Back to 2003 Activities

Small Town Samara, Am I Restless?

Training Results in Samara

    In the country boarding house �Park Hotel� not far from Samara, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation conducted its last of three trainings on the topic �Russian and International Mechanisms for the Protection of National Minorities.� The Council of Europe and the Foundation for Rights Protection Projects of Great Britain financed the seminar. Experts from the Council of Europe and national association leaders from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the Samara, Voronezh, Saratov, Nizhni Novgorod and Orenburg regions participated in this seminar. We also invited administration representatives from each of these cities, but only representatives from the Samara and Nizhni Novgorod regional authorities responded. The official reason for refusal was that were extremely busy, but there were other reasons. The problem of interethnic relations and national politics in Russia has been completely abandoned. The Ministry on national affairs was liquidated, and another division in the power structure has not been created. The conception of a new state national politics in Russia is not accepted. The government finances in this sphere have abandoned the all hope for something better. In the end, employees of the administration, answering for work with nationalities, as a rule, enter into the structure of division, working with the public of a given region. And as it is known, these subdivisions are the first sent to battle for a victory of administrative interests at the elections.

    Participation in the seminar gave the possibility not only to better learn about the mechanisms for the protection of national minorities in Russia and in other European countries, but also to receive information about the interethnic situation in other regions and about the allocated means for the support of national associations. If to take into consideration, that at our seminars representatives from a number of regions envied the national associations from the Perm and Samara regions because of their administrations� work and financing, it became clear why officials from other regions decided to stay a little farther. The more pleasant to celebrate the help and support, which the authorities of the Samara Region gave to the seminar organizers. Nadezhda Osipova, the head specialist of the Department for Interaction with Social Organizations, practically on the same level with employees of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, took part in the decision of all possible organizational questions. For two days Nadezhda�s office became the headquarters for the organization of the seminar. The following should underlined, that on the eve of the seminar Lyudmila Durova, director of the Chief Management for Public and Inter-regional relations and Informational Politics for the Samara regional administration, took the director of the Center Ashot Airapetyan and in detail discussed with him the course for the seminar�s preparation. In the end she suggested to conduct a press conference and speak to the journalists about the seminar. More than anything, she gave instructions to the press center of the Samara regional administration to prepare for this press conference. We have not had anything similar happen in other regions! So that the administration itself suggested conducting a joint press conference �where is that seen? On the next day, November 19, four television cameras were waiting in the press center for the Center for Interethnic Cooperation and for the national associations of the Samara Region. Except for Lyudmila Durova and Ashot Airapetyan, Professor Bill Bowring, an expert from the Council of Europe, leaders from the Moscow national associations, and other seminar participants also took part in the press conference. Naturally, we spoke to the journalists not only about the goals and objectives of the seminar, but also about the importance of solving interethnic problems, about the necessity of opposing the increase of racism and xenophobia and the assistance of spreading ideas of tolerance, respect for other cultures and traditions. All of this took place in the Samara regional administration�s building. On that day in the House of Friendship, a reception was arranged for the seminar participants. The House of Friendship in Samara is a unique establishment, where the 18 most active national associations received offices. Moreover, the administration pays the salary for one of the methodologist from each organization. That is socialism, about which long ago the national associations dreamt to be constructed in every Russian city.

    It is possible to guess that the Samara administration employees� style of work does not appear to be a feature only of the Chief Management of Public and Inter-regional Relations and Informational Politics. The [regional] governor Titov had already long ago shown himself to a person, who is interested in cooperating with international organizations. According to the words of Lyudmila Durova, just this year the non-profit sector of the region received from the USA a present of 15 million dollars as a grant! This figure in itself already means a lot. Here it is a place to add that the Samara administration provided a bus to transport the seminar participants to and from the boarding house. They also sent a hired �Volga� to meet Professor Bowring at the airport. Finally, the Samara administration also found the beautiful and comfortable boarding house �Park Hotel� on the shore of Zhigulev reservoir, where the training was held. It was a good choice. The reservoir, encircled by trees, was a very beautiful place. Except for the seminar participants, there was practically no one else staying at the boarding house. The seminar started on November 20th at 11am. After the introduction of the participants and a speech by Lyudmila Durova, Professor Bowring spoke about the main points of the international system for the protection of minorities. Further, as at the other seminars, lead by the Center for Interethnic Cooperation in Anapa and in Perm, Merje Lahtinen, an employee of the Management for Human Rights Protection from the Council of Europe, spoke to the participants about the main points of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Unexpectedly the seminar participants received the possibility to become acquainted with several rules for observing human rights. The second television channel of the Samara television decided to film the opening of the seminar and the speeches of the Council of Europe experts. A. Valentin Ivaschenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian national-cultural autonomy from St Petersburg wanted to film the whole seminar on his own camera. The experts of the Council of Europe agreed to be filmed, but they asked to discuss this question with the other seminar participants.


