From Kalashnikov to Tchaikovsky:

Music of the World in the City of Peace

Izhevsk is the only Russian city who successfully passed through the selection and became a participant of the Intercultural Cities programme.

Izhevsk is traditionally a multicultural city. Straddling the border between Europe and Asia, it is home to Russian, Udmurt, Tatar and some 130 other nationalities. Some groups, such as the Udmurts, Tatars or Mari have lived in this area for centuries and developed traditions of mutual respect and tolerance. Others are newcomers and have yet to adjust to the local cultural milieu. The latter are, mainly, the recent migrants from the Caucasus and the Central Asia.

Izhevsk develops intercultural activities of municipal organizations for culture, public bodies, media and NGOs. Part of its intercultural strategy and special appeal is found in the programme Ethnofuturism Art Trend.

Some outcomes of the participation of Izhevsk in the ICC Pilot Phase

Education

Participation in the ICC programme has influenced the educational activities in the city. A number of projects have been developed aimed at adaptation of the recent migrants’ children in the Izhevsk schools, including a tutorial system for such kids and special training courses in the intercultural issues for the school teachers. In some schools new courses focused on the intercultural issues were added to the curriculum. New policy guidelines for teaching foreign languages with the idea to provide possibilities for learning the minorities’ languages have been developed. There are also plans to create an open educational establishment for the elderly migrants.

Culture

But the majority of projects developed in the framework of ICC programme belong to the cultural field. At first, the programme was focused on the celebration of the traditional ethnic holidays, such as the Udmurt Gerber or the Tatar Sabantuy, thus showcasing these cultures for the multicultural audiences. It has soon become clear, though, that the cultures should be displayed not only in the form of traditional festivities but also in their connection to everyday life and, most importantly, to the contemporary urban culture.

A number of ‘ethno-futuristic’ projects in the fields of music, literature, fashion and visual arts based on the mixture of traditional and contemporary art and media have been developed. An intercultural festival ‘The Beatles: Chapter Two’ where various bands interpreted The Beatles’ songs in translation to the local languages has become one of the most popular events in the city. In the framework of the Izhevsk Art Assembly 2010, an annual visual arts festival, ‘The Gates’ project was developed: 30 artists installed in the city various traditional gates, each serving as a symbolic invitation to the public to enter a particular culture. A Centre for information and legal support of recent migrants has just opened in one of the Izhevsk libraries.

Governance

Participation in the ICC programme has deeply influenced the city policies. By the end of the third year, it has become a common perception that Izhevsk, as a city, follows the intercultural path. The Mayor has declared intercultural agenda one of the priorities and the City Administration created an efficient system of governance for the programme.

An ICC Organising Committee that is supervised by the Mayor and includes representatives of the City Government, Government of the Udmurt Republic and the local branch of the Russian Federal Migration Service has been established. Through this arrangement, an interdepartmental approach to and multi-source funding for the programme has been provided. Also an interdisciplinary ICC Work Group has been created, which consists of five sub-groups focusing their activities in the following areas: education, communication, city planning, culture and social services. Members of the Work Group are engaged in developing intercultural projects in the five priority areas but they are also trying to raise awareness of intercultural issues in the city community and mainstream the intercultural agenda.

The Executive Directorate of the programme has been formed in the House of Peoples’ Friendship, which had opened in Izhevsk in 2008, when the city joined the ICC programme. This institution has become a natural partner of the programme. On the other hand, the intercultural approach has helped structuring the activities of the House of Friendship.

A real breakthrough in the development of the programme has been the establishment of a grant scheme whereby various intercultural projects can now compete for funding. The scheme was first implemented in 2009 and five projects received support. The priority was given to the projects aimed at development of intercultural spaces, stimulating intercultural dialogue and addressed to the young generation. In 2010, the competition has been announced again, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue in the future. This is an important instrument providing openness to the ICC programme, as any consistent intercultural initiative has chances to be incorporated in the programme through the grant scheme.

Since the start of the programme, two brainstorming seminars on the development of intercultural dialogue took place in Izhevsk. Representatives of the city took part in six international meetings organised by the ICC programme. Now they are planning to host such a meeting in Izhevsk. Other plans include research aimed at the in-depth investigation of the intercultural issues in the city.

New Identity

It feels like Izhevsk has recognized itself as an intercultural city and acquired a taste for intercultural philosophy. Participation in the ICC programme has certainly added a new, and a more humane, dimension to the city identity and image, which were strictly focused on its role of industrial centre and producer of the Kalashnikov sub-machine guns before.

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21.06.2013
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