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S. Kuchinsky: How the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia Promotes Peaceful Relations

Address to Eurasia - Europe Conference on 
Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a Time of Global Crisis

Moscow, Russia - April 6-7, 2012

I would like to welcome you on the part of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia and express my gratitude to the initiators for inviting me to the conference on such important and urgent issue as world peace and security in multicultural societies.

We should admit that in the circumstances of globalization, the world around and inside us is becoming more and more complicated and, unfortunately, less and less secure. In a certain way this reality is interconnected with international and interethnic relations.

The recent decade has witnessed a growth of national consciousness and the social role of the ethnic factor, which is manifest in peoples’ desire for ethnic self-expression and acknowledgement of their ethnic identity. Quite often these phenomena and processes occur under the slogans of fighting for human rights. Encouraged by the policy of multiculturalism and tolerance, they often have a nationalist character. We are confronted more and more by manifestations of a kind of ethno-cultural expansion that could spark interethnic tension and conflicts. We witness it now in European nations, in Russia, and other parts of the world.

The processes are spurred by mass migration that visibly changes the ethno-cultural situation in different regions of the world; the resulting serious economic and social problems worsens the situation in the labor-market that becomes even more complicated.

The situation is especially pressing in the multinational countries where a balanced policy and joint efforts by official powers and civil society are needed for solving the internal problems and contradictions.

The Russian Federation is one of the biggest multinational states with a population representing 182 ethnic communities with their unique traditions of material and spiritual culture; there are altogether 239 languages and dialects. The majority of these ethnic groups have been formed within the territory of Russia, and in this sense they all are part of a indigenous population who played a historical role in creating the statehood of Russia.

The all-Russia grassroots organization “The Assembly of the Peoples of Russia” plays an important role in establishing ethno-cultural harmony in the Russian community. The Assembly was founded in 1998 in compliance with state policy approved by decree of the Russian Federation President on June 15, 1996, as one of the most important mechanisms for implementing national state policy.

The main goals of the Assembly are a broader interaction with the institutions of power in carrying out state policy; assistance in promoting the development of the national cultures of Russia; preservation of cultures, national traditions, and native languages; as well as supporting the statehood of Russia.

There are branches of the Assembly in the majority of the Russian Federation and in Belarus. The Assembly convened five high-level conferences, 11 congresses, dozens of meetings and round tables, a large number of events attended by famous politicians, state figures, grassroots activists, heads of components of the Russian Federation, academics, media, specialists in culture and art, religious leaders, war veterans, and youth.

They all contributed to the strengthening of Russia, promoting peace and harmony in our country, nurturing the ideas of international friendship, preserving and improving the spiritual and moral traditions in the diverse Russian communities and their rich cultural heritage. Each year, the social initiatives and activities of the Assembly become more and more productive; they enjoy the support of the state structures, become more and more evident, and are active in different regions of the nation, gaining in social significance.

One of the socially important projects of the Assembly is the Congress of the Peoples, a trademark of the organization. Since 2003 it has been regularly held in different parts of the Russian Federation. The participants discuss different issues, among them: implementing state policies, international relations, education and youth problems, and preserving the ethno-cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia.

The first Congress was held in Nizhny Novgorod as part of the Nizhny Novgorod fair during the international Industrial and Economic Forum “Russia the One” with the support of an authorized representative of the Russian Federation President in the Privolzhsky Federal district, the mayor, and regional authorities. After that, Congresses of the Peoples of Russia addressing urgent problems of the state policy were held in Moscow, Yakutsk (Republic of Sakha), Yaroslavl, Grozny (Chechen Republic), and Ulyanovsk.

The 11th Congress of the Peoples of Russia took place in Moscow at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia at the end of February 2012. The participants adopted the Moscow Declaration that formulated a state-and-patriotic model of national ethnic policy for Russia. In the resulting document, it is stated that to preserve the peaceful Russian civilization as a basis for our nation, historically established in the unity of many nationalities, it is necessary to involve citizens of all ethnic backgrounds is obvious. This does not assume assimilation or loss of ethnic identity and cultural diversity of the nationalities living in Russia but rather a modern level of integration based on civil values. The Declaration also includes a number of practical and concrete suggestions for improving the Russian Federation's state policy.

From the very beginning, the Assembly has chosen to cooperate with government bodies and grassroots organizations, thus expanding connections with those who share our ideas about harmonizing international relations. Agreements have been concluded with different grassroots organizations: the Congress of National Associations of Russia, the Association of Diasporas in Russia, the All-Russia Azerbaijan Congress, federal national and cultural autonomies, etc..