   They were surprised (before no one would have asked them about it), but they gave their consent. By using this situation, we decided to record the experts� reports at this seminar. Shortly the texts from these reports will appear; therefore it is not necessary to discuss these reports in detail here. The experience of the previous seminars showed that the seminar participants take up quite a bit of time when they speak about the course of the Framework Convention�s fulfillment in their own region. Therefore in Samara we divided the participants into four groups and asked them to pick out four of the most realistic articles of the Framework Convention, according to their view. After the lively group discussions it became clear that the participants basically selected the same articles. The articles 1, 6 and 15 received the most votes. The next working day began at 10am but did not end at 18-00, as was planned, but at 19-00. Early in the morning it simply became clear that the vice-mayor of the city Tol�yatti Yakov Radyushin wanted to become acquainted with the experts from the Council of Europe. On the request of Ashot Airapetyan, the representatives of the national associations of Tol�yatti also went to the meeting with the vice-mayor. At the meeting the vice-major said that the city was built by all peoples of the USSR, and therefore no special national problems exist in Tol�yatii, and the problems that do exist, are reflections of problems that occur throughout Russia. The last reports at the seminar given by Samara regional representatives confirmed the words of Yakov Radyushin, but they were critical statements. Marat Beligov�s temperamental speech was especially remembered. He spoke about how the good relations of the administration and the national associations in the Samara Region have not become an obstacle for the discrimination against representatives of the Tajik, Chechen, Roma and other nationalities on the part of the law enforcement bodies. The representative from the Orenburg Chechen organization, Eset Yusufova said that the local authorities gave the official statistics of refugees from Chechnya, which did not include ethnic Chechens, and that it is a serious violation of the Framework Convention. Unfortunately, Ashot Airapetyan�s numeral appeals to construct the discussion around the Framework Convention articles were not fruitful. The leaders of the national associations spoke about their own concerns, seldom recollecting the Framework Convention or any other acts. Larissa Gugetleva from the Moscow Community of Chechen culture �Adygi�, for example suggested to speak not about the problems, with which emigrants from the Caucasuses in Moscow are confronted, but about the tragic fate of the Adygei during the first Caucasus war.

