Woman Plus...
  N 1, 2002
    On the 12th of October 2001 in Moscow a conference "Uniting leadership: women for tolerance and progress, against racism and xenophobia" was held.
    The organizers, RSO (Regional Social Organization) "Women Unity", Public council under Osokina I. L., the delegate of MSD (Moscow State Duma), "Interaction with noncommercial organizations and associations" under the financial support of the F. Ebert fund (Germany), invited to a "round-table discussion" scientists, representatives of independent women organizations and noncommercial organizations, legislative and executive powers and mass media to discuss acute problems of social security and development, women role in the consolidation of the society. An interesting exchange of views on the ways of the achievement of peace and civil concord, exchange of experience of realization of the programs and projects aimed at the solving of the problems emphasized within the limits of the discussion.
    We publish the statement of Leocardia Mihailovna Drobigeva, the Doctor of Science in history, director of the Institute of Sociology RAS (Russian Academy of Science).

Social aspects of ethnocultural tolerance

Leocardia Mihailovna Drobigeva

A Federal program directed at the forming of tolerant perception and at the prevention of extremism was signed by the President of the RF on 22nd of August 2001. Of course, it is very actual, and not only for our country. Recent tragic events in New-York and Washington confirmed an importance of struggle against ethnic and religious extremism all over the world.

We went towards the acceptance of this program for a long while. As early as 1995 was declared by UNESCO a year of tolerance, and ever since we, the scientists, more than once took the initiative through some non-governmental organizations to entrust one of the governmental structures, to be more precise the Ministry of Education, to propose the Government a plan comprising some institutional measures, i.e. measures on governmental, state level, aimed at the prevention of ethnic extremism.

And thus, for the first time a governmental program of humanitarian character, the program turned to the forming of tolerant perception, was accepted. We would like to belief that it will serve the cause of development of civil society in our country, because during its realization non-governmental organizations and governmental institutions may and must join hands in the activity of forming tolerant atmosphere in Russian society.

What is tolerance? This word has been often repeated lately, but I do not think it is well-known to everyone. Scientific discussions which were held within the limits of the preparation of the program considered some definitions of this conception existing in other countries such as tolerance, patience, willingness to accept the other person as he is, respect for other persons, their opinions, views.

Tolerance is a wide conception and includes ethnic tolerance, i.e. an acceptance of people of another anthropological appearance, color of skin, culture; gender tolerance; generation, social, tolerance in the security sphere. This is a whole set of problems which both governmental and non-governmental organizations will work at. Now we define tolerance as respect for the opinion of the other person, readiness to understand him and fulfil coordination.

First of all, it is necessary to find some factors which may influence the forming of tolerant thinking. Now we know what forms intolerance, i.e. aversion of the other person in our country. Above all, it is such a major social factor as a high rate of poverty (according to the researches from 30 to 40 percent of people ascribe their condition to the category: it is impossible to bear our distress any more). In such a situation we always look for someone to blame. And "other people": newcomers, immigrants, people of the other nationality, the other social structure, turn out to be guilty most often. For example, availability on the top level of authority of people who has got the image of "enemies" is perceived quite painfully. Nationalistic parties always look for guilty adherents of different faith, aliens who get into the top authorities or business structures.

Family conflicts increase; referring to the inquiries we see discontent with family relationships: women don't consider their husbands to be able to provide their family, while women seem to demand too much in men's opinion.

Intolerance may be produced by competitive situations, for instance, during entering an institute of higher education. Usually those who failed trying to justify their failure start looking for a "bad guy", a guilty person, and it is the one who achieved more and entered the institute who proves to be guilty. And again his guilt is only in his difference: he is a man of different social structure of nationality, etc.

There are 176 nationalities in our country and the level of interethnic relations is high enough almost all over the territories. Earlier an ethnic problem was a problem of autonomous region and republics of the Union, now it is a problem of almost each city and each region, especially large cities with multi-national population.

