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Amazing Udmurtia
New Training for Police and Ethnic Minorities

The three-day training seminar was focused on increasing the efficiency of interaction between ethnic associations and law-enforcement bodies. We have to mention that Udmurtia has always been a very peaceful region when it comes to interethnic relations. The native population (Udmurtians) which makes up 30% of the 500 000 inhabitants of the republic, has been living peacefully with Russians, Tatars and members of 115 ethnic groups. Overall, we found that there is a strong tradition in Udmurtia of preventing problems, instead of fighting them when they appear. But in order to efficiently prevent a disease, it�s important to know its symptoms�

The participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds. There were representatives of law-enforcement bodies from different regions of the republic, members of the regional administration and ethnic leaders. As usual, we immediately started with a review of stereotypes. Therefore, the first assignment was to create the portrait of a typical member of an ethnic diaspora, as well as the portrait of a policeman. Overall, the results were saddening and expected.

Then we gave a survey: � What problems are there right now in the field of interethnic relations in the Udmurtia Republic? A vote brought the following answers:

Basic problems in interethnic relations in the Udmurtia Republic in 2007

  1. Worsening of the criminal situation
  2. Tax evasion
  3. Disrespect of Russian laws
Afterwards, we started to clarify whether the participants saw any disadvantages and advantages to the arrival of members of non-traditional ethnic groups on the territory of the republic.

This is what the list of disadvantages looked like:

Problems of interethnic relations

  1. The newcomers took jobs
  2. Female newcomers do not speak Russian
  3. Took over certain parts of the economy
  4. Worsening of the criminal situation
  5. Yet another occasion for locals to be dissatisfied with the authorities
  6. It is hard to control the newcomers
  7. Many mixed families
  8. There are not enough spots in kindergarten
  9. Strongly pronounced nationalism on the part of authorities
  10. Aversion of other cultures on the part of the local population
  11. Manipulation of anti-migration sentiments before elections
  12. Lack of housing
  13. Aversion of other cultures on the part of the newcomers
  14. Increase in drug traffic
  15. Tax evasion
  16. Money goes out of the region, it is not spent here
  17. Disrespect of Russian laws
Participants also pointed out the positive aspects related to the arrival of new immigrants and new cultures:

Advantages of newcomers

  1. The local population gets to know a new culture
  2. Improvement of the demographical situation
  3. Take the jobs that the local population does not want
  4. More services available
  5. New taxpayers
  6. Preservation of links that existed under the USSR
  7. Dialogue between civilizations
  8. Speeds up the creation of new laws
  9. Necessity of respecting human rights
  10. Strengthening of relations
  11. Increase in goods exchange between countries
  12. Strengthening of international ties
  13. Influence of society on criminal elements
  14. Increase in the economical and intellectual level
  15. Reputation of multiethnic country within the international community
  16. There are many newcomers within the government
  17. Increase in the level of tolerance
We also traditionally give a quick survey to the seminar�s participants, asking them to rate on a scale of 5 (where 1 means terrible and 5 extraordinary) the level of tolerance in the region. We have never seen such a high result as the one we received in Udmurtia: 4.2!

Obviously, this high level of tolerance explains the high level of readiness of all parties to interact. As a result of our discussion, we created a list of Interactive Tasks NGOs-Police-Authorities:

  1. Conflict prevention
  2. Protection of members of ethnic minorities
  3. Minimization of transgression of the law on the part of national minorities
Then we asked our participants, in the form of role-play, to imagine that in a small city called �N� on the territory of Udmurtia in a hypothetical Georgian cafe, a fight broke out between two youth groups � locals and newcomers. Someone learned that the conflict was getting bigger and that both sides found sympathizers and activists who wanted to keep on fighting. We asked our participants to elaborate an algorithm of maximal efficiency of actions in the given situation. We want to point out the artistry and involvement of the participants, who were hard to stop, even when the time allotted for the seminar was over. It was obvious that the participants experience the situation and do all they can in real life, so that Udmurtia can be a peaceful and tolerant republic.

We still have to add, that one unexpected moment came up when a member of the Ministry for National Politics proposed to the participants to elaborate a three-sided agreement between ethnic leaders, regional and municipal administrations, as well as law-enforcement bodies. The paradox in this situation is that in other cities, it is usually US, the representatives of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, who propose such an initiative. Based on foreign experience, we know how effective the existence of such a fundamental agreement can be.

The republic�s Ministry truly considers that the signature of such a document is important and worthwhile! This is an absolute break-through, if not to say, a new era in interethnic relations in Russia. The authorities� recognition of the worth of regular interaction between ethnic NGO�s and the responsible government structures in the administration and the police, allows us to hope that racism in the Udmurtia Republic will receive a well-deserved blow.

Victoria Shukhat

� 1993-2003

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