    David Beritashbili spoke about the Moscow International Advisory Council, which works with the first assistant of the Moscow government, that despite the large number of opportunities, this council cannot effectively work because numerous bureaucratic barriers interfere with his work. He spoke about a multimillion city plan for tolerance, about the existence, which national associations found out about only after the money was distributed. Valentin Ivaschenko, deputy leader of the Ukrainian national-cultural autonomy from Saint Petersburg, said that the city authorities think that there is no difference between the Ukrainians and the Russians, and they are strongly surprised, when a Ukrainian asks for support for some kind of project. Uktam Bekmukhamedov, representative of the Tajik cultural center, recounted how frequently he is approached for the release of his compatriots from the hands of the police. His compatriot, Tavakal Ubaidov, leader of the Samara organization �Assistance for the Development of Tajik Culture �Soman�on��, said that the existing registration laws do not give the opportunity for Tajiks, who have arrived on temporary work, to be registered in time. They are afraid to even go the store for bread because they know that they might be caught and taken away a police station. Further a call from the police to the foreman at the construction site, who collects money and goes to release the compatriot. As well as it was necessary to expect, there were many claims to the mass media, which only has not striven to propagate ideas of tolerance, but also has not shunned openly racist material. Representatives from the Tatar, Bashkir, and Ukrainian organizations stressed that although the majority of influential local electronic mass media are state owned, broadcasting in national languages is usually not possible, which are violations of the Framework Convention. Unfortunately, leaders from the local police did not take part in the seminar, although Lyudmila Durova sent them an official invitation. Instead Lyubov� Svetlichnaya, an employee of the Samara Region Immigration Services, attended all four days of the seminar. In her statements she declared that their migration service works by those rules, which have been devised in Moscow, and if these rules are not convenient for someone, it is not their fault. She stressed that all immigrants, who wish to receive registration, have received it. The strong impression caused by Aleksandr Reider�s statements leader of the regional national-cultural autonomy of Germans from the Saratov Region. Our trainings and seminars in 10 Russian regions have shown, that the German organizations are the strongest, most able, and most disciplined. In that the Germans, differ from their colleagues, the representatives of the southern nationalities, aspire to not miss any opportunity to receive new knowledge and skills. Aleksandr Reider�s comments convinced the seminar participants that the administration of the Saratov Region does a lot, so that the peoples and nationality groups living there feel like full-fledged citizens. In the Saratov Region special mechanisms that ensure constant and informal contact between the administration and the leaders of national associations, have allowed for any arising problems to be solved. Aleksandr�s story made an especially strong impression about the joint duty of the representatives of the national associations and the police in Saratov�s public places for the prevention of incidents with members of national minorities, mostly immigrants, on the side of the local residents or the police. �It is possible for the experience of the Chechen and Tajik organizations in the Saratov Region to be adopted in Samara,� suggested Ashot Airapetyan.

    �It is impossible,� objected Marat. �Because our police would never go for it!�
    Ashot recounted, how at the initiative of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, a roundtable discussion was held in Ekaterinburg under the aegis of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Tat�yana Merzlyakova and was devoted to the protection of national minority rights. The Commissioner�s press services invited journalists to the roundtable discussion, which allowed the directors of the Tajik and Roma associations to give speeches on the local television and to express their points of view relating to the situation in the city. After the roundtable discussion, at the Human Rights Commissioner�s initiative, a meeting of the national association leaders was organized with the directors of the state police and migration services. With such a good relationship between the Samara authorities and the national associations, Ashot suggested that a similar meeting could be arranged in Samara without problems. The following should be emphasized that Ashot during the course of the training repeatedly made parallels between the different regions of Russia, informing about positive experiences, which could be successfully accepted in other regions. In particular, he spoke to the seminar participants, that in the Volgograd and Astrakhan Regions a special office deals with the problems of national minorities, although the financial possibilities of these regions are considerably inferior those of the Samara region. The presence of the several qualified workers in the administration and the special office, where it is possible not to prevent other employees of the administration from working with the national association leaders, has considerable importance. Here it is appropriate to remind that at the end of the day a worker in the administration building�s wardrobe treated the leaders of the Moscow national associations to tea, because only two other employees work in Nadezhda Osipova�s office there was only one chair for the guests. The last example says that there is no limit to perfection. Also that anywhere, even in the most successful region, by way of interaction with national associations, there is always an opportunity to improve on one�s work with the use of other regions� experiences.

    An in-depth description of all the statements at the seminar would take up too much space. Besides it is necessary to have the skill, it might be talent, in order to recreate all of the emotions and temperaments of the speakers. Surprisingly, all seminar participants displayed enviable discipline; hence, they liked participating in the seminar. Thus it is possible to assert that it was interesting for the participants to listen to each other, and sometimes argue about the problems, discussed at the training. The morning of November 22nd, the third day of the seminar, Ashot Airapetyan and the Center for Interethnic Cooperation�s trainer Victoria Shukhat started on the second part of the seminar, which was devoted to the practical application of the mechanisms for the protection of national minorities. She began with an �analysis of flights.� The seminar participants said what they liked and did not like about the first two days of the seminar. Here is a look at our results:


