Russia keen to establish tolerance centres

The Russian government believes centres, on the lines of the Jewish Museum, would ease interethnic tensions and promote harmony.

Russia’s Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyaev said at a business breakfast at the Rossiyskaya Gazeta office that his agency was prepared to look into projects helping to promote tolerance and ease interethnic tensions. He noted that a proposal by the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre to set up similar institutions across the country is one way of achieving this.

Building interethnic ties has always been on the Regional Development Ministry’s brief. This includes organising exhibitions and concerts, publishing literature and holding seminars educating Russians about the cultures of the various peoples of this country. Opening of museums, or more precisely centres of tolerance, is totally in line with this development logic, Slyunyaev explained. “We are a multi-ethnic nation with an extremely rich history and culture. Our country has followed an incredible development path. We have to learn how to listen and to hear – that’s what our society is lacking right now”, the minister said.

Yet such centres are far from the possible only tool for building interethnic relations. “For instance, our agency is in charge of interethnic relations but nobody is actually in charge of interfaith relations. We can only support initiatives put forward by the Orthodox Church, Buddhists, or Muslims. Such a centre could accomplish this mission, too, but we are prepared to hear other proposals and carry out some other projects”, he said. The official added that 1.5 billion roubles (around $50 million) might be spent on this endeavour, which he said was not a lot of money.

The Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance. Source: RussiaNowTV

The Jewish Museum opened recently in a former building of the Garazh cultural centre in Moscow. It is a unique place indeed. It contains photos, videos, and cinematic materials presented to visitors in unconventional ways. Besides a cinema, it hosts interactive displays dedicated to Jewish emigration, a future memorial site, and artifacts of Jewish community life. All the displays have been designed to evoke an emotional response to the events described in accompanying documents and statistical data.

Slyunyaev added that finding premises for tolerance centres should not be a problem and the priority was to develop qualitative concepts and fill the space with relevant content.

Each such centre would also need a website and subsequent information support. To draw a parallel with the Jewish Museum, future tolerance centres should probably hold lectures and educational events. Among other things, the museum organises thematic city tours using its archive materials.

Anton Belov, Garazh cultural centre’s director believes that educational clusters at any level are a very good idea, but people capable of implementing them are very few and far between. He also noted that it is often a more effective approach to the educational process to issue grants rather than establish brick-and-mortar centres. This presents more opportunities for better evaluating the future site and reduces the chances something useless being built.

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