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How to tackle separatism, nationalism, and radicalism in the North Caucasus

«STAVROPOLSKAYA PRAVDA», Newspaper

03.07.10

Just recently the Affiliate of the North Caucasus Academy for Public Administration in Stavropol celebrated its tenth anniversary. The Academy’s graduates are employees in most of the territorial and municipal administrations. That is a result, isn’t it!Still we tended to discuss a different issue with Mr. Yury Vassiliev, the Director of the Affiliate, focusing on separatism, nationalism, and radicalism that remain the major North Caucasus problems. The researches arranged by the scholars of this institution are based on the real materials and are acknowledged by the theorists and experts.

– Mr. Vassylyev, could you identify the outstanding key topic for the researchers of the Academy?

It is peace building. Civil peace and solidarity missing in modern Russia depend mainly on peace building. It is targeted on the constructive transformation of the structural contradictions, improvement of relations between conflicting parties and promotion of the overall mutual positive relational tendencies. Starting from 2005 jointly with several international organizations Stavropol Affiliate of the North Caucasus Academy for Public Administration developed and implemented about ten projects that influenced not only situation in Stavropol but also in the territories of the South Federal Okrug and North Caucasus Federal Okrug.In cooperation with other socially focused entities we arranged many peace building events that were socially important and empowered development of civil peace patterns. Still we have to admit that a curve of extremism, tension and terror acts is quite notable and pretty much unmanageable. The recent events noted in Stavropol are the live proof to it.

– Could that mean that all peace building efforts of the civil society are ineffective?

Not at all! If it wasn’t for those efforts the region would have been swept away with the power of violence. But we have to focus on a bit different thing now which is efficiency of such efforts. We have a dreadful tendency for 17 year old girls becoming suicide bombers and terrorist acts taking a form of public suicide bombing dangerous for civilians. In this situation multiplication of civil organizations, quality improvement for the prevention measures, intensification of controlling powers will not be of good enough effect. I should say that here we pursue extensive approach, because it is more understandable and doesn’t involve change of methods; it also allows engagement of larger number of players, coverage of more events and activities. This approach is quite clear and efficient yet at the early spin. It does have serious effect further on. In case if the problem is complex and multileveled the extensive approach simply identifies the “pain spots”. It is not a remedy, since it deals with the consequences. In order to tackle the problem in principle there is a need to appeal to intensive approach. It is a good source of creative and constructive potential for designing programmes and tools needed to initially solve the problem and identify a set of major risk factors and threats.

 

– What does that mean in the North Caucasus environment?

Even to our surprised the risk factors in the North Caucasus were numerous. Those were wide range and variety of social life traditions in the North Caucasus, ethnic heritage of the basic local nationalities, and particular behavioral stereotypes that cultivated strength and power with the mountain aborigines for centuries. Being straight forward we need to admit that Russian Empire and then Soviet Union didn’t succeed in the main goal to integrate ethnic and religious societies into centralized political system. Though it is a good question whether that was possible, taking into the account the underlying reason of all our national tribulations, namely - notorious Russian federalism. At the moment North Caucasus is going though its most complex period of either governmentalisation or de-governmentalisation.

–Is it possible then in such situation to improve public authorities and public management, modernize legal departments or fill the social gaps with new NGOs? I think that the efficiency of such measures will be similar to curing the effects of the disease removing only the symptoms and leaving the cause untouched.

- You are right. We surely can temporarily diminish currently active conflict prone factors, decrease political ambitions of the local and regional elite by means of manipulation or pressure (depending on the situation!)… but still major problem of the North Caucasus will stay untouched. Per se it is the effect of our virtual federalism, the environment in which most of the subjects of the Russian Federation have territorial claims to each other. Moreover the very principle of self-determination provokes separatist tendencies in the Republics of Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya and other territories. It may be an interesting fact but federalism itself as a state formation doesn’t imply correlation of ethnic and national issues. Most of federal states in the world are based on the territorial ground. The federations that pursued other foundation principles collapsed, those were: Yugoslavia, Checkoslovakia, Soviet Union… (now we see problems in the Russian Federation). There is a god reason that the structure of Federal Okrugs was introduced. It serves territorial approach. Creation of the North Caucasus Federal Okrug and appointment of Mr. Khloponin who already has an experience in merging the state subjects, leads to a thought that the integration method could be applied further in the future for the North Caucasus. But I do have a good reason to suspect local elites in harsh criticism of the idea.

– I need to note that there are more and more complexities in this issue. So what would be the right way to move in order to tackle the North Caucasus issue?

I’d suggest having specific programmes or preventive measures in control of specific risks. Where a particular risk is handled the goal is reached! Our peace building efforts would be much more effective if proper and solid state-political foundation is in place. On the spare of the moment we cannot boast of having any. As a result, up to the current Russia is solving one of the most essential issue of nationalization – overcoming identity crisis. Nation of Russians is lost as a self standing subject for political determination as well as a source for state sovereignty. This problem calls for solution as well as other that were named. Theyneedtobesolvedwithoutdelay.

– What in specifics was done in this area by the staff of your institution?

At the support of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation for a few years already we have been implementing a project “Modernization of the North Caucasus Society: Role of national diasporas, media and legal departments in transformation of the region”. One of its goals is rearrangement of national diasporas’ functions, creation of integrated sites and structures serving intercultural dialogue. If that is reached then the role and influential status of the diasporas in the region will improve and serve harmonization of the national relations better. Those are the shared goals pursued by media and legal state departments.