The opening of the House of Nationalities of Russia at the All-Russia Exhibition Center in Moscow was a very important initiative of our Assembly in 2000. It is in the Central Pavilion near the famous Peoples’ Friendship Fountain. This has become a practical setting for international dialogue. Here we regularly organize conferences, round tables, exhibitions, presentations, festivals and national celebrations, regional days of culture, international meetings, literary and musical soirees, performances of professional and amateur art groups.

We have a “Museum of Peoples’ Friendship” within our structure. More than 10,000 museum pieces explaining national history and the lifestyle of nationalities in Russia are housed in our museum. The museum's artifacts are regularly displayed at international and all-Russia events; also the House of the Peoples of Russia hosts exhibitions.

Several events have become traditional, being notable for their uniqueness and social importance:

  • Meetings of Kazakhstan Peoples’ Assembly delegation and Peoples’ of Russia Assembly delegation, during which there are exhibitions and concerts ethnic groups;
  • The Chuvash national celebration “Akatui” with the participation of not only Chuvash residents of Moscow but also representatives of different cultures and religions;
  • “Russian New Year” exhibits of different traditions for celebrating the holiday;
  • An interfaith exhibition on the theme “With Faith, Hope, and Love into the Third Millennium" where people from different religions display their sacred and unique objects, organize round tables, exhibit religious traditions, sell books, offer audio and video presentations, give lectures, and give sermons;
  • Exhibition “Love Motifs in Different Cultures of Russia” with books, pictures, photos, objects of folks applied arts, etc.;

The Assembly is supported by various regional authorities of the Russian Federation.

In 2008 we organized a mega-project entitled “Peoples’ Friendship – Unity of Russia.” Throughout the Russian Federation, we organized friendship runs, youth schools of friendship; the all-Russia Forum “We Are Citizens of Russia”, a festival of national sports and arts called “Harmony of Life,” and other events.

It was not by mere chance that Russian Federation President V.V. Putin said in his address to participants in the Third Congress of the Peoples of Russia in 2004: “The Assembly of the Peoples of Russia is one of the biggest all-Russia grassroots organizations. The Assembly’s objective is the consolidation and development of the RF society, promotion of international interconnections, and dialogues of cultures."

Our priorities:

1. We desire cooperation with federal and regional power bodies, the Russian Federation Ministry of Regional Development, the Russian Federation Ministry of culture, the Civic Chamber of Russia, and scientific research and educational institutes. We maintain connections with grassroots structures in order to harmonize interethnic relations and initiate practical activities among various people, especially youth.

2. We are trying to enrich the content and variety of methods of working with ethnic communities and national and cultural associations to preserve national identities, cultures, and languages, and creating a model national identity of citizens of Russia.

3. We are developing interregional connections to broaden our work with regional branches of the Assembly. The 83 subjects of the Russian Federation include 46 oblasts, 21 republics, 9 territories, 2 federal cities, 1 autonomous district, and 4 autonomous okrugs. They differ in their density of population, size, economic development, industrial and social infrastructure, job security, ethnic diversity, languages, cultures, and religions.

All these help improve interethnic relations, which certainly need balanced, wise, and delicate ethnic and national approaches.

Finally, cooperation among the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States in public relations and culture exchanges is an important strategic priority. Today, culture plays an especially important role in maintaining international contacts. We are convinced that intercultural communications, cultural exchanges, and “soft power” diplomacy that complements official relations have broad promise.

Finally, I would like to draw the attention of the respected participants of the conference to the main slogan of the Assembly “Friendship among Peoples Means the Unity of Russia.” It is especially meaningful to those who worry about the future of Russia, support civil initiatives promoting international harmony in our nation, and shape the all-Russia identity and sense of spiritual unity. The unifying factor of the vast territory of Russia is not only the network of railroads, transmission facilities, and oil pipes but also spiritual unity, mutual respect, and mutual attraction of peoples living in our multinational motherland.

Our slogan “Friendship among People Means the Unity of Russia” is addressed not only to the citizens of Russia. Through foreign participants of our conference we do all to promote it far beyond the boarders of the country, calling upon all nations worldwide to live in friendship, love, and harmony for the sake of the world peace.

Sergei Kuchinsky is Chair of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, an Honored Worker of Culture, Ph.D. in Pedagogical Sciences, and Associate Professor.