Report on Yugoslav – Russian round table on democratization and ethnic relations

2018-02-20T19:47:39+00:00 18. 02. 2018.|Analysis (Reports)|

This meeting gathered about 30 experts of different specialties, well known sociologists, political scientists, constitutional lawyers, etc., from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Russian Federation. Most of Yugoslav participants came from the Forum for Ethnic Relations, Institute for Social Sciences and Center for Strategic Studies in Belgrade. Most of the Russian participants came from the Independent Institute for National and Social Problems in Moscow, Institute for ethnology and anthropology of Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as Moscow and St. Petersburg Universities. There were also guests from Europe and USA: Stefano Bianchini (Bologna, Italy), Robert Hayden (Pittsburgh, PA, USA), Mihajlo Mihajlov (Washington, DC, USA), Aleksandra Alund and Carl-Ulrik Shierup (Umea, Sweden).

The Round Table was sponsored by the Friedrich-Ebert Shtiftung, Moscow Office, SIDA (Swedish International Developmental Authorities), Stockholm, Open Society Fund, Belgrade, “Logo” Company, Belgrade.

The idea of the conference came last year, because, in the words of one of the organizers, the director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, Dr Dušan Janjić, it is the obligation of citizens, and especially intellectuals, to contribute to the creation of rational and civilized national policy. This debate also contributed to the education of young doctoral students who had an opportunity to follow it since they were at Kotor Summer School on Ethnic Relations at the time. Prevented from being present, the Premier of the Monte Negro government Milo Đukanović sent a welcoming letter to participants. This meeting was also important  as an opportunity to present contemporary Russian political thought and practices which are otherwise presented, as is useful for the present Yugoslav government, as ideological and mobilizing and not as interesting scientifically. There are 129 conflict areas in the world, and in 25 violence already broke out, but, the participants of the meeting recognized the importance of research of areas of ex-Yugoslavia and ex-Soviet Union were the national question was exceptionally crucial. There is also an evident criminalization of ethnic relations in both of these areas.

As a contribution to the discussion at the Round Table National Reports on the State of Ethnic Relations and Processes of Democratization in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Russian Federation were also presented. Part of the material in the Yugoslav report was prepared by the Center for Strategic Studies and Forum for Ethnic Relations from Belgrade. The first part is an analysis of The Break-up of Yugoslavia and The Ethnic Question. The second part is The Challenges of New Democratic National Policy in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, primarily on Serbian-Albanian relations, the question of Kosovo, ethnic problems in former Yugoslav republics and the status of refugees; then comes The Role of Religion and Religious Communities in the Social Life of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia, as well as Human Rights in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The concluding part of the document contains the evaluation of perspectives for democratic governing of ethnic conflicts and the development of democratic minority policy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The report is accompanied by relevant documents.

The Russian Report was prepared by the Institute for Ethnology and Anthropology of the Academy of Science in Moscow. In the first part there is an analysis of The Break-up of Soviet Union and National Movements. The second part contains: Russian Statehood and the Problems of New Federalism. In the next part there is a discussion of The Formation of Democratic Institutions of Russian Federation and Tendencies Towards the Authoritarian Power. The fourth part is The Antinomies of Human Rights and Rights of National Groups in the Context of Russian Democratization. It continues with The Interaction of Religious-Confessional and National-Ethnic Attitudes of the Population of Russian Federation. In the conclusion of this report there is a discussion of Chechen Crisis and its Importance for the Russian Society. In the appendix to this report we are given The Position of The Institute for Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the Chechen Crisis.

The two-day debate was also divided into five similar thematic units. In the first part the main theme was the analysis of the causes of the break-up of former Yugoslavia and USSR. It was concluded that the beginning of the transition of these two societies of real socialism, which were multiethnic, unlike other Eastern European societies, was the cause of break-up of these countries. However, in opinion of some participants (Mihajlov), the configuration of ethnic structures of USSR and SFRJ was not as important as the influence of communist nomenclatures which provoked national conflicts in order to stay in power. On the other hand the collapse of these two states can not be explained only by the bad effects of communism, but also by the global situation, as is the end of cold war (Zdravomislov).