It is connected with high rate of migration, though only one third of it is officially registered. Migrants are not only people of different nationality. They are also Russians, arriving in Russia from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the other states. However, Russians do not take them as common Russians, but as "newly arrived" Russians. Conflict situations often take place because of this fact. Firstly, because these people have another life prospects: they count on maintenance, while we are not able to render them proper living conditions, for example, to grant them asylum, though we speak hotly and a lot about Russia being guilty for "leaving" Russians beyond its present boarders.

Secondly, the question is that when our legislators talk about the necessity to accommodate these people and help them everybody agrees, but when it comes to specific measures city-dweller, for example Muscovites, start thinking: "Well, now my turn in the queue for dwelling will be much later, new houses are given to newcomers and I, Moscow born and bred, am not able to improve my conditions". A negative attitude does not forms only to people of different nationality but to to Russians who used to live outside Russia. These are real life problems and we must be ready to their worsening in future.

Why? The reason is not only in the increase of migration flow but also in the changes of ethnic structure of population of Russia. It happens since Russians and Slavic peoples always had rather low fertility rate - about 1.3 - 1.7 deliveries per woman, while fertility rate of both Muslim and Buddhistic cultures exceeds by far our rate; it amounts to 2-3 deliveries at the least and up to 5 children as in the case of peoples of Northern Caucasia. That is why in the nearest prospect we expect an increase of ethnic heterogeneity in our country. A rather high afflux of people from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and other countries, applying for a job are to be added to this factor. Some territories, for example Volgograd or Orenburg regions turn into a zone of higher inflow of migrants. Moreover, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean immigrants arrive in the territory of Russia. But is Russia interested in it?

On the one hand, immigrants disturb residential population, because they are people of another culture and they come with their own idea of the way of life. We say: "In Moscow live like Muscovites", but they are not ready to it.

On the other hand, due to our low fertility rate, especially on the territory of Siberia, the Far East, Russia will lack man power and it is interested in the population inflow. So, we must make Russians ready for admission of the immigrants, for a need to provide them a proper life. Here it is very important not to worsen the life of residential population. Just so social and interethnic conflicts can be prevented and stability saved.

What perspectives should be taken into account in this case? We must confess that according to the data of s sociological research men are more tolerant to the migrants since they more often issue from industrial interests, from the practical consideration - a worker is need. New comers are more agreeable, they lay less claim - so let them work. And women have more advanced emotional sphere, that is why on the one hand they sympathize, feel with and are ready to help forced settlers, but on the other hand, they more respond to the violation of the accepted norms of behaviour.

We questioned women living in the zones of recent conflicts or on the adjoining territories, for example, in North Osetya, where there is a great inflow of migrants from South Osetya. Indeed, as a rule, women prove to be more aggressive than men. For instance, they say: "I can't accept Ingushes in our village because they killed my husband. How will I, being a doctor, treat their children?"

In a mass perception an image of a Caucasian woman with a peaceful shawl who ends quarrels and bloodshed, still exists. She really can do it. But the particular feature of woman psychology is her increased sense of danger. Women are more sensitive, they more fear for their children, their relatives than men who are more practical, more pragmatic. Women more often arrogate their fears to strangers, outsiders and particularly migrants. That is why we should not think that we may count on women to a greater degree while forming tolerance toward people of the other ethnic group.

An upbringing of children start from the very birth in their family. The psychological researches show that an influence of father and mother on the forming of personality is different: for example, men exert more influence on a child in the choice of future profession. But the woman influence on a child is more significant - she plays more important role in forming his ideas about the norms of behavior in the family and in the society, including interethnic relations. Here is an example: many social organizations and some state bodies work at the projects of rehabilitation of people from the regions of conflicts. For example, children from Chechnya, Osetya are taken out to health centers and camps where teachers and psychologists work with them. At first when children arrive they can draw nothing but bombs and tanks. Black and blue colors prevail in their pictures. It is a indication of a very high inward tension. We work with such children. We carry monthly course, trainings, teach these children, offer them role and computer games, draw together with them. Constantly they start recovering. Then they are taken by their mothers and in one or two weeks check tests show that improvement in their condition ceases.

