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11 december, 2020

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“We are the multinational people of the Russian Federation: unity in diversity”

An international scientific and practical conference was held at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation

“We are the multinational people of the Russian Federation: unity in diversity”

On December 11, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation hosted an international scientific and practical conference “We are the multinational people of the Russian Federation: unity in diversity”, timed to coincide with Constitution Day of the Russian Federation. The event was held online.

The Chairman of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on Harmonization of Interethnic and Interreligious Relations, member of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation on Interethnic Relations Vladimir Zorin noted that the current Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted during a difficult period, when the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and a whole range of serious problems appeared, significant not only for Russia, but for the international community as a whole.

“Many of these problems were directly related to the sphere of ethnopolitics and posed a threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign state,” he said. “The 1993 Constitution set out a liberal constitutional model that minimized the influence of the state on all spheres of society while it contained many innovations, including in the field of interethnic politics, which laid the foundation for a new society,” he stressed.

“The amendments introduced this year further developed these approaches; and as a result, in recent years, the Russian Federation has restored ethno-cultural sovereignty, thereby ensuring the return of the state to the sphere of ethnopolitics,” he explained.

“The main task of the conference is to discuss relevant issues of improving the mechanisms for strengthening the civil unity of the Russian nation, preserving and developing ethnocultural and linguistic diversity, as well as promoting the spiritual and moral values of the peoples of Russia in connection with the adoption of the updated Constitution of the Russian Federation,” stated Svetlana Smirnova, Chair of the Council of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, First Deputy Secretary General – Head of the General Secretariat of the Eurasian Peoples' Assembly.

“It is not by chance that our conference is an international one. One of the amendments is that the Russian Federation provides support to compatriots living abroad in terms of exercising their rights, ensuring the protection of their interests and preserving the all-Russian cultural identity," she said.

According to Svetlana Smirnova, the 2012 National Policy Strategy of the Russian Federation mentions 193 nationalities speaking 277 languages and dialects – 87 are used for teaching in the education system; and the 2018 Strategy states that 105 languages are already being used for instruction. “This suggests that the state really pays great attention to preserving our ethnic identity,” she concluded.

The Deputy Head – Secretary of State of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs Anna Kotova drew attention to the fact that the topic of the conference resonated with the strategy of state policy in the field of strengthening interethnic harmony, all-Russian civic identity and the unity of the multinational peoples of the Russian Federation. She was quoted as saying: “In the largest mono-national and multilingual country in the world, these issues are of paramount importance, and the fundamental provisions of the Constitution are the guarantor of their preservation.”

The head of the Center for the Study of Interethnic Relations at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Deputy Chair of the Council of the Assembly of Peoples of Russia, member of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations Leokadia Drobizheva said that the concept of “harmony between peoples” introduced into the Constitution of the Russian Federation did not just mean good relations between people, but also the ability and desire to correlate their interests, solve common problems, etc. According to her, Russians of all nationalities are united by common aspirations and ideals: family, work, material well-being, and in order to preserve this unity, they need equality before the law, justice, equality of opportunities in education, work, as well as the right to rest, etc.

She also noted that 90 percent of citizens felt their all-Russian identity, and only four percent of Russians claimed that they experienced discrimination based on ethnic identity. “This is a great achievement,” she said.

“For the first time, the Constitution enshrines the provision on the priority of national legislation over international laws,” recalled Igor Krugovykh, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, Chairman of the Moscow Regional Branch of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia. “I propose to review international legislation that influences our national policy in light of this important provision. I believe this is important.”

According to the expert, the peaceful coexistence of the multinational peoples of the Russian Federation is an example and model for resolving interethnic conflicts that may be used by other countries; this successful experience of multinational Russian society should be shared at the World Conference on Interreligious and Interethnic Dialogue – the decision to hold it in 2022 was supported by the United Nations.

The Chairman of the Federal National-Cultural Autonomy of Belarusians in Russia, member of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for Interethnic Relations, Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation Sergey Kandybovich drew special attention to the fact that in all the constituent entities of the Russian Federation very different structures were involved in solving problems of interethnic relations, and their effectiveness largely depended on how regional authorities related to these problems, and also how national and cultural autonomies reacted to them.

“We speak from high podiums about the legislative framework and strategies, but we know that there can be no strategy without tactics. Our activists are dealing with the problems that most prominently stand out in each region. Therefore, I support the President's decision to create a new state-public organization – the Association of the Peoples of Russia – which will put in order this diversity of approaches in the regions of the country. We have a lot of work to do in order to harmonize these approaches so that the state national strategy turns into a unified approach,” he said.

The participants of the conference also discussed measures of state support for the ethnocultural and linguistic diversity of the Russian Federation, the role of culture and civil society in strengthening the all-Russian identity, mechanisms for creating an all-Russian civic identity, patriotism and civic responsibility among the younger generation, as well as the need to optimize the state migration policy during the ongoing pandemic along with numerous other issues.

Tags: Vladimir Zorin

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