Civil Society Institutions and Peacemaking
The authors highlight relatively unknown efforts at local civil society building and conflict management in the North Caucasus. They feature a report that surveys activities with youth and with elders’ councils, in the republics of Chechnya, North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, and Ingushetia.
Mikhail V. Savva and Valerii A. Tishkov
Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia, vol. 49, no. 4 (Spring 2011), pp. 12–39.
© 2011 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved.
ISSN 1061–1959/2011 $9.50 + 0.00.
English translation © 2010 M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text © 2007 EAWARN and S.V. Kuleshov. “Instituty grazhdanskogo obshchestva i mirotvorchestvo,” in Rossiiskii Kavkaz. Kniga dlia politikov, ed. Valerii Tishkov (Moscow: FGNU “Rosinformagrotekh,” 2007), pp. 349–69. Mikhail V. Savva is program director at the Southern Regional Resource Center in Krasnodar, Russian Federation. Valerii A. Tishkov is director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation. Translated by James E. Walker.
A tradition of historical mechanisms for interaction and internal self-regulation of relations is manifested in the formation and functioning of public organizations in the North Caucasus. Some of the important goals of civil society institutions are interethnic communication, creation of mutual constructive images, fostering dialogue between the authorities and society, developing a culture for dealing with controversy, and defending the individual from arbitrary rule by the authorities. One typical tendency of civil structuring in the region is the use of civil initiatives in the political process; another is control of civil society on the part of government authorities.
It is hard for the ideas of civil society to take hold when most of the population are adherents of Orthodox Christianity or Islam, religions in which the idea of individual autonomy and self-government is alien. Based on these circumstances, the North Caucasus can be considered a zone of risky civil institutionalization, with special mechanisms for self-organization and self-government. Civil society here is made up of three conventional paths:
—the democratic path, gathering and demonstrating public interest on the basis of self-organization of social groups;
—the nomenklatura path, gathering and demonstrating public interests from the top down on the initiative of government and administrative agencies;
—the ethnocultural path, gathering and achieving group interests from the bottom up with the help of national cultural associations.
Thus, institutions of social democracy are being created that perform the functions of achieving human security, which are very important for the region. Voluntary, collective activity is crucial to achieve mutual interethnic security, and is key to substantive civil initiatives in the North Caucasus. A promising North Caucasus model of civil society would enable ethnic groups’ aspirations for ethnocultural security to be predominant. In these conditions, the main objective is to seek substantive ideas that make civil society more important in the formation of rossiiskii identity and the propagation of unifying Rossiia values.
Among the most significant North Caucasus public associations and organizations that put into practice transitional forms of consensus democracy, we can point out the North Caucasus Association, the Southern Russian Parliamentary Association, and consultative bodies under the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Federation of Rossiia in the Southern Federal Okrug (the Board of Heads of Territorial Government Agencies, the Council of Elders, the Advisory Council, the Coordination Council on Cossacks, the Peacemaking Council of Religious Figures of Southern Russia, etc.). Institutions of the Human Rights Commissioner and Public Chambers in regions of the federation, institutions of as- sistants to the heads and governors of federation regions on public principles, interethnic councils, councils on Cossack affairs on public principles under the heads of republics, governors, and the chief executives of local governments, and councils of elders, national communities, Cossacks, and public organizations under the Administration of Caucasian Mineral’nye Vody (Stavropol krai) can also be included in this category. Public associations of extended families and clans operate in the republics, as well as ethnic councils, councils of elders, and public parliamentary and public-deputy commissions of representatives of ethnic groups and Cossacks. Finally, an important role in culture and education is played by friendship houses and centers and cultural centers, as well as national cultural associations, national cultural autonomies, and religious branches of all-Rossiia ethnocultural associations.
In 2000–5, a great many peacemaking measures were carried out in the Southern Federal Okrug by the Assembly of Peoples of Rossiia. For instance, meetings with broad representation of the heads and staff of legislative bodies and executive agencies, leaders of public associations, and ethnoconfessional leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Muslim Clerical Administration were held in Stavropol krai, Krasnodar krai, and Rostov oblast. Thus, the Assembly of Peoples of Rossiia is realizing its objectives as a civil institution that has initiated constructive dialogue both vertically (with government agencies) and horizontally (with representatives of associations in the region).
Since the early 1990s, nonprofit organizations (NPOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), national-cultural associations, and national-cultural autonomies, that is, third-sector organizations, have been created. In this case, democratic self-government institutions are being formed against a background of regional ethnopolitical risks: ethnonationalism, separatism, and religious extremism. Also relevant are such factors as the conservatism of a society that was historically established on strict hierarchical principles; the traditionalism of relations in the sphere of status, gender, and age; preservation of extended-family, clan, gorge, and teip [taip] organization; adherence to authoritarian, Soviet party methods of administration; ethnicization of political space and the state apparatus, proliferation of legal biases in favor of one’s ethnicity and revival of archaic forms of ethnic self-organization. Contradictions between ethnocultural and religious traditionalism with modernization abound.
