the seminar. And that's what we received:

  1. Let’s stay together, while being unique!
  2. It is better to regret what has been done, than to regret what has not been done!
  3. Moscow, Astrakhan, greetings from all of us!
  4. Hard to learn, easy in the battle!

Under a storm of applause to each other, we asked the question: "What qualities has the average young Muscovite aged 17 to 30 years?" Written down what the participants considered necessary to say, everyone got the opportunity to choose the 4 most important, from his point of view, characteristics.

Of the 52 jointly written points, the maximum number of points received selfish, second with four points were indifferent, detached from the life of the rest of Russia, energetic and eager for independence.

The result was quite understandable and hardly surprising. In any city, and especially in Moscow, the participants did not think the average young person tolerant, intelligent, kind, etc. Then we asked whether there are pluses to be tolerant and how to achieve these? The results of the groups, proved to be:

Group 1 believes that:

Pluses of tolerance:

- in mutual respect

- cultural exchange

- Broadening the range of communication

- Development of international relations

- Reduce the number of conflicts

- Development of tolerance to the following generations through education

Therefore it is necessary to:
1. Draw attention to this issue by:
a). Carrying out lessons of tolerance in primary school classes, b). holding events on this theme;
c). Using authorities and celebrities to promote this theme through lectures and social advertising.
2. Conduct activities like:
a). Actions of creative nature;
b). Flash mobs;
c). Organize joint recreation (youth camps);
g). Film festivals;

d). Develop cultural communication.

Group 2 believes that tolerance gives the possibility to:

- To gain new friends and, consequently, expand horizons;
- to gain experience and another opinion, way of thinking, considerable creative resources;
- There will be less aggression between people, groups, nations.
Removing bias gives a person:
- Sense of security, lack of fear;
- Completion of "holes" in human resources.
Dissemination of ideas of tolerance in the following ways:
1. Start with yourself: self-examination and reassessment of views;
2. Imitation: a positive personal example;
3. Active personal position: Share with others.

Group number 3 came to the conclusion that the pluses of tolerance are the following:
- Treat people the way you would like to treat you!!!
- A way to avoid ethnic conflicts;
- Fundamentals of integration of ethnic minorities in the titular nation (cultural exchange);
- stable psychological state of society;
- A way of redistributing resources and effort;
- The general solution of global problems.
Ways to achieve tolerance are as follows:
1. Mutual respect
2. Tales of the results of this training;
3.
Discussion of similar situations;
4. Social activities.

Not forgetting about the gender component of our actions, as there were only three guys in the group of 18 participants, we decided to arrange a guys holiday. Each of them gave could create a team of girls for the following interactive game. Having laughed, we continued to work in these same groups, clarifying the problems of modern youth. Group number 1 has come to these thoughts:
1. Financial problems;
2. Bad habits;
3. Permanent "stress";
4. Employment problem;
5. Health;
6. Living space;
7. Transportation;
8. Susceptibility to the influence of mass culture;
9. Problem of migration.

Group 2 focused on youth problems in big cities:
1. Housing is not available;
2. Could not find work in the specialty;
3. Solitude in the “crowd";
4. Poor health;
5. The problem of choice and self-determination in life;
6. Social passivity;
7. Dependence on the work of institutions, youth;
8. Age stereotypes;
9. Lot of prejudices and barriers.

Group 3 presented as the main discussion results:
1. Behavior of people in vanity;
2. Isolation;
3. Material dependency;
4. The problem of self-dependence;
5. The problem of loneliness;
6. Time;
7. The problem of self-realization;
8. No respect;
9. Tolerance
10. Problems in the relation with parents;
11. Maximalism;
12. P
erception of people only by surface.

After lunch, we came together again to discuss the problem of the emergence and development of neo-fascism in our country. Through brainstorming, we found out why, from the standpoint of our participants, the ideas of fascism are attractive to young people. That's what we got:
1. The ideas of fascism are attractive to those who but do not believe it themselves to be to blame;
2. They have nowhere to put their anger and they feel their power. Moreover, it is fashionable;
3. They are fighting for the purity of race (mean against mixed marriages and children of such marriages), but not for the dominance of one nation over another;
4. Not education and misinformation leads to swell the ranks of neo-fascists;
5. There is no understanding between nationalities, and therefore the ranks of skinheads are expanding;
6. The milieu of neofascists is attractive to people who for the most part do not know what they are fighting; only the tip of their movement knows that and skillfully builds a policy within the organization and manages the youth;
7. There are teenagers who reject the society; there they acquire a sense of security, of which many of them say that they will soon stop doing it, that this is temporary;

8. The differences in customs and cultures lead to misunderstanding and aggression from the local population against the newcomers (girls wear short skirts, bright make-up, but they are annoyed just as the guys that visitors look at them with undisguised interest, attempting to "badger") ;
9. The roots lay in the family, in education. In those families where skinheads are promoting the idea of "Russia for the Russian", the adolescents see violence (in addition to the promotion of violence and rivers of blood on television screens);
10. Most of the adolescents joining the neo-fascist movement are aged 13 to 17 years (minors) and from problematic families, and the two Chechen campaigns have made themselves left an imprint on the minds of many in our country;

11. There is a thick line between "Russian" and "Caucasians", hence fascism;

12. There is a lack of youth policy and a proper social advertising in Russia. They do not advertise the good. The people will always learn faster about the bad, so everyone knows about the skinhead movement and goes there and not e.g. in sports, because it is affordable and the young people feel as a part of a whole there;
13. Nazism is characteristic to the poor, they want to rise above someone else, and to do it over the migrants is more convenient, as they are most certainly with less education, profession, etc.

