Colloquy on: “European Culture: Identity and Diversity”
8-9 September 2005
Presentation by Mr. Mihail SHVYDKOY
Transcribed from tape
Thank you, Minister Toubon,
I am sorry, my dear colleagues, my English is not Oxbridge, but I try to be understandable. Since my English is not so sophisticated, from time to time, I will be not polite, as is usual in the Council of Europe, and I will be a little bit more direct.
I m sorry, but this is a problem of education, not of tolerance.
Yesterday I talked with my colleague, Minister Filipov – he was the Minister of Education in the same government where I was a Minister of Culture -, and we made a small remark. Here in the audience of this colloquium are about 15 states represented, and at least 10 languages. But we speak just in French or in English. Perhaps yesterday; when we talked about the European identity, this was normal – but what do our German or Italian colleagues say?
But today, when we talk about cultural diversity, we continue speaking French and English. This is not a critical remark, this is a practical remark. This is reality. Because if we talk about the technical management of cultural diversity, we must understand that the management of cultural diversity is absolutely not the same as its protection. Talking about management, we will use two languages, everybody understands that, this will be practical and very simple for everybody. It is normal management, and a fact of social life.
In Russia we have absolutely the same problem. One of the problems for Russia at the beginning of the 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR, was a very simple and fundamental question: Who are we? During the Soviet time we had a very simple answer, which was ideological and absolutely totalitarian: “We are Soviets.” And only after that were we Russian, Tatar, Jew or somebody else.
But after the collapse of the USSR, where we had this Soviet umbrella, Soviet roof – Who were we? Even when we talk about translations, we have one serious problem. The Russian is an ethnic, national term. But at the same time the Russian is a citizen of the Russian Federation. And, for example, Tatar people do not want to be Russians, or Chechen people do not want to be Russian. The question is really important for the whole of Europe.
Yesterday we talked about what it means to be “European”. This is the same problem: what does it mean to be Russian citizen today? What are the common values? Where is the common frame for everybody?
When we talk about protection and management, the answer is very simple. What is necessary for the protection of cultural diversity? A good legal base; a real social policy; democracy; liberty; freedom; and money. And a very important point: the activity of each ethnic group, the self-activity. Here we face the same problem: When we talk about the contemporary situation in the world, a lot of people do not want to be part of a great nation. They want to be part of a small national group.
In 1994 in Russia, there were 130 ethnic groups, not more. Every five years, we have more and more nations in our country. In 2004, we had 190 ethnic groups.
You must understand that people are a bit afraid. In Ukraine, they are a little bit afraid of being Russian, in Russia they are a little bit afraid of being Tatars or Jews; in France they are a little bit afraid of being German; in Netherlands they are a little bit afraid of being Ethiopian or from the Arab world. People try to adapt themselves. That was the main tendency in the 20th century. If you look at the general picture of the first half of the 20th century, you will find that if people lived in another territory or another state, they tried to adapt. They did not want to be separated.
But in the second half of the 20th century, especially in the last 30 years, cultural diversity has become a problem. It is a social problem if the Turks in Germany want to be Turks, not Germans. They develop a much more conservative community than the Turkish nation in Turkey, because in the Turkish state the nation develops, whereas in Germany the Turks try to remain an ethnic group of its own and they retain conservative basic values. This leads to a quite complicated situation, because we try to give a very simple answer by saying that everything will be well if we have democracy, if we have a real ethnic national policy. For Russia, however, it is not so simple. I will explain why.
The Caucasus district of Dagestan, for example, is composed of about 100 ethnic groups. In a small country village, the country road may divide two communities speaking two different languages. There are eleven main state languages in this autonomous region; eleven theatres; eleven newspapers; eleven different time slots on television and radio – how can one manage this situation? But many times this is due to history.
If you look at the old street signs here in Strasbourg, you see two languages: French and Alsatian. Everybody agreed that this must be done because the Alsatian dialect is very important. In Brittany, it is the same. At the same time, however, one must understand that if we want to keep all social possibilities for all citizens, they must learn French because higher education, for example, is offered just in French.
The higher education in Russia is mostly in Russian, and this is normal. On the other hand, many radical ethnic groups said, “we want to have national chemistry or national mathematics.” We must find the delicate balance between real social management of the state – because you must manage the state, not just cultural diversity – on the one hand; and cultural protection, protection of cultural diversity on the other. This is a very delicate, sensitive point.