Considering the regional circumstances that make the third sector in the North Caucasus exceptional, we can distinguish the following problems:
- Conflict and widespread violence as a way of resolving problems in interrelations. This is manifested in the continuing high level of conflict in the Chechen Republic, a consequence of armed combat, terrorist acts, and violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic and adjacent territories of Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Stavropol krai. Military operations have led to an increase in the level of conflict in the population that has not been directly affected by them but has become accustomed to violence. Violent response has therefore become accepted in public opinion.
The territorial dispute between the Republic of Ingushetia and the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania over the Prigorodnyi district of North Ossetia-Alania has a negative effect.a This dispute has led to such consequences as, for example, the lack of lack selfgovernment and popularly elected heads of municipalities and deputies in Ingushetia, which creates problems for development of civil society. Since the boundaries of municipalities have to be established to institute local self-government, doing so would mean de facto recognition that Prigorodnyi district belongs to North Ossetia. The office of a republican human rights commissioner has not been established in North Ossetia-Alania. Some experts consider this a manifestation of unwillingness of the republic’s authorities to create a tool for airing the complaints of Ingush who cannot return to places where they lived formerly.
The diverse ethnic composition of the region’s population fosters a high frequency of interpersonal conflicts between representatives of different nationalities. In recent years, interethnic conflicts in the region have become increasingly unique in their specific causes and how they unfold, and also more local, which makes it hard to analyze and regulate them. Starting in the 1990s, a large number of migrants have come into the region. Migrants from national minorities find themselves in a different sociocultural environment, experience difficulties in adapting, and periodically become victims of violence, or they themselves provoke conflict situations in their interrelations with the longtime local population.
- The conservativeness of the public consciousness is another circumstance affecting the third sector. This is manifested in the dominance of family and kinship ties in public life. Such ties are generally the basis for holding government or municipal office, providing access to resources, getting an education, and, on the whole, for social mobility. We acknowledge that with weak development of civil society organizations, social support for people who find themselves in a difficult life situation is provided primarily by a wide circle of relatives. For most of the population, this weakens the motivation to create nonprofit organizations for solving common problems. At the same time, people who do not have kinship ties are excluded from the system of nongovernmental social support. It may be said that this pattern has been disrupted in the Chechen Republic, where the extreme severity of problems caused by the war has led to the creation of a number of active nonprofit organizations.
The subordinate position of women in the system of social relation should be placed in this category of circumstances. In rural areas, practically no social activity of women is possible, since their behavior is strictly controlled by male relatives. Many women among the leaders of nonprofit organizations cannot gain experience working in other regions because their male relatives will not let them go there. At the same time, a considerable number of the leaders of NPOs in the region are women, as they are in the Russian Federation as a whole.
The conservatism of public consciousness is manifested in the authoritarian nature of government officials at the level of regions of the Federation and local governments. Public influence on political decision making is extremely low, and many of the mechanisms for interaction of the authorities and society mandated by federal law in the course of administrative reform have not been put into practice in the region. The authorities boldly use their opportunities to determine the results of voting in elections.
We also note the kinship-based nature of local charity, creating conditions for local business resources to be actively redistributed to the poor, but generally within large kinship groups. Because of this, the number of charitable civil organizations is extremely insignificant.
- Poverty and unequal distribution of material goods in society is an important problem. This is manifested primarily in the high percentage of the population that is classified as poor, as well as low income in relation to other regions. For example, the average wage in Kabardino-Balkaria, according to official statistics for 2005, was no more than 63 percent of the average wage in Krasnodar krai for the same period. The distribution of household income is highly unequal, and there are sharp social contrasts, especially among rural youth. The number of jobs created in the region does not meet the growing need. Besides that, the birth rate is significantly different for various nationalities living in the same area. For instance, for every job opening filled in KabardinoBalkaria there were [in 2005] 14.4 unemployed people registered with the employment service (a year ago, there were 12.2). In the Chechen Republic more than 340,000 people were registered with the employment service, while in Krasnodar krai there were 16,000, with a larger population.
The region’s social sector is affected by the region’s poor image, both in Russia and in the international arena, which has suffered greatly as a result of armed conflicts and terrorist acts. Many potential investors think that investments in the region’s economy are extremely risky.
