Since spring 2005 the International Institute of Asian Studies hosts the project-in-progress "Interethnic Relations in Siberia".
Siberia is a complex social area with a range of indigenous and non-indigenous ethnic groups. Since 1991, the ethnic compilation of the population is changing quickly, ethnic consciousness is increasing, and the variety and intensity of relationships between ethnic groups is growing. This multi-faceted situation at the same time urges for solutions and offers possibilities, not only to consciously establish new relationships between different ethnic groups, but also to create a trustworthy and basic stance from which ethnicity and interethnic relations can be approached. However, there is a lack of conceptual and theoretical frameworks with regard to interethnic relations. Especially in the new departments of Social Anthropology in Siberia there is a widely felt need to new programmes in the field of theory and methodology.
At this moment, two activities have been successfully submitted: in December 2005 a Tempus Tacis Application for a Master Programme "Interethnic Relations in Siberia" (European Commission, registration number JEP 26185_2005) and in April 2006 an Application for an UNESCO Unitwin Chair "Interethnic Relations in Siberia" (UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France). The Master Programme and the UNESCO Chair will be implemented at Tomsk State University. For IIAS both programmes will be carried out by Rieke Leenders, Liesbet Nyssen, and Thomas Voorter, in cooperation with members of Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Siberian Studies Centre, in Halle an der Saale, Germany, coordinated by Dr. J. Otto Habeck (see: http://www.eth.mpg.de/dynamic-index.html?http://www.eth.mpg.de/research/ssc/.
In the near future other activities will be added.
Under the Chair and in the related Master Programme "Interethnic Relations in Siberia" the relationship between indigenous as well as early and later migrant groups will be studied. The focus of research will be in the field of work as well as in the field of arts. Professional groups, institutes, enterprises, material culture, and performing arts will be studied. Examples of professional groups might be local industrialists like oilmen and lumber sellers, Chinese and Central Asian small traders, Armenian shoe repairmen, and Central Asian construction workers. In the field of material culture, topics might include woodcarving and beadwork for tourists, and comparisons between Russian, German, and Khakas house building, interiors and gardens. In the field of the performing arts, interethnic relations might be studied in local pop music making, singing at birthday parties, music and dance competitions, and national theatres. The goal of the project is to contribute to the development of an innovative master degree in Social Anthropology in Russia. The wider long-term objective is to strengthen universities' competence to use social anthropological theories and empirical research methods, taking the Russian ethnographical literature as a starting point. On a societal level the project aims to contribute to the development of social cohesion and civil society in the Russian Federation in general, and in the Siberian regions in particular.
In September-October 2005, as a preparation for the whole project, Rieke Leenders and Liesbet Nyssen visited the State Universities of Tomsk and Abakan, financed by the Tempus Tacis Programme of the European Commission. They piloted two innovative courses for the new Master: "Doing Social Anthropological Research on Interethnic Relations in Western Siberia" and "Music as intercultural communication", respectively. After consulting the staffs of both universities, it was decided to start developing a Master Programme "Interethnic Relations in Siberia" at Tomsk State University first, and a related Master Programme adapted to the situation in Khakassia, at Khakassia State University in 2007.
In September 2006, Dr. Rieke Leenders, with 10 years of experience in Tempus Tacis Projects, is invited to participate as an expert in the Delegation that will represent the Dutch Higher Education in the Tempus Seminar on European-Russian mobility in Helsinki, Finland.