1. Interest of the NGO leaders
2. Competence of the experts
3. Manner of the experts� statements
4. Everyone�s sincere aspiration to change the situation
5. The volunteer�s statements
6. Ashot�s jokes
7. The actuality of the theme 8. The atmosphere of kindness; attitudes towards others� problems same as one�s own
9. No distance between the speakers and the audience
10. The Samara administration�s attitude toward the issues
11. A lot of information
12. The realization of other similar seminars in Russia
13. The mutual democratic relations
14. The informal relations
15. New form and contents of training
16. The formulation of a network for national NGO leaders for solving interethnic relation problems
17. Aspiration from the outside to change a situation inside
18. Beautiful women, smart men
19. The condition of the residence


1. Theme of law-enforcement bodies
2. No discipline
3. Emotions went too far
4. It is necessary to be more purposefully engaged in the Framework convention
5. Ashot�s �Aggressiveness� as the host
6. Absence of politically correctness
7. Infringement of rules
8. Output on a person and not on the problem 9. There were no other administrators from other regions
10. Little investigation of concrete incidents
11. Technical equipment � computers
12. No representatives of the mass media (AND THERE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN)
13. No deputies, representatives of the MVD, FSB (AND THERE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN)
14. Limitation of thinking for problem solving
15. Narrow sight for problem solving
16. Lack of legal education - practice of application of the laws

    A touching farewell was held with Merje Lahtinen and Bill Bowring, with whom the seminar participants already became friends. Later the seminar participants at the request of Victoria, divided up into four groups and within one hour developed plans for the introduction of the received knowledge and experience in their regions, and then reported back to the group. The plans were so different and at times not concrete, that it was decided to rate the three most important functions, which national associations should lead for successful protection of their ethnic compatriots. The following functions received the most votes:

    Results of the rating method

1. Analysis of the Framework Conventions� articles and the knowledge, received at the seminar 2. Roundtable discussion �Discussion of the RF official reports about the fulfillment of the Framework Convention�
3. Legal education through the mass media, national NGO, law enforcement and other organizations
4. To address parties and participants with the national minorities� choices and their requirements

    Ashot called on the training participants to engage in the realization of these plans in the near future. Leaders of the national association nodded their heads in unison. We only need to wait and hope. The previous days showed that the relations of the national associations and authorities (like in the Samara Region, and in those regions from where the participants came) are on a good level. On the other hand, the complaints of leaders of some associations about law enforcement bodies� illegal actions on cases of beatings by young fascists, proves that there is still work to do. At the seminar the sociological research, carried out in the Samara Region, was announced. It showed that 72% of the Russian population harbors negative attitudes toward immigrants, and that nearly 90% of those polled are mostly irritated by appearance of these people. Here we decided that the main �enemy� was found to be the negative public opinion, which wants to remove all immigrants from the Caucuses, Asia and Africa, irrespective of their citizenship and terms of residence in Russia. But this was not so. On that day under the sanction of the Samara administration (but without the knowledge of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation) new participants were included in the training. The participants should represent one or a maximum of two focus groups, either they were very difficult to supervise, or they were not interested in working together, especially study. For example, it was difficult to lead a joint training for milkmaids and chess players. It is still more difficult to conduct training, if two days were spent at the milkmaid�s training, and only on the third day of the seminar arrived the chess players, and on that day you should organize a social campaign with them.

    It turned out that again the arrivals consider that 72%, about which discussed earlier, is not an occasion for the special anxiety. When the host Ashot Airapetyan interrupted a touching story of one of the participants, about how her girlfriend was in the USA, and how they treated her poorly, here accusations followed that �All is understood, you received money, and you should work for it, our opinion is not interesting to you.� Further it was necessary to either ignore her desire to tell more touching stories from her girlfriend�s life, or take time away from the seminar�s topic, so that we could prove to the participants that we respect everyone�s opinion and positions and in the future will work with those problems that the seminar participants think are the most important and actual in the region of interethnic relations. We choice the second path, and on the third day we worked for 1.5 hours longer. We let the �genie out of the bottle.� A boisterous discussion began, and even the quietest participants strove to state their position. David Beritashvili declared that the Russian attitude toward immigrants was a �coefficient of tolerance.� Tavakal Ubaidov, leader of the Samara Tajik organization recounted that if someone new is thrown into a group of goats, whom they did not know, they then start to display noticeable aggressiveness towards him. �It means that 72% is a reaction to the reality that there are simply strangers,� he complained. �Let�s not be goats,� interjected David Beritashvili and aroused an explosion of Homeric laughter. The emotional heat of the statements raised with each minute, alas, it was impossible to tell about their constructiveness and logicality. When Ashot suggested to stop the discussion and to solve the problem with a simple vote, it became clear that the new participants were ready to fight for every word and point to the formulation of a question, which should be put to the vote. This went to a discussion that it is necessary to understand the word "normal". Finally after a wearisome debate and several rounds of voting, it was possible to define, that when 72% of the native population harbors negative attitudes towards immigrants, that it is not possible to be a normal situation. Hence, the national associations should do definite work, in order to raise the �coefficient of tolerance,� and one of the best ways for influencing public opinion is a public campaign. With this matter, we finally received the opportunity to continue the training. The later course of the seminar showed, that this moment was decisive, and similar situations did not arise again.