For the past fifteen years, foreign donor foundations have considered the republics of the North Caucasus a “politically sensitive” area. Because of this, major charitable organizations have supported two groups of civil society organizations in the region: organizations of forced migrants and peacemaking missions. As a result, donors have focused on resolving specific local problems and have not considered the prospect of activity in a regionwide context. However, comprehensive support and development of civil society have not been provided. As a result, republics of the North Caucasus lag considerably behind neighboring regions and Russia as a whole in all criteria for the development of civil society. At the top of the list of such criteria are the number of active NPOs, the qualifications of their staff members, the quality of public organizations’ interaction with the authorities, and inclusion of NPOs in regional and local social programs.
The need for development of civil society is greatest precisely in the republics, and support for such development can have a significant effect at this stage. This will be determined not only by the newness of development of civil society organizations for the region, but also by the synergetic factor. Interaction between NPOs in the republics of the North Caucasus and neighboring regions is not very effective, due to the big difference in the level of their development. Equalizing these levels would make it possible to cooperate more actively with NPOs in neighboring regions.
The problem of the level of civil society in the region has stimulated work on several social programs intended to develop it. For instance, since 2005 the Southern Regional Resource Center (SRRC) has been implementing the program Development of Civil Society in Republics of the North Caucasus in the Republic of Dagestan, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, and the Chechen Republic. The goal of the program is to create conditions for establishing effective technologies for activating the population and developing the local community in postconflict situations in republics of the North Caucasus, develop peacemaking initiatives, and raise the level of knowledge of the public and representatives of government agencies about the role of civil society organizations in improving interethnic interaction and preventing conflicts.
In October 2005, as part of the program Development of Civil Society in Republics of the North Caucasus, SRRC held a meeting, in Stavropol krai (Piatigorsk), of experts on problems of interethnic relations. Participating were representatives of government agencies and local governments, the scientific community, and nonprofit organizations from the Republic of Dagestan, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Kabardino-Balkar Republics, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, and the Chechen Republic. The experts shared their views of existing ethnosocial problems and the possibilities of civil society for solving them. Groups of participants set up for individual regions of the Russian Federation were asked to point out specific forms, methods, and target groups for solving pressing problems. Thus, a collective expert assessment of the situation in the regions was given, titled Problems and Mechanisms for Solving Them with Participation of Civil Society Organizations.
1. Chechen Republic The first thing that needs to be done is to analyze the situation in Chechnya objectively through an independent analysis by experts from public organizations. This analysis should be published in the form of a report or an analytic reference document. Second, priorities need to be set. One of the priority problems is the attitude toward the Chechen nationality in Rossiia’s society. Work needs to be done on creating a positive image of the Chechen people; a negative opinion of them often comes from ignorance. There needs to be an emphasis on youth. It is the youth who are capable of changing something. Common points of contact can be found at forums and during joint events. Thinking needs to be demilitarized. In the republic they have become accustomed to armed people, and this has become normal life. But there is another way, a different way of life that young people can see. Unemployment is a very big problem. The youth want to live and dress minimally well, but they can’t fulfill themselves. What can be done? Teach young people how to work with computers, train them for new occupations that will be in demand in the future. Another problem is that young people do not know the cultural traditions. We ourselves do not know our own culture, not to mention the culture of our neighbors. They say, “To understand means to accept.” What can be done here? Carry out joint projects and school programs on culture. Dialogue with the authorities is a big problem. Negotiating forums need to be created. The authorities will never enter a dialogue if it is not beneficial to them. But they also need to have a dialogue with society. This is also beneficial for us—to establish a dialogue with the authorities. How a constructive dialogue can be established can be seen well on the example of the Public Policy Schools that officials go to, where they can express their opinion. The next problem is the problem of civil and legal education. The solution is to create public reception rooms. The public does not know how to protect itself, to whom to complain if their rights are violated.
Consultations in public reception venues is a very important form of civil education. The basic segment of civil society is nongovernmental organizations. There are quite a few NPOs in the republic, but the level of their development is still low. They need to be taught how to develop and work—what SRRC is doing now. This needs to continue. Take such an important problem as extremism and terrorism. The problem will not be solved by force. What can an NPO do? It can work out an independent program, advertise it, and suggest that civil society institutions, government authorities, and representatives of traditional Islam participate in it. Work in this direction needs to be done only in this way.