That is why the main aim that we, being the representatives of the women society, must fix, is to change the situation, though it is very difficult. It is essential to explain to women the vital necessity of tolerance the forming of which must be started in the family. We must work with children and at the same time with their parents. In what way? This is a big problem.

Special parallel educating programs will be created both for children and for their parents in schools, day nursery, etc. When a program of tolerance forming offered by us was published and accepted by the government, we, its creators, were interviewed. And one of the journalists of the "Izvestia" asked me a question: "What do your think we should start with?" I said: "We should start with from the kinder garden, star from dolls and games for children. Children must be used to the fact that people may be of different anthropological origin". Later in one of the news papers, "The Moscow News", there was an article "We allot 400 millions on dolls of Chechen nationality". In such a ways pressmen interpreted my answer and I am not sure they understood me correctly.

And nevertheless we hope that this program will help to join the efforts of people of different professions: culturologists, psychologists and sociologists - to work out effective cultural programs of psychological stabilization of people who got into conflict situations in the territories of their new settling, and the indigenous, aboriginal population.

Many of our hopes are connected with the press, with mass media. MCM may have substantial influence on the forming of normal tolerant relations between people, but unfortunately, it is MCM that provokes conflicts.

For example, a program about Tatarstan is on. A television announcer says: "we will tell you about the Moslem Republic Tatarstan". Then they show Mintimer Shaimiev with tousled hair, nearly as an upholder of nationalism. What reaction does it cause in Tatarstan? Both Tatars and Russians interpret it as insult of Tatarstan. They don't understand that, first of all, whatsoever of Moslem Republic is it? More than 40% of their inhabitants are Russians. And Tatars are far from being all Moslems. And secondly, why is Shaimiev, considered to be a man who has reconciled the population of the Republic in the atmosphere of a commencing national opposition, placed in such an unfavourable light?

That is why I think that the Government, social organizations must control the mass media, lest the information creating hostility passed.

Some peaceful methods of solving the conflicts, like if Chechnya, should be opposed to the extremist ones. Tatarstan itself also was a centre of conflicts which could flare up. In 1990-93 there were some influential radical groups which obliged the leadership to make a decision on Tatarstan becoming an associate member of Russian Federation. But Mortimer Shaimiev and another constructive politicians of Tatarstan managed to show political wisdom and change the situation.

Then the same Shaimiev sat at the bargaining table in Hague and was urging both Ardzinba from Abhazya and Maskhadov from Chechnya to carry on negotiations, and Meshkov from Crimea to decide all the issue in only peacefully. It seems to me that it is an example showing that efforts and actions of a single person may have a concrete result. What kind of activities could it be? It could be different activities, from solving peacefully local problems to peaceful solution of global problems.

Of course, we should start working with school teachers. Education is a sphere where it is very important to work out tolerant thinking and where there is an opportunity to do it. A positive, impartial information about other nations should be given when studying history, geography, literature. This is one aspect.

Another aspect is an ability to listen and understand the other person. For this purpose we should have special training which are to be conducted in schools both with teachers and children. We need a program of training specialists whose work is connected with relations with people of another nationality; they may be members from migratory offices where people coming from another republic, another country applies first of all, members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who check the documents and have a right to detain in some cases. Besides, we should pay attention to the service, right up to hairdresser's and bath-houses.

So, a system of measures aimed at forming of tolerant perception starting from kindergartens and down to the highest governmental institutions, should be taken on in the society. We, the scientists, still do not know what actions and what measures may be more affective. For this purpose we are given time - the first stage from the year of 2001 till the years of 2004-2005, when different methods of tolerant education will be gradually tested.

We often hear from our opponents and skeptics: why in Canada everything was worked through long ago, there are courses both in colleges and in schools. And nevertheless, they have a problem of Quebec. And there is a training system in conflict groups in the USA, and anti-conflict programs in the mass media but nevertheless, the race problem remains. Of course, interethnic problems exist in almost all countries. In fact there are special courses, carried by state and social organizations, established in order to relieve these conflict situations.

And we, Russians, knowing that conflicts are possible and even inevitable, must join hands in search of way of their affective settlements for the sake of national and global security.

The material was prepared by Irina Rilnicova