It is no good image that turned out. A lot of time has been paid to migrants on the street in the relation to "Russian" girls, how much aggression came from the girls themselves, who vehemently argued that they had been molested, insulted, etc. Yes, it is of course a delicate subject, I think that every representative of the weaker sex, who is reading these lines, would cause an uproar, and the male will not remain indifferent. But, we tried to turn the conversation from a clear aggression to try to understand why both sides of this conflict are behaving exactly the way they behave. Why do girls dress up so that they males look at them, and "Russian" guys can do it, but "not Russian" can not, and why those who can not, from the point of view of cute girls do it very importunately, but do not pay due attention to those who address them with bright makeup and costumes. We did this by a role-playing game, asked our young female people to represent a stroll through the city, possibly transferring them to the style of gait, facial expressions and conversation, and to portray the behavior of an average young man coming towards them. It turned out that putting yourself in another person is not very easy. I do not know whether we have succeeded in our common effort to understand a bit better both sides, but on the second day of training, many of the girls felt that the arrogance and rudeness have become less actively promoting such a position.

It is a pity that on our training were not present in sufficient quantity migrant students; I think, then we would have the opportunity to listen to the other side of the conflict in the necessary extent, but we hope that this is not our last training with educational institutes in Moscow and beyond, and that we will have an opportunity to gather guys for a few days, who by force of circumstances and the demographic realities of our country should learn and live together and perhaps be friends not only for 5 years during the studies to grasp the profession, but much longer.

Finding out why in our country neo-fascism is developing, the participants, among others, came to the conclusion that those youth movements and organizations that exist in Russia are less advertised and apparently less attractive to young people for a variety of reasons. But it is no secret that the organization's success depends not only on the idea that it has, but also on the personality, which it is directed by. In order to understand what kind of leader is the most effective manager of youth organization and attracts into its ranks the most energetic young people, we jointly drew his portrait. Moreover, each participant named any, from his point of view, important characteristic, we wrote them down, and then they voted as the UN at their meeting, that is, if some one was against an item, we crossed it out, so that only those items remained where the whole audience was in no doubt. Thus, the leader should be:

1. Charismatic;
2. Purposeful;

3. An interesting person;
4. Speaker;
5. With force of will;
6. Resourceful;
7. Quick decision-maker;
8. One who can bring people together, create a team;
9. Some kind of psychologist.

Of course, this is the perfect leader and does most likely not exist in reality, but precisely these qualities are necessary in order to solve problems among young people with the very same young people. And for this it is necessary to understand what young people like. We found the answer to this question, dividing the participants into three groups. Group number 1 has come to these conclusions:
1. Festivals, movie screenings, advertising, exhibitions, concerts, theaters, museums, master-classes;
2. Parties;
3. Do nothing (having a rest);
4. Travelling;
5. New acquaintances;
6. Loving;
7. Active relaxation;
8. Surfing on the Internet. Including, in social networks "Classmates", "Vkontakte 'etc.;
9. Shopping;
10. Learn new;
11. Be distinguishable
;
12. And for all an incentive
is needed

Group 2 believes that young people like:
1. Contemporary Art;
2. Practice in their specialty (professional development);
3. Cinema clubs;
4. Theme parties, special interest clubs;
5. The development of the useful personal qualities (trainings, seminars);
6. Expanding horizons;
7. Media;
8. Fashion in general;
9. Subculture.

Group 3 created this list:
1. Cinema;
2. Disco;
3. Theaters
4. Cafes;
5. Travelling;
6. Dressing up;
7. Flirt, novels;
8. Internet;
9. Communication;
10. Be distinguishable;
11. Music;
12. Sports and active recreation;
13.
Professional self-actualization.

Discussing the results, we asked participants to divide into three groups according to educational establishments and draw an outline of programs that they believe should be implemented in their universities. The results were these:

Group RGGU:
1. Introduce a tighter control through teachers;
2. Arrange a game of "Angel" within the framework of the university;
3. Conduct seminars, trainings;
4. Arrange a presentation of inter-ethnic cultures;
5. Enter the subject of "Culture of the nations of the world" (at least for those who are studying at university);
6.
Establish a "cool head".

Group MFJA:

1. Introduce an interesting program of lectures on the peculiarities of different cultures;
2. Original actiona, flash mobs, special events involving large numbers of people are needed;
3. Meetings with the most successful people of different nationalities;
4. RPGs. Eradicating stereotypical behavior;
5. Multinational sport teams and events;
6. Competitions on tolerance and intercultural interaction;
7. Excursions, trips, thematic cross-national youth camp;
8. Assistance in adaptation.

Combined group of students from MGUDT, Moscow State University, Herzen University, St. Petersburg and Volgograd Academy of State Service of AF (Astrakhan):
1. Identify the manifestations of intolerance and conflicts at university;
2. Students, as a "critical mass" for the diffusion of ideas of tolerance in the society (this is the prestige of the university);
3. Trainings, interactivity with interesting people and modeling of complex situations are needed;
4. Seminars - multi-faceted coverage of topical issues for the city with an invitation to well-known, reputable people and experts.
5. Program for high schools is not only profitable in the case of complex ethnic problems at university.

The program has a positive impact on the reputation of the university, gives it an additional advantage because the university as a whole is a youth project.
I think the students are right, and I would like to have their opinion be heard by people who manage not only processes of learning.
For our part, we are very pleased that met with such bright and active young people and look forward to further meetings with them and those who are interested in theme of tolerance, cooperation, communication, those who want to make the world just a little bit better. Until the next meeting!

Anastasia Svyasova