Multiethnic harmony needs fostering

By Valeria Bondareva  

“A multiethnic environment is the most important prerequisite to develop real internationalism and multiethnic harmony” - is confident Rizvana Sadykova, the first UN peacekeeper from Kazakhstan. She told that it was internationalism that encouraged a fragile lady from Central Asia to dedicate for bringing peace to armed men in former Yugoslavia

In your interviews you often state that you are an internationalist. Please tell us what influenced the views you hold now?

I was raised in a truly multi-ethnic environment. My mother was a Principal of a Russian-speaking High school I have been attending.  Besides Kazakhs and Russians, there were Ukrainians, Belarusians, Tatars, Germans, Chechens, Jews, Koreans, Kabardians, Balkars and ethnicities in the school. Some children were from former KarLAG prisoners’ families nearby, others from deported families. I can not recall any single case of an ethnic conflict. On the contrary, it was a great experience to explore the world and communicate with children from various cultural backgrounds.  Thanks to our teachers, all these helped to raise tolerance in our society from the very childhood. I am convinced about this.

It should be noted that the understanding of an idea of Internationalism of the Soviet Union was substantially different from the idea of M​​ulticulturalism which is being extensively discussed in Europe. The idea of multiculturalism of the West implies that an ethnic group develops in the framework of its association without involvement of other ethnicities. For example, the spanish-speaking association is intended to deal with Latin American immigrants, the chinese association to the Chinese etc... They cooperate in assisting some social problems, organizing cultural events for the ethnic community. Whereas in the Soviet Union the values ​​of internationalism imply the interpenetration and integration of different cultures in a way that the best customs and traditions of one ethnic group were adopted and enriched by another so that to create something even more enriched. That let us build a foundation for genuine interethnic harmony among people. I am proud that here in Kazakhstan we managed to keep it. The 20th anniversary of the Kazakhstan People’s Assembly proves that once again.

We heard that you and the Council of Generals Association proposed to perpetuate the memory of the Kazakhstan heroes fought in World War II. In particular, there was a suggestion to name the new streets in Astana after Kazakhstan Heroes of the Soviet Union.
Yes, indeed. Thanks to the commitment of the Council of Generals, a great work on the perpetuation of over 500 Heroes was done. I must tell, that my grandmother Zhanbekova Batisha had four brothers, three of whom survived the war. Her husband had to have his leg amputated after a severe injury during the Battle of Kursk. I am also proud to be a member of an extended family a Hero of the Soviet Union Mamutov Hassan. He obtained the high title for battle in crossing the Dnieper river in Belarus in 1944.

Owing to your duty bound you know the principles of keeping interethnic peace. In your opinion, what are the key approaches?

What seems to unify any country or ethnic group is pride for its history, its heroes, cultural heritage and traditions, achievements in science, art, sports and etc..

I am sure that cultural exchange, respect for the history and language ​​of other ethnic groups is the foundation of peace. One of the global problems we regard is religious intolerance. Sudan, where I worked in 2004, is an example. Religious violence there caused the separation of Christian populated South Sudan.

If we want to achieve peace, it is necessary to be familiar with the traditions and language of another and to respect them. Talking about the situation in Ukraine, it is sad to see how the civil conflict has a large influence even on linguistic discrimination. By the way, one of my grandmother’s brothers fought in War with Germans brought wife from Ukraine, I remember her as granny Anna. I hope that Ukraine will overcome the conflicts and won’t let brotherly peoples fight each other anymore.  I often recollect Rasul Gamzatov, one great Soviet writer, who told about a Caucasian tradition by which a woman to stop a fight between the combatants must throw her scarf between them. And men should not ignore this…  I wish I could throw a kerchief that would stop all the wars around the world.

You are the first Kazakh UN peacekeeper. Now let us come back to your humanitarian aid work in Sudan, Darfur and Kosovo, former Yougoslavia. Have you ever celebrated the International Womens’ Day in those countries?

Peacekeeping was a one of the stages of my life that were entrenching the views my parents shared with me. After graduating from Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, I went to Canada, where first time was involved in international projects for former Yougoslavia with Childhope Foundation, later I studied Refugee Law at York University in Toronto. In July 1999 I was called to DPKO in the UN secretariat, where I found that I am first Kazakh ever to serve in peacekeeping.

In fact, peacekeepers in Kosovo came from all over the world, including CIS countries – Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There was a uniting language – Russian that all of the peacekeepers from the former Soviet Union knew. We used to cook our national dishes together…We remember our mother s’ dedication… We were recalling our childhood and thinking about our mothers with warmth gratitude.
It’s curious that the International Women’s Day widely is celebrated in the Eastern Europe. To our surprise, that Day was special in Kosovo even while anything associated with former Yugoslavia was about to abandon and the territory was struggling from postwar outcome.

Being woman and mother, how would you describe a successful modern woman today?

Modern women have more opportunities now. Of course, it is great that young women are eager to get education, learn different languages and explore the world. But it is sad that many young people copy the consumer culture of the western society and are sometimes too self-centered and oriented towards popularity and money. Our people reach with talents, but one should know that real achievements come to those who are hardworking at the first place. But I do not welcome beauty contests among girls. I must state it is much better for children to go to sport or compete in intellectual fields.

I am happy that the modern women of Kazakhstan are ambitious and curious. I believe that every one of her can take at least a little part in building world peace, and that she can inculcate its ideals in her children.

Many of us has a hero, a person we want to be like. Who is that kind of person for you?

My hero is my mother, Tleutay Saukumbekova. My mom and dad had grown up in a village. Being gifted children she was selected to boarding school in Karaganda city and both earned the Gold medal for exceptional academic performance. Now I understand that they were one of the most remarkable people among Kazakhstan intellectuals. My mom was the school Principal for over 30 years. She was and outstanding mother, honest communist and patriot, dedicated teacher. She used to spend most of her time at work, so one of the first words I learned was “capremont”. In Russian it means “overhaul”, the whole summer while children on vacation, my mom was busy with repair and renovation of the school fighting with construction workers so that be ready to new academic year.

My mom was an internationalist through and through. I remember her story on how she hired a new school teacher who was ethnically German. Besides that, he was a former deportee from Volga region. The district Party committee was about to reprimand her for hiring him. But she argued that the most important priority was the quality of education, and besides she choose him because he was the only qualified chemistry teacher in the whole town. That’s how brave she was. I think that teachers’ profession deserves more respect. At present time, their demanding job must be highly appreciated and supported by all means. I believe that most cases of racism and xenophobia could be prevented if society, including schools inculcated relevant moral values in children. This contribution in future generations is contribution in global peace and prosperity.

Editor’s notice: Dr. Rizvana Sadykova, scientist, PhD (biochemistry), and lecturer (Public international law), MA (Diplomatic Academy, Moscow), LLM (Amsterdam University), taught at Academy of Public Administration, Kazakh University of the Humanity and Law in Astana. From 1992 was Head of World University Service in CIS and Switzerland, from 1999 served as Civil Affairs officer in UN Mission in Kosovo, former Yougoslavia, where become first Kazakh UN peacekeeper, in 2004 was Emergency coordinator in Darfur, Sudan. From 2007 to 2010 was Head of English Editorial of Kazakh national information agency “Kazinform”, published more than 120 interviews and commentaries”.

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