2. Republic of North Ossetia-Alania The problems of North Ossetia-Alania are problems for all of Russia. Speaking of Ossetia, first it is necessary to conduct monitoring and clarify the actual situation and the condition of civil society. One of the main problems is multinationality. There are many national communities in the republic: Armenians, Greeks, Tatars, Russians, Cossacks—as a separate category of the population—and work can be done through them. Plans for conducting seminars, roundtables, presentations, and meetings can be made here. Many processes involve government agencies at the local level taking the law into their own hands. Interaction with committees on nationality affairs, the education ministry, and committees on youth affairs is needed. The North Caucasus as a whole is a polyconfessional region, but North Ossetia-Alania occupies a special place because Ossetians are, for the most part, formally Christians. The majority are Orthodox Christians and some are Muslim. Peace in the Caucasus and in Ossetia depends on how to find a common language between the Orthodox church and the Muslim community, the Muslim Clerical Administration of North Ossetia in particular. One of the republic’s main problems is interrelations between Ingush and Ossetians and with South Ossetians. A dialogue needs to be established so that people can hear and understand each other. Such a dialogue can be conducted in joint events such as sports competitions and festivals, during which human contacts will be established. The people in the republic are like one, but the greater part of Ossetia was made part of the Russian Federation, and the rest was made part of the Georgian Republic. Most people from South Ossetia who have received a higher education received it either in Ossetia or in Russia. To have no internal Ossetian conflict it is necessary to pull up South Ossetia and help solve its problems in every way possible. This is within the capabilities of public organizations. It is necessary to foster mutual adaptation between longtime residents and migrants, on the one hand, and cultural and economic integration, on the other, as much as NPOs are able. Exchange of information plays an enormous role, and it is seriously impeded by the lack of truthful information in the mass media. Consideration could be given to creating a unified Internet newspaper, and a website. Versions of republican inserts devoted to civil society could be created within SRRC’s newspaper Novaia realnost’ [New Reality]. The negative image of the North Caucasus is one of the biggest problems of the republics and the region as a whole. It is necessary to influence public opinion and work on creating a positive outlook for the future. This may be a fantasy, but if we ourselves do not believe in our own future, then it is not worth talking about anything at all. The problem of the idea of the unity of all Rossiia is being discussed now. Some say this is an attempt today to wipe out the past, which will not return—what was called the Soviet community [obshchnost’]. Within reasonable limits, we should have something in common, within the framework of a unified state, but with preservation of the cultural traditions of each republic. This can be called a civil, nationwide, or all-Russian idea, but there should be such an idea.
3. Kabardino-Balkar Republic The first problem is the issue of migrants. The tension in relations between migrants and the local population must be eased. It would be beneficial to hold meetings between these groups, which should be bilateral and at all levels: in government agencies and higher educational institutions, with the involvement of public organizations and the mass media. The first task is to determine how many migrants there are, where they are, and where they can be settled. This can be done through monitoring, with Chechen participation. After consulting with government agencies, the Interior Department can create a full-fledged program, which should be long-term and worked out with the mandatory participation and partnership of government agencies and public organizations. Conflicts that arise among youth on interethnic grounds are a pressing problem in the republic. This requires work with parents of the young people who participate in these episodes. Joint cultural events should be held, and examples of neighborliness and hospitality should be shown. The main thrust of these programs should be to teach young people to live together, not force anyone to settle relations. A related problem is interethnic hostility exacerbated by impoverished people. Two sides of an [older] conflict need to join forces to help the third [migrant, impoverished] party.b The second pressing problem is interconfessional. We believe that interconfessional dialogue does not work when both sides talk, but do not listen to each other. If everyone is brought together at a roundtable to have a normal dialogue, there might be a good result. There are universal human values such as ethics and morality, and common problems such as combating drug addiction and poverty. These problems need to be solved together.
4. Republic of Dagestan Conflicts in the republic can be subdivided into three groups: ethnoterritorial, interethnic, and intercultural. These conflicts arise as a result of the failure to solve socioeconomic problems in Dagestan. The consequence is high unemployment, especially among young people. There is no intelligent youth policy in Dagestan. As a result, the upcoming generation will replenish the ranks of ethnic, clan, and various religious groups that will clash with each other, and new sources of conflict will occur. If we pay attention to the youth environment now and create conditions for consolidating it and enabling joint activity, future conflicts can be regulated and prevented. We work with a student audience in the Debate program, as well as with representatives of various higher educational institutions and with children. Interethnic problems in the republic are severe. Learning to understand the culture of one’s neighbors can be achieved through events such as summer camps and festivals. These should help young people get to know each other’s culture, as would student exchange programs and programs for staying with families of a different nationality. Such programs can be developed in our republic, and exchange programs can be set up, enabling children from Dagestan to visit other North Caucasus republics and children from other republics to come to us. The third direction is the development of nonprofit organizations. Emphasis should be on a women’s initiative; development of women’s NPOs should be a priority and should receive a great deal of support in Dagestan. Restoration of historical justice is considered a significant problem for Dagestan, so that the blank spots of history in the early 1920s, when the North Caucasus republics were created as part of the Russian Federation, can be filled in. We suggest that historical circles be created, based on the enthusiasm of those who want to find out about their history, without being preprogrammed. One of the republic’s important problems is the independence of the mass media. It seems to us that work through unions of independent mass media, including recruitment of federal and foreign centers that support independent mass media, can foster the mass media. It could serve as a tool to inform investment groups that would be interested in investing in the North Caucasus, including the Republic of Dagestan. In Dagestan the [out]migration of labor represents a significant problem, affecting Stavropol and Krasnodar krais. We are talking about large masses of the population, thousands of people. This problem needs to be studied, and a solution needs to be found. How can labor resources be stopped from leaving Dagestan? We think that programs are needed here like the one being developed as part of the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States [TACIS] to support small and medium-sized business, as well as business plans that help private farms. Another problem in the republic is that of local governance. Local government agencies should improve the quality of their knowledge. Public policy schools are being organized to increase officials’ knowledge in their sphere of activity, and are operating very effectively.
