The meeting participants discussed current issues related to Russia’s state ethnic policy, the influence of geographic and demographic development on interethnic relations, and additional measures to protect the native languages of the peoples of Russia.
Main reports were made, in particular, by Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs Igor Barinov, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Federal Structure, Regional Policy, Local Government and Northern Affairs Oleg Melnichenko, and Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education and Science Vyacheslav Nikonov.
The Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations was established under Presidential Executive Order No. 776 dated June 5, 2012. The Council has had 10 meetings, including four external meetings (Saransk in 2012, Ufa in 2013, Astrakhan in 2016 and Yoshkar-Ola in 2017).
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Transcript of meeting of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon,
We are continuing the tradition of holding on-site meetings of this Council, and today we are meeting in Khanty-Mansiysk. First of all, I would like to thank the people of Yugra for their hospitality.
The Governor, the Plenipotentiary Envoy and I have just visited the local museum. The museum is already 80 years old and very interesting; the people who work there are very helpful and dedicated, which is very important.
The Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area is a leading centre in the Russian fuel and energy sector, as everybody knows.
People from various ethnic groups from all across Russia have explored and developed it. They worked, made friends and made families.
This is really an outstanding example of interethnic harmony, and we should be – and we are – proud of this.
I think there are 140 ethnic groups living here, I have just been told at the museum…
Vladimir Putin: 124 ethnic groups.
The unique traditions, culture and customs of the indigenous peoples living here in Yugra, as well as in many other Russian regions, are our common treasure.
Protecting their rights and preserving their identity are among our priorities. This is envisaged by Russia’s State Ethnic Policy Strategy.
Let me remind you that this basic document was adopted six years ago and, of course, it should be developed and revised. Today we will discuss which amendments are necessary considering our experience and the problems that arise in this area anyway, and we have to address them.
I believe it is important that the changes are not simply formal. They must increase the effectiveness of state and local bodies as well as civil society organisations working in ethnic policy.
We have discussed this many times, and I have said many times that this is a very sensitive and delicate area where there must be no mistakes or unprofessionalism, and there should be no formal approach.
I am talking about the historical, humanitarian and civilizational roots of our statehood, about the national security and the unity of the Russian Federation.
It is obvious that the State Ethnic Policy Strategy must comply with the goals and tasks set out in the Address and the May Executive Order as well as other strategic planning documents, including in Russia’s geographic development. I know that the Presidium has already discussed this matter, too.
I believe that we should base and carry out our socioeconomic plans with consideration for the cultural, historical and ethnic peculiarities of our regions and in an open dialogue with the people.
National and cultural associations must play an active part in discussing the key issues related to the development of cities, villages and regions in general. Moreover, we already have created formats for this kind of constructive dialogue.
Similar to the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations, advisory councils have been created in almost all our regions. As we agreed, specific officials have been identified at the regional and municipal levels. They will be in charge of interethnic relations and interaction with the ethnic and cultural associations.
Of course, it is critical that competent, properly trained and interested people that are familiar with the culture and languages of the peoples of Russia, the history of our country and our regions – which has had fairly complex chapters – do this kind of work. We must keep this in mind.
That is why, based on the results of our Council’s previous meetings, instructions were issued to develop a professional standard for training specialists in ethnic and religious relations. This was approved this summer.
This is an important, but only the first step. We need to build an integral system, including a phased-in training and retraining system for the staff that we need in order to ensure the high-quality implementation of state policy on interethnic relations. I want the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration to be involved in dealing with this.
Also, with account taken for changes to the State Ethnic Policy Strategy, we will need to quickly draft a 2019–2021 action plan for implementing it and to review the corresponding state programme.
Mr Mutko, please resume the work of the interdepartmental working group on ethnic relations on a regular and ongoing basis; it has not convened for several years now.
Colleagues, our Council deals with extremely complex and diverse issues. Civil society institutions have a great role to play in addressing these and preserving the ethnic and cultural and linguistic wealth and historical heritage of all the peoples of Russia.
The state will always be supportive of such a constructive approach. We will discuss specific forms of assistance separately, including with the Foundation for the Preservation and Study of the Native Languages of the Peoples of Russia, which is now being created. This is all the more relevant as 2019 was declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the UN.
Let's start discussing the proposed items.
To be continued.