''Kiriyenko decided to demonstrate Tatarstan last year’s page has been turned''
The Kazan Forum for Intercultural Dialogue. How the deputy head Putin’s administration made the republic’s officials a hint that educational issues were important…
Honourable guests talked about the special skill of Tatarstan to establish respectful and firm relations with representatives of different cultures and religions during the opening of the Kazan Forum for Intercultural Dialogue on 5 September. To confirm this, they provided achievements of the republic, which has been able to add some important sites for co-existing cultures on the Tatarstan land to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List – from the Kazan Kremlin to Bolgar and Sviyazhsk. But the forum's guest list headed by First Deputy Head of the Russian president's administration Sergey Kiriyenko who had been literally bypassing Tatarstan for quite a long time, was anyway probably the main proof that the republic's officials could solve the most complicated problems. Realnoe Vremya studied the forum's secret signs.
Course for approximation
''A dialogue allows to avoid an ethnic, religious and cultural division. A dialogue is generally accepted to play the decisive role in providing sustainable developments,'' Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov welcomed the forum's guests at its official opening. ''A dialogue of culture, fixation on interethnic peace and interreligious mutual understanding is Russia's civilised choice… The provision of equality of peoples and religions, the creation of necessary conditions for their free development and interaction, modern opposition to any forms of radicalism and intolerance are our priorities. The fact that traditions of peaceful coexistence of two world religions, Islam and Orthodoxy, has existed in Tatarstan for many centuries, which draws everyone's attention… This experience can be in demand today to regulate growing conflicts…''
''I'm glad such a forum is held here, in the Russian Federation, in the Republic of Tatarstan,'' Sergey Kiriyenko returned the host the favour in whose speech one could hear certain subtext if desired. ''Indeed, Tatarstan is a very successful, if not perfect, place for such an intercultural dialogue. The Forum for Intercultural Dialogue has been officially held in Kazan for the first time. But such a dialogue has been lasting in Tatarstan for hundreds of years already… Right Tatarstan is an example of peaceful coexistence of representatives and different peoples and religions not only in the Russian Federation but also worldwide for several centuries already… Both here in Tatarstan and in Russia, in general, we've always said and we say that we're different, we have different ethnicities, different religions. But it's not a problem, it's not our weakness. On the contrary, it's our power, it's our opportunity! It's wonderful that the forum's organisers managed to gather such an impressive composition of participants. It's more important that the educational programme became one of the key themes of the forum… Education is the way to understand each other.''
The Forum for Intercultural Dialogue has been officially held in Kazan for the first time. But such a dialogue has been lasting in Tatarstan for hundreds of years already…
Sergey Kiriyenko ended his welcome speech with a compliment to the first Tatarstan president who has had another title on his long list of titles – special UNESCO envoy for intercultural dialogue – for his efforts to revive the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, which the first deputy head of the Russian president's administration visited first on 5 August:
''The huge job Mr Shaimiev did giving all his energy to this project deserves separate respect and words of gratitude. And we all know well if Mr Shaimiev takes on something, he simply doesn't know how to do it badly and won't allow anybody do so…''
Among Mintimer Shaimiev's merits, Sergey Kiriyenko also mentioned the creation of the Bolgarian Academy at whose opening he was expected but people couldn't see him one year ago.
Mintimer Shaimiev, in turn, took the floor and noted that at the moment the most important thing was to ''bring cultures together'' and ''create a peaceful, sustainable future''.
''We're glad our capital has been the host of such an impressive international forum,'' the Tatarstan state adviser emphasised. ''Undoubtedly, it's linked with the importance of the role of Tatarstan in the Eurasian cultural space both in the past and today…''
He ended the speech with sincere gratitude to renowned guests of the forum for their participation in the forum and especially pointed out the first deputy head of the Russian president's administration among them:
''Mr Kiriyenko, we all thank you for participating in this forum!''