5. Republic of Ingushetia One of the republic’s main problems is the outflow of the Russian population. There is a target program for returning Russian-speaking population to the republic, and public organizations should be incorporated around it. Cossack public organizations exist, as distinct from other Russian-speaking populations in the republic. A solution may be encouraging their participation in unifying programs, as well as educational work with the mass media. The second problem, that of refugees and forced migrants, can be addressed by creating discussion clubs for young people, work with the mass media, and meetings of elders from among forced migrants and the Ingush. The third problem is interethnic relations between Ossetians and Ingush and among the Ingush themselves on a religious basis. What is needed here is to create information resources. The mass media cover these relations, but the information provided is negative; positive points should be accentuated. Since what unites people are material and monetary relations, we propose as a solution the creation of jobs with Ossetian entrepreneurs, and business incubators with training of the population taking place in parallel. An additional avenue is the exchange of positive experience. We must think about creating an interethnic public council that would include Ingush and Ossetians and would be given an opportunity to influence the situation.
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Having received support in the form of grants, in 2005–6 nonprofit organizations of the North Caucasus carried out effective social projects for peacemaking according to the Southern Regional Resource Center program models of peacemaking.
The project The Face of Chechen Society (an interregional public organization under Timur Aliev’s Institute for Social Development, Chechen Republic) sponsored a caricature competition, The Face of Corruption. Students from leading higher educational institutions and high-school seniors from six secondary schools participated. The exhibition was held at the Central City Library in Grozny. The Office of the President of the Chechen Republic for Protection of Constitutional Civil Rights, the Youth Parliament of the Chechen Republic, and the Committee of the Government of the Chechen Republic on Small Business and Entrepreneurship were all involved in the NPO’s project. Its effectiveness consisted in emphasizing the importance of combating corruption effectively, of the cooperation of government agencies and civil nongovernmental organizations, and in highlighting the role of corruption in slowing development of democratic processes in the Chechen Republic. The innovative Face of Chechen Society project uses the method of bringing society together to solve a common problem, and it has had some success in uniting Chechen society. However, the idea of uniting various ethnic communities has not been realized, due to both objective and subjective factors. The Chechen Republic has become virtually monoethnic, and representatives of minorities who remain there do not participate in sociopolitical life. The project’s sponsors did not view it as intended to develop tolerance in interethnic relations. For instance, in a number of publications devoted to the project, its sponsors emphasized that combating corruption is a sign of belonging to the community of people who follow the code of a true Chechen.
The project Youth of the Caucasus: From Dialogue to Interaction (Vladikavkaz Management Institute, Republic of North OssetiaAlania, Republic of Ingushetia, Chechen Republic) highlighted the issue of “youth as a conductor of ideas of tolerance” among Ossetian, Chechen, and Ingush youth. This was addressed in the 4 March 2006 issue of the newspaper of the Republic of Ingushetia, Serdalo, in a letter of thanks from Zita Salbieva, executive director of the Vladikavkaz Management Institute, to Magomed Markhiev, minister of public relations and international relations of the Republic of Ingushetia. The project realized its main goal: stimulating interaction among North Caucasus youth, representatives of three republics: North Ossetia-Alania, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. The project attempted to overcome harsh restrictions on Ossetians, Ingush, and Chechens associating with each other, upheld by public opinion and the mass media, as well as representatives of many nonprofit organizations. The project had a big influence on subsequent events held by NPOs in North Ossetia-Alania and Ingushetia. The project’s most important conclusion is the need for positive interaction in joint activity of the youth of Chechnya, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia-Alania. A necessary condition for success in promoting such interaction is outside support and approval on the part of representatives of the federal authorities, journalists, organizations that provide grants, and others.
