Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 48

Russia’s minister for nationalities, Vyacheslav Mikhailov, has told a Council of Europe delegation that Moscow plans soon to set up an "assembly of the peoples of Russia," in which Russia’s 176 officially-recognized ethnic groups will be represented. Mikhailov was meeting in Moscow last week with Council of Europe secretary general Daniel Tarschys, who expressed "particular concern" over the situation of Russia’s national minorities. (2×2 TV, Moscow, March 7) Mikhailov was clearly referring to the consultative assemblies set up in recent years in Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan. The experience of these countries shows that, though such assemblies can not resolve all the problems between the state and the national minorities living in it, they can serve as useful channels for dialogue between those groups and the central authorities.

In Estonia, for example, President Lennart Meri set up a Presidential Roundtable of non-citizens and ethnic minorities that met for the first time in July 1993 and has held regular meetings since them. It is a consultative body that includes state officials, political parties, and representatives of the ethnic Russian and other minority communities, and it has come forward with numerous problem-solving proposals during times of tension. President Askar Akaev set up the Assembly of the People of Kyrgyzstan in 1994, to encourage dialogue between the central Kyrgyz authorities and the country’s ethnic minorities. It acts an umbrella organization for the republic’s 28 organizations representing national minorities. In March 1995, President Nursultan Nazarbaev set up the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakstan at a time when Kazakstan had no functioning parliament. Opposition leaders and representatives of the Russian community complained that they were not included in the new body.

Yeltsin and Lukashenko on a Treadmill.