Mintimer Shaimiev took the floor and noted that at the moment the most important thing was to ''bring cultures together'' and ''create a peaceful, sustainable future''
Complications of dialogue
It seems that there was what to thank him for: Sergey Kiriyenko's speeches had much less complements less than a year ago. It was the person who ended the dialogue about the expansion of the agreement between Tatarstan and Russia: ''Modern Russia isn't a treaty making state.'' There was a long ambiguous pause between the republic's officials and First Deputy Head of the Russian president's administration Sergey Kiriyenko after this.
There appeared soon a reason for a dialogue, which wasn't warm-hearted and didn't bring representatives of different cultures in our multicultural republic together. The signal that there was no intercultural dialogue at all came from the bottom: parents of non-Tatar schoolchildren determinately rebelled against compulsory Tatar classes at Tatarstan schools as the only mother tongue. Russian President Vladimir Putin found a solution for the language dead end, which almost grew into an intercultural conflict, for the opposite sides – with a sharp shout claiming that it wasn't permitted to make a person learn a language that isn't his mother tongue and it was necessary to have voluntary national language classes. This is why Sergey Kiriyenko's current visit to Kazan can be interpreted like something more than an approval to develop the intercultural dialogue in the world in general under the aegis of UNESCO, that's to say, like the first step towards the reconciliation of positions in the issues that still remained debatable.
''Page has been turned, now we are all one team''
Realnoe Vremya's correspondent asked famous Russian political experts about what the visit of Sergey Kiriyenko meant for Tatarstan and the republic's officials, what prospects it opened and what steps Tatarstan officials should expect from the Russian president and his team. And they all agreed that this visit is rather a business trip than something symbolic. But they disagreed that Tatarstan could be an independent ''state in the state''.
''In modern Russia, where the vertical must rule and governors must be 'technocrats', Tatarstan really stands out in a crowd,'' noted Director General of the Regional Politics Development Centre Ilya Graschenkov. ''The old elitist independence, highly profitable economy – this all allows the region not to agree with the Kremlin at times. It seems to me during the last visit of Kiriyenko it was important to show who wore the trousers, to cement their power. Today, undoubtedly, the situation is already different, there was found agreement. Both the Kremlin and Tatarstan started to speak the same language. Each of them got something, lost something. This visit of officials of the president's administration is taking place in other conditions. Putin was re-elected, the economy stagnates, Moscow and Kazan need to team up. And here the Republic of Tatarstan is a good ally with resources. I think the Kremlin should expect that Tatarstan would go on creating its agenda on its own.''
But political consultant, director of the Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev thinks that Tatarstan can't count on more considering the above-mentioned things for independent development without looking back at the Kremlin:
''I wouldn't draw far-reaching conclusions. I think this visit just prepares everyone for normal business relations. Kiriyenko is quite effective, logical and understandable in his current role. Those problems that arose many years ago have been solved due to our Federation's asymmetric character. All regions must have equal rights, it's obvious. The course pursued by Russia in the last years is this course for some unification, federalism, not like a consequence of the parade of sovereignties but the understanding of federalism that doesn't question the stability of the whole construction. Kiriyenko's visit is a business trip, it's obvious. It's obvious the Kremlin doesn't have complaints about Tatarstan, the relations are even, Minnikhanov is supported. Part of the national Tatarstan elite probably might have fears. But even they seem to me exaggerated and partially invented. Minnikhanov was chosen as Tatarstan president. And he will remain the president until his term ends. And some things will remain the rudiments like what actually doesn't correspond to the spirit and tasks of the era. Minnikhanov, Kiriyenko, Putin are in one boat. They are all one team.
''I wouldn't make any far-reaching conclusions from the visit,'' famous political expert, ex-deputy director of the administration of the Republic of Bashkortostan's president Abbas Gallyamov said. ''I'd say that Kiriyenko decided to demonstrate last year's page has been turned and they should look to the future, not worry about yesterday's conflicts.''