President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Barinov, good afternoon.
Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs Igor Barinov: Good afternoon.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Barinov, you will report on the overall performance of your agency, of course. Still, the Government has received a number of instructions on matters that fall within your purview, including those related to amending the corresponding programme that is being carried out as part of the national policy strategy. I would like to ask you to elaborate on these subjects. How is your agency’s work proceeding overall?
Igor Barinov: Mr President, if I may, I will deliver a performance report and discuss issues we are facing.
Five and a half years have passed since your Executive Order and the Government Resolution establishing the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs. This proved to be a timely decision, since at that point in time ethnic and religious tensions were on the rise in the country. Memories of events and conflicts on inter-ethnic grounds were still alive: Kondopoga, Biryulevo, the Manezh Square events, and what happened in Salsk, Rostov Region, where there were casualties and many people were injured.
At that time, there were very few mechanisms for carrying out the state national policy. There was the federal targeted programme “Strengthening the unity of the Russian nation and ethnic and cultural development of the peoples of Russia,” but it failed to include a number of work streams from the state national policy. It did not cover matters related to indigenous minorities, preventing extremism on ethnic and religious grounds, supporting NGOs, promoting social and cultural adaptation for migrants, etc.
The situation in the regions was complicated too, because we did not have any branches responsible for the state national policy, there were no regional programmes. Or rather we only had such programmes in ethnic majority regions and they were only focused on cultural events, which are very important but certainly not enough.
Mr President, I can assure you that the current situation in the field of interethnic and interreligious relations is stable and favourable.
We worked together with researchers from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences to determine which indicators can show clearly where we stand at this particular moment and can allow us to make medium- and even long-term forecasts of the development of interethnic relations.
According to this indicator, 96 percent of our people did not have any ethnic conflicts at home, at work, in public transport or in the street over the past year, and 87 percent of respondents said they did not feel any resentment or hostility towards other ethnic groups.
One more important indicator is a feeling of civil identity, that is, seeing oneself as a citizen of Russia and part of the Russian nation, as well as a sense of being involved in and responsible for the processes underway in Russia. This indicator is currently 91 percent, the highest figure ever in the history of our surveys.
Vladimir Putin: It is a very good figure. This is extremely important in a multinational country.
Igor Barinov: All of this has only become possible, that is, this positive trend has been brought about by a comprehensive approach to the implementation of the state national policy and the system-wide decisions taken over the past few years. They include, first of all, the establishment of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations, which has rallied the expert community and the leaders of the largest public organisations and federal ethnic and cultural autonomies. Another important decision concerned the updating of the state national policy, because the previous wording was adopted in 2012. Since then, major changes have taken place in the country and the world.
At that time, we did not have a system of governance or a state national policy. Neither was there ISIS or the conflict in Donbass, and Crimea had not reunited with Russia yet.
There were major shifts in public opinion, with people overcoming many negative stereotypes they had encountered on ethnic and religious affairs. As such, the strategy in its current version is in tune with the spirit of our time, and addresses all the risks and possible threats in this area.
A state programme has been developed and is being implemented covering the state national policy in all its main aspects. Most importantly, it is backed by the necessary funding from the budget.
We established a prize category for strengthening interethnic peace and accord as part of the Best Municipal Practice national contest, and this award has become very popular, to our great satisfaction. This year alone, we have already received applications from 70 regions and about 300 projects. Of course, we will select the best ones and carry them out across the country.
The fact that structural divisions have been created in the regions along with regional programmes is a major achievement. After all, all the issues, conflicts and positive developments tend to happen at the municipal level. It is for this reason that we have been paying a lot of attention lately to personnel training.
We developed professional standards and qualifications for specialists in interethnic and interreligious relations. There are two model programmes. Together with Lomonosov Moscow State University we have been holding workshops and meetings in federal districts for a third year now. This year, 1,200 people took part in these workshops in person despite the pandemic, and another 1,440 participated online.
Ideally, we want every municipal entity to have a qualified, smart staff member, trained under our programme, who will be in charge of national policy. We will strive to achieve this objective.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
We had to make appropriate amendments to these programmes, I mean the state programme. It runs until 2025, right?
Igor Barinov: Yes, Mr President. We have amended the state programme, and are now discussing these indicators with our colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office. We have our own point of view on this matter. I think that we will be able to reach an agreement so that your instruction is finally carried out.
Vladimir Putin: Please do.
Igor Barinov: Thank you very much.