The project Vainakh Get-Together—Sink”eramc (Nota budushchego [Note of the Future] Philanthropic Foundation, Chechen Republic) promoted development of tolerance in Chechen society on the basis of an ethnic tradition that has great significance in a weakly modernized social community. The project was carried out with considerable public participation in rural population centers, small cities, and in Grozny. Ethnoconfessional leaders, students, elders, employees of the Vainakh Chechen State Television and Radio Company, and leaders of government agencies and local governments participated in the project. Its main purpose was to inculcate habits of social intercourse in young people who have experienced postwar syndrome. The Nokhchiin sink”eram model implemented in the project is a social institution that fosters in youth such concepts as honor, a feeling of duty, responsibility, and respect for women and for representatives of different peoples. The project included a survey of the audience, which demonstrated a desire to follow traditions of tolerant behavior of their ancestors. The project identified the problem: for Chechen society, virtually monoethnic, tolerance in interethnic contact remains abstract. By itself, consolidation of the “Chechen ethnic sector” will not lead to a reduction in the level of conflict in interethnic relations, especially considering the low level of self-criticism. Consolidation of Chechen society on the basis of the idea of tolerance has to be supported simultaneously with development of it in Chechens’ interethnic relations with their neighbors within the Chechen Republic and outside its borders.
The project Wider Circle (of the regional youth social movement “Dialogue” North Ossetia-Alania, Chechen Republic) sponsored a writing competition for high-school seniors in North OssetiaAlania and the Chechen Republic on the subject “Culture, Manners, Traditions, and Customs of My People.” A group of Chechen schoolchildren traveled to Fiagdon in North Ossetia-Alania to participate in a joint seminar with Ossetians on “What We Know About Each Other.” The project provided for active association of schoolchildren and establishment of close neighborly relations among residents of the two republics. The project, highlighting their joint future as potentially more cordial, focused on prevention of interethnic conflicts. Creation of positive grounding for interethnic contacts is entirely possible among youth.
The project Rainbow of Cultures in Chechnya Festival (“Sozidanie” [Creation], a Chechen Republic public organization) highlighted the interaction of cultures under the slogan “We Are Different, But We are Together.” A folk culture festival was organized as part of the project, and opportunities were provided for participants to get together in a cordial atmosphere. The festival fostered increased tolerance among children and young people of the Chechen Republic, expanded cultural contacts, and helped the young people get to know the cultural traditions of various nationalities.
The project I Draw a Little Garden (Chechen republican department of Russia’s Children’s Foundation, Kurchaloi, Chechnya) involved the participation of servicemen in construction of a playground at a day care center. The main goal—to create a positive image of Russian soldiers among the children at the center and overcome their fear of people in a military uniform—was achieved. All the servicemen who took part understood the importance of the peacemaking mission entrusted to them and handled it successfully. The Khabarovsk Special Police took Day Care Center No. 1 in Kurchaloi under their wing, which was an independent decision of the Russian soldiers. This confirms the potential for peacemaking that representatives of security services could have in conflict zones. Chechen society has gotten to know an example of new and atypical behavior of people in Russian military uniforms. The initiative of the project’s sponsors was supported by government agencies of the Chechen Republic and local government agencies.
Interaction of the leaders of nonprofit organizations from various republics during social projects supported by SRRC became possible as a result of preliminary work: joint participation in developing projects at SRRC training events. The personal contacts made in these schools and seminars provided necessary mutual support, extended to new circles of participants in implementing the projects. Given the high level of separation of ethnic communities in conflict zones, a preliminary stage of this sort is necessary.
The obvious danger of peacemaking projects based on the use of traditional cultural mechanisms is the possibility of absolutizing the values of traditionalist society and ethnocentrism. However, such projects prove to be quite effective in contemporary conditions in the North Caucasus, since in carrying out social peacemaking projects, know-how is developed for joint activity of the ethnic communities that are in conflict.
Civil society institutions are also established in the North Caucasus through national cultural self-determination, since ethnicity and ethnocultural identification are strong foundations for the socialization of interests, positions, and actions. Therefore, main components of the regional concept of civil society in the North Caucasus can be the idea of mutual interethnic security, the coexistence and interaction of ethnic groups, and restoration of ethnopolitical and traditional social and moral/ethical stability. Communities segmented by ethnicity are clearly distinguished in the region and differ in education, goals, and methods of achieving these goals. Thus various types of ethnocultural associations occupy a special place among the civil society institutions being created.
The principle of national cultural self-determination correlates with general civil principles of self-organization and self-government. An important aspect of this is the interaction of national cultural organizations (NCOs) with government agencies and local governments for the purpose of effectively meeting the needs of ethnic communities, as well as overall social progress. Among the types of public organizations that come together to achieve collective interests in the region, ethnocultural associations representing the interests of various peoples and ethnic groups stand out. The national-cultural form of autonomy is used by representatives of the most numerous population in the region, Russians, as well as representatives of countries of the near and far abroad; indigenous, titular peoples of the Russian Federation; and peoples who do not have ethnic statehood as part of the Russian Federation or outside of its borders (e.g., Assyrians, Kurds, Nogai, and Gypsies).
