Minorities in Caucasus: Dialogue and education are essential for a stable future

- Press releases

Education is a cornerstone in preserving the linguistic identity of minorities, while dialogue is essential for a stable future: these were some of the conclusions of the FUEN seminar Minorities in Caucasus. The representatives of Germans in Georgia, Azeris in Georgia, Ahıska Turks in Russia, Ahıska Turks in Azerbaijan and Talysh in Azerbaijan took part in the seminar held last week from 13.-15.12. in Flensburg, Germany.

Education, cultural and language preservation are the basics for the existence of minorities, as only educated people can progress in their lives – said FUEN Vice President Olga Martens in her opening remarks of the first workshop of the event. Maya Astvatsaturova presented the educational system and current tendencies in Caucasus. She is a professor at the North- Caucasus Federal University in Pyatigorks, in Stavropol region, the flagship university of the newly created North Caucasus Federal District, where students can study the cultures and state languages of the North Caucasian peoples. The District has a special educational system, as there are also many minorities that do not belong to the autochthonous North Caucasian peoples: Polish, Bulgarians, Armenians, Roma, Meskhetian Turks and many others, and language preservation is a much bigger challenge for them.

Volkert Faltings, who has been teaching Frisian for 42 years on the island of Föhr, presented the challenges one of the smallest languages of Europe faces. The Frisian language, spoken by 15,000 people in Germany and the Netherlands has different dialects and language varieties. After the “golden years” of Frisian teaching between 1920-1933, the language is a normal subject at the Föhr high school only since 2008, but even if the system faces some obstacles, it is still a good example for the revitalisation of a small language – a challenge many small language groups face in the Caucasus.

In the second workshop of the event, hosted by FUEN Vice President Halit Halip Oglu, Bella Shakmirza presented the summer camp she organised this year for children in Karachay-Circassia, Northern Caucasus. The 11-day project, which won the Google competition „Beyond Capitals“ as the best local study initiative in Russia, involved 87 children of different ethnicities from 5 villages. The program consisted of classes on the Noghay culture, English, art, theater, music and sports, with additional debates, games and meeting young leaders. The summer camp had a budget of 2300 euro and it was funded entirely from fundraising. For next year they are already planning a bigger camp for 200 children.

Tamari Bulia presented the activities of the European Centre for Minority Issues in Georgia. The 20-year old Flensburg-based organisation focuses on research, analysis, work with policy makers, researchers, academia and NGOs. They had a regional office in Georgia between 2003-2013, facilitating minority-majority dialogue, doing research and policy oriented activities. She also shared some good news with the audience, as the ECMI is reopening its doors in Georgia in 2018 in collaboration with a local NGO. They will focus on political participation and representation, education, minority media and gender aspects.

The final workshop of the seminar, hosted by FUEN Vice President Gösta Toft focused on the role of minorities as bridge builders. FUEN Honorary President Hans Heinrich Hansen presented the life experiences from the German-Danish border region, where the situation now looks ideal, but it has not always been the case. But how did the situation of minorities change from living in a ghetto to being integrated? Dialogue at eye level needs the willingness of the majority and a healthy amount of self- confidence from the minorities, Mr. Heinrich said, adding that political emancipation is a requirement for the preservation of language, culture and education. His conclusion was that in cross-border relationships minorities can function well as bridge builders due to their intercultural competences.

Anita McKinna of the ECMI talked about the importance of inter-community dialogue in post-conflict societies. Fear of assimilation leads to self-exclusion through the establishment of parallel systems. In immediate post-conflict situations security and institution-building tends to be seen as more important than reconciliation and dialogue – she explained the process of voluntary segregation. Dialogue can be a stabilizing factor between majorities and minorities in such situations, increasing knowledge and experiences, which strengthens democracy. Dialogue facilitates conflict prevention and reconciliation, said Anita McKinna, who also presented efficient models and activities to facilitate the dialogue.

In his closing remarks the President of the FUEN, Loránt Vincze stated that dialogue is possible in conflicts that are frozen, and dialogue can prevent further conflicts. It is clear that there is not one good role model for everybody, no good solution for all communities at once, but every group needs personalized solutions, as local realities are completely different, he added.

“Linguistic identity is very important and for that educational frameworks are necessary. There are many models, but each of them has one goal: the preservation of language to next generations. We also need to acknowledge that our communities are changing to new formats, to new state models. The minorities need to accept changes, and adapt to them in order to become winners and not losers is this process” – said the President of the FUEN.

The participants agreed that the FUEN’s initiative must be continued and expanded, and also discussed the possibility of organising a similar event in the Caucasus in future.


* The project was supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and funded by the Federal Republic of Germany.




Key Topics

  • Political Participation
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Solidarity with the Roma
  • European Citizens' Initiative
  • European Network
  • Forum of the European Minorities / House of Minorities


More photos at Flickr