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Experts Puzzled by UNESCO Tolerance Prize for City

Published: October 27, 2009 (Issue # 1521)


The citys human rights community had a mixed reaction to the news that St. Petersburg has been awarded the UNESCO Tolerance Prize for what the United Nations cultural wing regards as a major achievement in promoting tolerance.

The UNESCO decision came as an even bigger surprise than the news about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, said Alexander Vinnikov, St. Petersburg coordinator of the Russia Without Racism movement. Neither winners have done anything to deserve the prize, which means the awards were given for political reasons, unfortunately.

Koichiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, said the St. Petersburg government program on tolerance had been honored for its constructive efforts to inculcate mutual respect and tolerance in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society and to prevent and eradicate all forms of discrimination.

St. Petersburg was officially nominated for the prize by Russias Foreign Affairs Ministry. The most visible evidence of the government program has been the distribution on the St. Petersburg metro of flyers with quotations on the theme of tolerance from Russias greatest writers and cultural luminaries.

UNESCOs decision has left people across the political spectrum perplexed. Liberals and nationalists alike spoke about the award with surprise bordering on astonishment.

I have not noticed any breakthrough in terms of tolerance, Vinnikov said. On the contrary, the level of xenophobia in the city remains exceptionally high, which is most alarming.

Human rights advocates say that many people in government agencies across Russia are xenophobic in various ways and manifest their xenophobia in the course of their official duties. For example, the Police University in St. Petersburg approved and adopted an explicitly anti-semitic textbook of contemporary Russian history. The textbook was banned from classrooms after a high-profile scandal necessitating intervention by President Dmitry Medvedev.

In March this year, the 15-day Xenophobii.NET (No to Xenophobia) campaign ended in arrests when viewers leaving a screening at Rodina film theater in the center of St. Petersburg were dispersed by the police. A group of film-goers, mostly anarchists and members of the antifascist movement, were heading to a metro station after watching the film when the police attacked the group, detained around 20 of them and drove them to a police station, while the rest managed to escape.

In an interview with the BaltInfo news agency, Andrei Kuznetsov, a public relations coordinator for the St. Petersburg branch of the ultra right wing Movement Against Illegal Migration (DPNI), said UNESCOs experts had made a superficial judgment.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Nov. 20


SPIBAs Legislation and Lobbying Committee is holding a round table discussion on the topic of Decriminalization of Business and What is Important to Know? The event will welcome lawyers from some of the citys most prominent firms and discuss criminal defense practices, usage of the law in business regulations and how to lower the legal risks. Register by Nov. 19 for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Friday, Nov. 21


Learn more about Russian labor laws at Labor Law Seminar 2014 at the Courtyard by Marriott St. Petersburg Center West Pushkin Hotel this morning at 166 Kanala Griboyedova. Sponsored by Baker and McKenzie and the Pepeliaev Group, the event begins at 9 a.m. and will discuss amendments to existing laws, employment terms, risks of termination and other pressing matters.


Educate yourself about educational careers at Education and Career XXI November 2014, a two-day fair hosted at Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island that welcomes students and educators alike to develop relationships between scholarly institutions and learn more about the educational market in Russia and abroad.



Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the clubs website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the clubs merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at todays Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Womens Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the citys international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain. The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their Industrial St. Petersburg Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the Business With China forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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