At the end of 2006, the following numbers of national-cultural organizations and movements were registered in the regions of the North Caucasus:
—Republic of Adygeya—9 (Azeri, Armenians, Belarusians, Greeks, Kurds, Koreans, Cossacks, Russians, and Tatars);
—Republic of Dagestan—5 (Azeri—2, Jews—2, and Nogai);
—Kabardino-Balkar Republic—11 (Azeri, Greeks, Jews—3, Cossacks—3, Ossetians, Tatars, and Ukrainians);
—Karachai-Cherkess Republic—8 (Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Germans, Tatars, Meskhetian Turks, immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, and Chechens);
—Republic of North Ossetia-Alania—27 (Azeri, Assyrians, Armenians—2, Bashkirs, Greeks—2, Georgians, Jews—3, Ingush, Kabards and Balkars, Russians—2, Kabards, Koreans, peoples of Dagestan, Germans—2, Tatars, Meskhetian Turks, Poles, Ukrainian, Finns, and Chechens);
Krasnodar krai—99 (Abkhaz—2, Adygei-Shapsug—4, Armenian—39, Assyrians—3, Belarusians, Greeks—8, Jews—9, Georgians—2, Koreans—2, Kurds, Lezgins, Ukrainians, peoples of Yugoslavia, Germans—2, Ossetians, Poles, Tatars—2, Tajiks, Gypsies—2, Czechs—2, and Estonians);
—Stavropol krai—47 (Abaza, Armenians—4, Azeri, Bulgars, Greeks—13, Georgians—3, Koreans—2, Ukrainians, peoples of Dagestan—5, Karachai, Kabards and Balkars, Turkic peoples—2, Germans, Ossetians—4, Poles, Cherkess, Chechens and Ingush);
—Rostov oblast—41 (Azeri—8, Armenians—4, Assyrians, Afghans, Belarusians, Georgians, Greeks—2, Jews—6, Hindus, Germans—2, Karaim, Koreans—2, peoples of Dagestan—2, Ossetians, Poles, Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians, and Gypsies).
At the same time, unregistered national cultural organizations and movements are also operating in the regions. Characteristics of associations in the nonprofit sector are applicable to ethnocultural associations: self-control, independence, and voluntariness in establishing broad social ties. National-cultural associations are moving from traditional ethnocultural activity to a wide range of purposes. These include: attainment of occupational and social diversity, adaptation of new ethnic migrants, participation in socially significant regional and nationwide events, representation of group interests and creation of a positive image, interaction with the mass media, interaction with government agencies and local government organizations through ethnic and confessional councils and councils of elders as advisory groups for various executive agencies (administrations of republic heads and governors, administrations of cities and districts, etc.), interaction with their historical homeland and the relevant country or region of the Russian Federation, and interaction with international public organizations, movements, and foundations.
Stabilization of interethnic relations and peacemaking are the most important directions of NCOs, which have their own resources for “convincing people of the need for peace.” In this way NCOs are realizing the main objective of national cultural self-determination: reducing the risk of interethnic tension by most fully meeting the ethnocultural needs of citizens of the Russian Federation. Practical peacemaking is an urgent social need of civil society institutions in the context of national cultural self-determination. This perfectly fits the doctrinal principles of the Russian Federation’s nationalities policy, as well as the regional directions of nationalities policy in regions of the North Caucasus. The most effective forms of peacemaking carried out in the system of NCOs’ civil initiatives are participation in negotiations between parties in conflict and conciliatory procedures; providing humanitarian assistance for adaptation of migrants, refugees, and forced migrants; and preparation of appeals and declarations condemning nationalism, religious extremism, and terrorism.
Peacemaking uses such forms and mechanisms as consensus democracy, people’s diplomacy, volunteer work, philanthropy, the authority of elders and leaders, clan and family ties, and compromise dialogue among ethnic groups. In most cases, the initiatives of NCOs and other nonprofit organizations intended to stabilize interethnic relations are actively supported by government agencies and local governments. This support is expressed in the use of the administrative resources and organizational capabilities of government agencies. A system has been established for NCOs to operate in contact with government agencies and local government. This is the formulation and realization of regional political doctrines for development of interethnic relations—the basic directions of regional and national policy; financial, administrative, and organizational support for specific events and measures within the framework of overall programs for harmonization of interethnic relations; organization of the interaction of NCOs with government agencies to manage relations between nationalities and implement the Russian Federation’s nationalities policy; and support and propagation of NCOs’ peacemaking initiatives in the system of ethnoconfessional management, organization, and self-organization on the basis of ethnocultural and ethnopolitical interests.
Promising mechanisms of interaction and support include: [federal] budget funding, municipal grants, and social services procurement. The most common form of coordination of NCOs’ activity is their participation in consultative, conciliatory, and coordinating public bodies—ethnic councils, public councils, councils of elders, public-deputy commissions, and roundtables on questions of interethnic relations. The practice of creating national cultural centers, friendship houses, and national culture centers within the structures of municipal administrations is effective. Including NCOs in the development of regional government programs and local municipal programs can be a productive form of interaction.