    Later Victoria spoke to the seminar participants how it is possible to influence public opinion with the help of a public campaign. The seminar participants were again divided up into groups, this time to search for the most effective public campaign slogan. Here are the results.

    First Group
�Alga!�- that is in Russian - �Forward!�

Second Group
Slogan: �Humanity for People. Together and on the Same Level!�

Action of a social unification
�Our future is in the cooperation of nationalities�
Slogan: �Let�s hold hands, friends, in order to not disappear one by one!�

Third Group
Rights Protection educational national center �Rainbow�
Slogan: �We are different, but strangers�

    Is it necessary to say that the presentation of the slogans accompanied with active discussions and boisterous applause? By the fourth and last day, an atmosphere of friendship and sensation had formed, as is characteristic of our trainings, that we all being representatives of different nationalities and religions became like one big family. The atmosphere, which promoted, so that the grown uncles and aunts were ready, little children, to complete all requirements of the young trainer, evidently demonstrates, that they can and should work in one group. At the end of training we asked them to divide up into groups and describe the situation, which will take place in their region in five years. Here is they came up with.

    The Samara region 2003-2208 becomes economically stable, socially attractive for all categories of the population, attractive for investments for all businesses in region. In the region they conduct:

  • Roundtable discussions with the representatives of the police (Ministry of Internal Affairs) once a month
  • Certification of officers and the ranks on the knowledge and performance of laws in the sphere once a year
  • In the region a Resource Center works, which carries out::
    • Rights protection activities
    • Monitoring research
    • Legal consultations for NGOs, immigrants
    • A functioning publishing department
    • Creation of an international child and youth organization
    • National classes
    • National schools at the center for children and adults
    • Interethnic camp of friendship
    • Volunteers
  • Lead legal education through the mass media, a local deputy body, national communities, rights protection and other organizations
  • Conduct meetings with lawyers, rights protectionists at the assemblies of national minority representatives
  • Interpersonal contacts (work with people)
  • Examine concrete facts of offences with acceptance of measures, generalizations and decisions
  • Run systematic and urgent (�hotlines�) informational bodies of the authorities on the legal situation of national minority representatives
  • Organize meetings between the representatives of authorities with rights protection organizations on the realization of international problems
  • Work with persons of law-enforcement bodies
  • Strengthen friendship between nationalities, through interethnic national holidays, festivals, etc, through �Sabantuy� where all people will be invited.
  • Conduct active propaganda of national culture through the mass media (TV, internet, press)
  • Creation of �Houses of Peoples Friendship� on the example of Samara and Tol�yatii (such as questions of social adaptation and free-of-charge legal advice for various nationalities)
  • Lead interethnic meetings for leaders from the �House of Friendship� and other national-cultural centers
  • Creation of a national village (based on the experience of Saratov)
  • Organize a unique informational field, where journalists are prepared, exists a special national project �TV-radio� � �We are the different but not strangers�.

        A week later we called the administration of the Samara Region. As it was necessary to expect, the seminar caused a large revival in the national ice formation, and as Nadezhda Osipova told us, the leaders of these associations have noticeably increased their activity. We could only be happy. To be pleased, because we managed to do a good job and consequently, that we have won new grants, and in the New 2004 we shall again work in the remarkable city Samara.

    Ashot Airapetyan