In Russia, during all our 20th century history and even before, during the monarchist Russian history, the territory and nation were the same. The Tatars lived in Tatarstan; Chukchi live in the autonomous district in the Northeast. The same applied everywhere; territory and nation were the same.
But after the collapse of the USSR the situation changed completely, because a lot of migration occurred from central Asia and from Azerbaijan, Georgia, etc. In Moscow today live about one million Azerbaijanis and they want to have their newspaper, their programmes on radio and television, they want to have schools – and that is normal. This is for us an absolutely unusual situation, but we managed to introduce the law of cultural autonomy, because people living outside their metropolitan territory must have all possibilities for their development. At the same time, however, Azerbaijanis migrating to Moscow must learn Russian language, if they want their children to be educated in high school.
It is a quite complicated situation. If in the beginning of the 1990s we had 100 cultural communities in Russia, now we have 420. Usually we say that in Russia we speak 100 languages, but in reality we speak about 200 languages in Russia.
The mainstay of our policy is the law ensuring the free cultural development of ethnic groups. We do not have enough money, but this is the same everywhere. It would be very strange if I said that we had enough money for culture. Maybe in France in the 1970s you had enough money for culture… Now, however, having culture and not having money is a normal situation. In Russia - and I think in Europe - the legal basis is good.
The problem of cultural diversity is a problem of trust. This is a very important point. If people understand that their cultural, their national identity will not be used for limiting their social rights, they will found a new ethnic group in your country. I think that the protection of cultural diversity is the protection of freedom. Protection is the main value, freedom to express yourself.
It is the same as for unique people. In the north, we have ethnic groups comprising no more than 100 people, but they do not want to be Russians, they do not want to be Hunty or Muntsy – they want to be Vozhane, even if there are only 98 persons in this group. For them it is very important. They are not afraid, now. Many new nations reappear, who previously had disappeared in society.
Protection is a problem of the legal base, a social problem of guarantees and social security for people. Expressing their national feeling, their national culture is the main value. Of course, the problem shows itself in the street, among neighbours, not in the offices of the Council of Europe or between politicians who have a debate in the European Parliament. This is a problem that you have here in France just as much as we have it in Russia. You look at the Arab district, or the Jewish district, and you try to provide a secure life for all these people.
In the 21st century, we have an absolutely new situation. I made a great mistake when I thought that the 21st century would be the same as the 20th century. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, I understand we scrutiny all traditional bourgeois values – these values were the spirit of our lives, like a glass of water! – like freedom, liberty, justice. We grew up with these values from the 18th or maybe the 17th century. Now, however, we say that we already have limited liberty, freedom, justice – we want security. Security is the key word for the 21st century. That presents a big problem for national diversity and for cultural diversity, too. When people feel afraid, they do not want to be Muslims, but want to be like everybody.
When we talk about globalisation, of course it is mostly a problem of good economic and social management. When we talk about security, the main value is not liberty, not justice – the main value is the life of the human being. For the 20th century, the answer was very simple. Albert Camus once wrote, “People who already limited their freedom, their liberty for safety, never will have freedom, nor safety, nor security.” This was very important for the 20th century, but the 21st century gives an absolutely different answer. We say we need just security.
Culture is not isolated from the questions of contemporary political life. This is a problem, Yesterday, when we talked about the European identity – of course, there is a problem of basic values of Europe. But the basic values of Europe today are not just Christian, although European civilisation has grown out of Christian values. If you want to be European, you must say well I am part of this civilisation. Now, however, this is not enough.
The balance between democracy and security reflects the problem of protecting and managing cultural diversity.
What is the goal? Why is cultural diversity necessary? Is it because we are liberal and democratic, and want to give everybody the chance to develop? No. I think we have a practical reason. Nobody knows which experiences humankind will need in the future. Nobody knows. Will this be the experience of our civilisation, or maybe of the Chinese, or maybe of Northern ethnic groups – who knows? Nobody knows. The problem will become obvious in the 31st century.
The problem of globalisation is the problem of simplification. Everything is simple. The consumer civilisation is the civilisation of the user – not “loser”, but “user”. From time to time, however, “user” and “loser” means the same, because we lose the variety and the multiple view of the world. Cultural diversity is necessary for everybody and for us too. Because when we reflect with the other nations, you look at the world in a much deeper way and with much more variety and much more sophistication.
Cultural diversity is a practical goal, a very practical subject, because nobody knows which experiences we will need in the future.
Thank you very much.