There is great peacemaking potential in regional culturaleducation events, whose content is determined by national dance and songs; the culture of housing, food, and dress; as well as sports culture. These events have broad possibilities for presentation of ethnic groups, popularization of social experience, narratives of history, and more.d In addition to their substantive aspect, these events are full of emotion and opportunities for communication. They bring together different social, occupational, and demographic groups in an atmosphere of general optimism, a peacemaking mood, and goodwill. NCOs, national cultural autonomies, Cossack communities, dance ensembles, and artist collectives (including veteran, children, and youth groups) take part in these events.
The philanthropic activity of NCOs is directly related to peacemaking. There has been a significant increase in the scale of philanthropic activity in the region, integral to public activity and volunteer work. Development of philanthropy, and project support through grants to ethnocultural associations indicates that the organizational principles of civil society are making their way into social and political practice.
On the whole, a trend toward citizens joining together in public associations according to their interests and views has been established in the North Caucasus region. For instance, in 2000 more than 6,000 public associations were registered in the south of Russia, and by 2006 there were about 20,000. The greatest growth was in organizations of migrants, refugees, and forced migrants, veterans, victims of the Chernobyl disaster, veterans of the war in Afghanistan, invalids, handicapped people, women’s organizations and foundations, and youth volunteer organizations. A prominent trend is the formation of national cultural associations, movements, centers, and public associations of clans and extended families.
The main goals of public organizations are self-help, legal and political consulting, obtaining social goods and benefits made available by law, representing group interests to government agencies, improving living and working conditions and opportunities for creative work, preserving nature, and optimizing the environment for living and functioning. A special direction of their activity is achieving peace and stability, preventing interethnic tension and conflicts, and participating in postconflict reconstruction.
Along with successes, we need to point out problems and shortcomings in the activity of civil society institutions in the region:
—the mere formality of some organizations’ existence and lack of actual activity;
—a lag behind political and legal realities, and the political and legal incompetence of some leaders;
—isolation from regional and local socioeconomic and political processes, or excessive involvement in politics;
—distrust of government agencies and lack of constructive interaction with them;
—failure to coordinate actions, and competition of organizations with the same goals;
—lack of representation of youth;
—obsolescence of the forms and methods of operation and insufficient modernization.
Passivity of organizations in relation to social problems, the terrorism and extremism factor, and conflicts between ethnoconfessional leaders and leaders of national cultural organizations and associations require acknowledgment. In particular, the destabilizing consequences of national-cultural associations’ activity include:
—opposition of public movements of the Adygei-Abkhaz and Turkic-speaking groups of peoples (the leaders are the International Cherkess Association and the Alan interregional public organization, which combines Karachai, Balkars, and Ossetians, as well as the Congress of the Karachai People, created 2 July 2005);
—conflict between Ossetian and Ingush public movements;
—creation of Wahhabi communities that oppose adherents of traditional Islam;
—radicalism of specific (“indigenous”) national movements and Cossacks in relation to public associations of migrants from republics of the North Caucasus and Central Asia;
—conflict among national cultural organizations of Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Karachai, Cherkess, and others, and Cossack communities, was well as those of Russians (Slavs).
a. See the article by Valerii Tishkov in Anthropology and Archeology of Eurasia, Winter 2010–11 for further discussion. As of 2011, a relatively positive update on the tense situation regarding Prigorodnyi region is relevant, since negotiations over resettlements and territorial jurisdictions have been revitalized.
b. The somewhat abstract allusion to an older “two-sided” conflict refers to the ethnonational competition created when Kabards and Balkars were placed in the same republic in the early Soviet period, although they each are more culturally (linguistically) related to neighboring groups in Karachai-Cherkessia. In the early post-Soviet period, one variant of the Balkar secessionist movement demanded merger with Karachai. For clarification on how the movement subsided, see the article by Sergey Markedonov here. Their rivalry nonetheless has been exacerbated when resources are strained, due to local corruption and to migrants (displaced persons) fleeing conflicts in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
c. In the Vainakh languages of Chechen and Ingush, the word sink”eram denotes an open get-together, often of young people, sometimes including men and women together in a partying atmosphere of polite merriment. Often the reason for the gathering, which can involve singing, joking, and feasting, is to honor a special guest. See the interesting glosses from www.chechenasso.ru/kodex/ page302/index.html and www.mkchr.com/main.mhtml?Part-28&PubID-436 .
d. These programs may have something in common with former Soviet “houses of culture” meant to instill Soviet values among diverse ethnic groups in every village. However, the historical narrative and performance content of these “national-cultural centers” appears intended to go beyond propaganda in its sensitivity to local diversity. Testimonies and fieldwork follow-up would help make the authors’ case that such programs are effective.
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