Culture, Heritage and Diversity

 

Expert visit and study visit to the city of Izhevsk 2011: Overview

 

In 2008 Izhevsk along with eleven European cities, became a member of the joint programme of the Council of Europe and the European Commission "Intercultural cities". During this period, many events took place in the city putting an emphasis on its multiethnic and intercultural identity: exhibitions and forums, interethnic festivals, trade fairs, creative actions, national traditional holidays’ celebrations (Maslenitsa, Sabantui), sport competitions.

 

In order to share its experience and critically assess its achievements, Izhevsk hosted two international visits in August-September: the visit of Intercultural cities expert Anja Gunjak a study visit of representatives of ICC member cities.

 

Ms. Anja Gunjak, Project manager of "PARALLELI - Instituto Euromediterraneo del Nord Ovest", visited Izhevsk on 22-24 of August, 2011. She had ample opportunity to get acquainted with ways of reflecting interculturality in various spheres of Izhevsk city life.

 

The main axis of the programme was the Round table on the theme "Interculturalism as a factor facilitating Izhevsk city development" with the participation of Mayor Alexander A. Ushakov along with Dmitry Ivanov - Minister of culture, press and information of the Udmurt Republic, Olga Tsaregorodtseva – Deputy Minister of ethnic policy of the Udmurt Republic, specialists in educational sphere and representatives of Izhevsk creative community. During the Round table the results of three-years-long work on the Intercultural cities project were presented by the Russian participants. Besides that, plans for future intercultural work in Izhevsk were submitted. One of these plans, "Izhevsk 2.0. Reloaded", was presented publicly for the first time. The plan is based on the idea of active citizen involvement in the design of a new intercultural paradigm for the development of the city and operate a switch from from Izhevsk 1.0 (industrial city with passive, sluggish population) to modern, comprehensively developed Izhevsk 2.0.

 

Besides that, meetings of the ICC expert with representatives of the Izhevsk and Udmurt Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate in the Saint Michael’s cathedral and representatives of the regional spiritual department of Udmurt muslims in the Cathedral mosque of Izhevsk took place. One of the programme points was also visiting unfinished construction of the Armenian Apostolic church. In the course of those meetings representatives of Izhevsk religious community shared with the guest their experience of harmonious and conflict-free inter-confessional cooperation that had been a part of Izhevsk everyday life. One of the brightest evidences of such situation is the fact that all people regardless their religion participate in the process of building of new objects of worship, for example, orthodox people can contribute to the building of a mosque, etc.

 

Ms Gunjak met representatives of national and cultural associations active in Izhevsk and migrants while participating in the Round table in the House of Peoples’ Friendship, one of the key actors of the Intercultural cities project in Izhevsk. She also visited the library "Ivan Pastukhov" which operates as a centre for information and legal support to migrants, children and adults with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

 

The fields of education and culture were not left without attention: that thematic area was actively discussed during the meeting with representatives of the Udmurt State University. Other themes discussed were opportunities and perspectives of e-learning, and the involvement of representatives of other countries in Russia in general and in Izhevsk in particular.

 

As a result Anja Gunjak had received a lot of information about Izhevsk as an Intercultural city and, according to her own words, took away many positive impressions.

 

The Study visit to Izhevsk within the framework of the Intercultural cities Programme took place on 8-9 of September 2011. It gave participating policy-makers, practitioners and officials a good opportunity to learn and exchange experiences.

 

The intensive programme of the study visit to Izhevsk included wide range of events and encounters with representatives of different ethnic groups and confessions, migrants and young people. Participants discussed with the President of the Udmurt Republic A. Volkov and the Mayor of Izhevsk about Intercultural dialogue in the multicultural space of Izhevsk, and participated in a round table on the theme: "Intercultural mixing, mediation and interaction as forms of intercultural dialogue".

 

Special emphasis was put on presenting the results and perspectives of project activities carried out in Izhevsk. A number of thematic projects was presented such as "International Festival of Strength and Spirit", "Round dance of friendship", "Chak-chak bairam", "Every nation is a gold fund of Russia", etc.

 

The study visit involved a trip to the city district Starki where an art campaign was carried out by street-artists from Izhevsk, other Udmurt cities, Kazan and Moscow to attract attention to problems of that district, on the one hand, and to make it visually more lively and attractive, on the other hand. Street-art appeared on fences, bus-stops, the water tower and provoked a positive response from Starki dwellers.

 

A meeting with students of various Izhevsk institutions about the role of cultural projects’ in intercultural development.

 

Representatives of European partners, for many of whom this was the first visit to Russia praised the organisation and the content of the visit. Moreover, study visit to Izhevsk became the first coming to Russia for the majority of the guests, and they enjoyed that experience.

 

Ekaterina Tkacheva