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Tolerance: Where to go, who to call - how to act?

A question is written on the blackboard: �How would you react, if a conflict was to break out in one of the ethnic restaurants of the city?� The answers to that question are not being given by children, but by grown-ups participating in a training seminar: policemen, representatives of the local administration and leaders of ethnic groups.

The leader of the Tajik community center �Orien Taj�, Ayniddin Talbiev, responds to the question by saying that the first thing to do is to find the authority figures such as representatives of the restaurant owners� ethnic group and to communicate with the Ministry of National Politics, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other ethnic community organizations. Then, they should have a meeting to figure out what caused the conflict and allow the leaders to influence the troublemakers. The police already have their own plan to follow: to follow the clues, interrogate the witnesses, examine the scene, arrest the guilty parties and conduct an inquiry. The local administration also has its own approach. More often than not, clashes are not ethnically motivated, but rather they stem from everyday disturbances or because of corruption. It is necessary to understand that problems will arise without attaching any discriminatory labels.

What is the cause of the strained confrontation between Chechens and the local population in Kondopoga? The question was answered at the seminar: representatives of authorities, the police and the community did not know how to react, where to go, who to call or what to do. So that this does not happen again, the Moscow-based NGO �Center for Interethnic Cooperation� leads training sessions across the country in the form of role-plays. The seminar in Izhevsk brought together assistants to the head of the regional administration, workers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and of the migratory service, journalists and leaders of ethnic diasporas.

�I benefited from participating in the three day seminar,� says N.P. Shirokikh, a correspondent from the Vavozh newspaper Avant-Garde. �My biggest impression was of the people I met.� �They made us think and search for the right solutions,� adds D.L. Makarov, senior inspector of the Lenininsky district of the Izhevsk Department of Internal Affairs.

�We have already carried out such seminars in 21 regions,� comments the director of the Center, Ashot Ayrapetyan. �Our organization was in fact created to assist ethnic diasporas in having their rights respected and to solve interethnic problems. In Russia, there are few regions with such a Ministry of National Politics, as there is in Udmurtiya. In some regions, no one takes care of these issues, therefore, skinheads and fascist organizations appear. The Rostov region is an example of that; foreign students are killed there every year. There is something to be learned from the example of tolerance shown in the Perm, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Yaroslavl regions � and in Udmurtiya as well.�

�We have been working with the Center for Interethnic Cooperation for five years now,� says the assistant to the minister of national politics of Udmurtiya, Larissa Nikolaevna Buranova. �I have attended a few of those seminars. It is a unique organization, truly one of a kind. It exists thanks to investments and grants, and the results are there. The center does what the inexistent Federal Ministry of National Politics should do. They have a great amount of experience in leading seminars with the police, migratory services and community organizations. During the seminars, a certain behavior pattern for conflict situations is presented. The participants of our seminars have learnt how to react responsibly to complex situations. Apart from that, a certain form of interaction between ethnic organizations and authorities was presented, which would include the signature of an agreement of mutual aid and support. We will be studying that proposition.�

�We were pleasantly surprised by the stability of the relations between the peoples of Udmurtiya�, noted A. Ayrapetyan. �It is the result of the personal attention given to the question by the head of the republic, A.A. Volkov,� explained the minister of national politics, V.N. Zavalin. Leaders of ethnic organizations agreed: once a month, they gather for a meeting at what they call �their� Ministry of National Politics, share their concerns and build a general work plan. All of this produces results.

To teach tolerance, that is, a tolerant and respectful attitude towards all nations living together, is possible and necessary. And it has become a priority of the Ministry of National Politics of Udmurtiya in the past years.

Source: �Udmurtskaya Pravda�

� 1993-2003

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