In the debate on development and stabilization of democratic institutions in Russia and FRY, there was intimation of doubtful progress. In Yugoslavia, unlike other eastern European countries, there was no change of the old regime. The political structures of federation and federal units are incompatible (Goati). Although Yugoslavia is proclaimed as a civil state, it leads to new conflicts, because it means domination of the majority principle which in multinational communities leads to majorization of the most numerous people-the Serbs (Šuković). In FRY, according to latest research, there is a marked distrust of citizens in state institutions as are the parliament and the government. Only the army has a relatively high rating (Janjić). According to him, the public opinion shows signs of schizophrenia. On an abstract level it supports the democratic values, while on concrete level it does not appreciate them.

The reforms in Russia did not allow for the formation of a middle class, which would lead to stabilization, but it led to criminalization (Ivanov). The ruling structures in Russia privatized the state and are not interested in stabilization of (Žeškov). There is no unified political space, because regionalization leads to closing into local frameworks. Is democratization possible in societies divided in many ways, especially nationally? Except in USA, it was never completely achieved (Drobiževa).

Dilemmas formulated in all transitional societies are especially sharp in Russia and FRY. Transition in itself is not a defined concept. It is very difficult to rule democratically in poor societies as are those of eastern Europe. Independent institutions as media and professional societies are still fragile. The configuration of society according to interest is not yet articulated (Mićunović). There are no new elites. The present ones have passed through previous party life and therefore do not possess a democratic political culture.

In the debate on The Building of Nation State and Status of Minorities it was perceived that minorities have a very unclear position. In Yugoslavia they are largely excluded from political life. The newest law on local autonomy has as its goal to protect the Serbs living in municipalities where they are a minority, but not the minorities where Serbs are a majority (Jakšić). Russia attempts to use all encompassing measures (asymmetric federation) in order to solve the status of many minority peoples which do not want to be treated as minorities but as nation-partners (Drobiževa).

In the debate on The Role of Religion and Religious Groups in FRY and Russia, it was pointed out that the churches have more engagements than before but are also more politicized. Serbian Orthodox Church is often cited as one of the poles of Serbian nationalism although it frequently reacted to acts of intolerance towards other confessions (Vukomanović). In Russia, in which there are about 150 religious options, ethnic conflicts did not take a religious character (Mšedlov). It is necessary to intensify interreligious dialogue and joint actions and to form the ecumenical council of churches on a national level, as it was done, for instance, in Hungary.

In the concluding debate How to Achieve a Democratic National Policy it was emphasized that national policy must be deideologized, and must take into account the interests of all national groups. In that sense the concept of one nation — one state inevitably leads to permanent conflict (Sikevi~). The voting principle one person — one vote does not always allow for adequate representation of all ethnic groups in Russia. This is why the consociative model is more appropriate although it means putting ethnicity and not citizenship in the center of political life (Sikevič).

It is necessary to implement the model of consociation in Yugoslavia too. That is why we must give up the concept of nation state and affirm the model of nation as a country which respects multiethnicity (Janjić). The identity based on socialism and ethnonationalism is lost and the new one is not created yet. The name Yugoslavia is based on the name of a minority group — Yugoslavs — which is disappearing, which confirms its identity crisis. Democratic national policy has to take all ethnic questions outside of the power play and turn them towards dialogue and compromise. It is necessary for both sides to acknowledge equality to each other, for which the government in Serbia is not ready. In the case of Kosovo, as the biggest problem in Serbia, it is necessary for the government to establish trust through unilateral measures. On the other side, Albanians should recognize the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. All other questions can be open, which means that the assumption of  the dialogue is that there is no final solution, that it will be a long process, and a series of choices we make today would not automatically cancel the existing tensions, but would redirect them from conflict to competition (Janjić).

Most participants concluded that ahead both Russia and FRY lies still a lot of uncertainty and that they, especially Yugoslavia, are not going to be stable communities in the next ten years.