Staunton, August 2 – A proposal to draw up a special “code” to guide the behavior of young people from the North Caucasus who travel to other areas has sparked intense debate in the Russian media, with some commentators viewing it as a kind of last ditch means of improving inter-ethnic relations and others saying it would be ineffective or counterproductive.
The Regions.ru news agency, as it often does concerning public controversies in Moscow, has surveyed Russian parliamentarians (www.regions.ru/news/2304926/) and Russian religious (www.regions.ru/news/2305196/), whose comments suggest that most of them view the creation of such a code as potentially disastrous.
In the wake of the clashes in the Krasnodar youth camp between ethnic Russians and Chechens, Vladimir Shvetsov, the deputy Presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus Federal District, proposed drafting a code of behavior for young people from that region so that they could adapt themselves to the norms of people elsewhere in Russia.
According to Shvetsov, many Russians are upset by how the North Caucasians behave, and following the proposal by the Moscow city government to create a “code of the Muscovite” for new arrivals there, officials in several Russian regions adjoining the North Caucasus are working on such codes.
The very idea has infuriated the Chechens who feel they are being singled out for special and negative treatment. Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the Chechen republic human rights ombudsman, said that the idea was laughable given that Chechens are “full-fledged citizens of the Russian Federation” and not alien foreigners.
Vadim Gustov, co-chair of the Federation Council, told Regions.ru that he was against the development of such codes. They won’t solve the problems; instead, he suggested, the recent incidents reflected “irresponsible” preparation by the organizers of the camps who did not take into consideration who would be present.
Vasily Duma, a senator from Kostroma, agreed. He noted that “we are all Russians, we live in one country, how can there be rules of behavior addressed to the representatives of just one nationality?!” Young people in general need to be raised to be tolerant and respectful, but the idea of a code for the Chechens “recalls the times of the USSR.”
Vladimir Gusev, who represents Saratov in the upper house, was also skeptical. What advice would such a code give – “don’t dance” or “don’t drink”? If someone is “correctly brought up, then he will always have a sense of what is permissible in each circumstance and won’t have any need for such a “code.”
Sergey Lisovsky, a senator from Kurgan oblast, agreed. This proposal “isn’t serious,” he said. Instead, it is “some kind of fantasy,” adding that “if we say that all nations are equal, then this equality must be not only in words but in fact.” Trying to cover up problems by coming up with a code will be counterproductive.
Meanwhile, Valery Bogomolov, a United Russian deputy who serves on the Duma International Relations Committee, supported the idea but wondered how it could be realized. “In a multinational country,” he said, “one must observe the traditions of other peoples,” without sacrificing one’s own identity.
But another United Russia Duma deputy Khozh Magomed Vakhayev, was opposed. He said that he “was not certain that [such a code] would be observed – contemporary young people in general reject any rules whatsoever.” Consequently, he urged the backers of the code idea “to think up something else.”
Viktor Shudegov, a Just Russia member of the Duma education committee, said he “in general is opposed to everything which divides the population on any basis, national, religious, and so on.” That makes things worse as does the fact that the increasingly numerous conflicts among young people “are being resolved often by far from diplomatic means.”
And Yury Afonin, a KPRF Duma deputy on the youth committee, said that “such an initiative will be useful only if one or another subject of the North Caucasus agree with it.” But even then, he said, it might be a mistake because it could lead Russians and North Caucasians to view each other with even greater hostility. “We are all residents of Russia,” he said.
The three Orthodox priests with whom Regions.ru talked were also skeptical. One, Archpriest Maksim Pervozvansky said that “fundamentally, not the introduction of codes or a so-called nationality policy will resolve the problems but simply a normally functioning state apparatus” that will listen to the population and enforce the laws.
Father Igor Shumilov, a Moscow priest, said he “doubts that the appearance of an official code of rules of behavior will lead people to obey these rules if they don’t want to.” But Father Filipp Ilyashenko went further. He asks how could such rules be “lawful in the framework of our democratic state?”