Community Leaders of Russia May Form Inter-Communal Association

Leaders of some of Russia's ethnic communities propose forming an inter-communal association. They voiced the proposal Thursday as they gathered in Moscow for a roundtable discussion on the role of Russia's ethnic organizations in the consolidation of civil society and the state. Kremlin officials, MPs, and clerics representing various faiths and denominations also took part in the discussion.

The idea behind the association is for ethnic communities to join their resources and capabilities in the struggle against extremism and to provide reciprocal aid in collaboration with government agencies.

Ella Pamfilova, chairwoman of the presidential commission for human rights, welcomes the proposal. She believes that integration is necessary for maintaining inter-ethnic and inter-denominational harmony. In her opinion, an inter-communal association could, among other things, advise the government on ethnic policies. She also advocates the reinstatement of a separate government body for ethnic affairs.

Artur Chilingarov, Vice Speaker of the State Duma (parliament's lower house), member of the political council of the United Russia party, hails the proposal, too. Inter-ethnic relations are a major factor in the country's social climate, he argues. According to Chilingarov, centrist factions of the State Duma may well come out with the initiative to reinstate the ministry for ethnic affairs. That ministry could play a central role in developing the Russian government's ethnic policies, he says.

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