European Children's Trust report: Minorities in Eastern Europe & fSU

From: MINELRES moderator <>
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 18:44:43 +0200 (EET)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: European Children's Trust report: Minorities in Eastern Europe & fSU

From: MINELRES moderator <>

Original sender: Paul Dimmick <>

European Children's Trust report: Minorities in Eastern
Europe & fSU

For you information

On 19th December the European Children's Trust will be publishing an
extensive report on the Minorities of Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union, entitled Defying Prejudice, Advancing Equality, which
questions the general preconceptions surrounding the rise of
nationalism and the treatment of minority groups in the former
communist states since the collapse of the old system.
If you would like to know more about the report or discuss it with the
author, Dr Richard Carter, please contact the Press Officer Paul
Dimmick at the address below.

Please find enclose a press release, hard facts sheet, executive
summary and the report itself.

With regards

Paul Dimmick

Paul Dimmick
PR & Press Officer
European Children's Trust
4 Bath Place
Rivington Street
Tel 0207 749 3070
Fax 0207 749 2463
Email -

>From the moderator: The full text of the report (785 Kb in .doc file)
can be received from Paul Dimmick of from the MINELRES moderator by


Defying Prejudice, Advancing Equality

Wednesday, December 19th 2001; The European Children's Trust launches
a report that looks at discrimination faced by minorities in Europe's
former communist bloc. The report, entitled 'Defying Prejudice,
Advancing Equality: Minorities in central and eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union', by Dr Richard Carter builds on the influential
findings of his previous report, The Silent Crisis, released in
November 2000.

'Defying Prejudice, Advancing Equality' explores the roots of
prejudice and discrimination.  Dr Carter  argues that poverty and the
lack of civil society, rather than the myth of age old ethnic hatreds,
are the main causes of prejudice and discrimination.  

Of the 70 million people of ethnic minority background across the
region, 20 million are children.  Many of these children are suffering
the effects of discrimination. As bad as conditions are for all people
in the region, conditions for minority groups are even worse - and
children are the most affected of all. 

"The most severe and noticeable effects on children are their
over-representation in state residential care, and their poor or
non-existent access to good quality education - or frequently to any

"their living conditions and prospects are a disgrace to civilised
(Carter 2001).

This situation could prove disastrous for the future of the region. 
As we have seen over the past summer in the UK, marginalisation of
minority groups can often lead to tension and social unrest. 

In light of the findings of the report, The European Children's Trust
is calling on governments and organisations working in the region to
take a greater account of the plight of children from minority

Notes to Editors

Embargoed till 19th December 2001

To receive a copy of the report contact Paul Dimmick at the European
Children's Trust, 4 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DR. 
Tel in office hours, 0207 749 3070, at any other time 07855 425595,
Fax 0207 749 2463 or email at 

Dr. Richard Carter will be available for interviews on December 17th
and 18th, to discuss any aspects of the report.

The European Children's Trust is a registered charity currently
working in nine countries throughout Central and South Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union (Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kosova,
Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Ukraine). Our projects offer
community and family support for the most vulnerable children in the
region.  We specialise in helping to reform childcare systems in the
wake of the collapse of the communist states.  By working in
partnership with local governments and other like-minded organisations
we are able to establish and develop alternative systems of childcare. 



In this report we attempt to gain an understanding of the nature of
discrimination against minorities in central and eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union. In so doing, we seek to demystify some of the
most prevalent suppositions about minorities, in particular the view
that the last decade has seen the inevitable re-emergence of ancient
ethnic hatreds. We then set out to suggest ways in which prejudice and
discrimination can be countered.

Part 1 of the report tries to develop an understanding of nationalism
by examining the history of this phenomenon. We discuss the different
theories of nationalism and, in particular, the debate between
perennialism, which argues that peoples' ethnic identity has always
existed, and the modernist school of thought, which argues that
nationalism and ethnic identity are wholly recent constructs. We
conclude that the latter arguments are the more convincing.

The discussion then turns to central and eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union; we reject the argument that communism acted as a
straightjacket on nationalism in the region and that, in consequence,
when the old system collapsed, nationalist conflict was inevitable. We
also reject the special case of this argument, which says that the
rise of nationalism caused the collapse of communism. Instead, we
argue that the break-up of the communist system left the
newly-independent states with no history or tradition of democratic
rule or civil society. The absence of any effective element of civil
society meant that there was no focus for identity but nationality,
which was the one thing that people were able to hang on to in a new
and uncertain world. Furthermore, the conflicts over the sharing and
distribution of scarce resources exacerbated the problems of the new
countries, and these conflicts took on an ethnic colouring. Thus
although it appeared to be the case that the resulting conflicts were
about ethnicity, in reality they were not.

There is also concern in much of the region, notably in southern
Russia and in Central Asia, about attacks on religious freedom. There
is particular concern in the current climate that actions against
Muslims are being taken under cover of the 'war against terrorism,'
and that current events are being exploited by the more authoritarian
governments in the region to reinforce their own positions.

Part 2 examines the nature of discrimination in central and eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union now. We estimate that there are at
least seventy million people in minority groups in the region, of whom
some twenty million are children. Not all of these minorities are
discriminated against, but the reality for most of them is that
prejudice and its companion, discrimination, are cruelly prevalent
throughout the region. This affects children with particular force,
and we review the evidence for this. The most severe and noticeable
effects on children are their over-representation in state residential
care (the 'orphanages'), and their poor or non-existent access to good
quality education - or frequently to any education at all. These
problems affect the Roma population in particular, and their living
conditions and prospects are a disgrace to civilised values.

Part 3 reviews, country by country, the situation of minorities now in
central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, discussing
their numbers and outlining the main threats that they face from the
majority populations. The aim of this, the longest part of the report,
is to act as a resource for others who are already working, or who
plan to work in the region. In this part we draw on as much of the
published material - of which there is an enormous amount - as we have
been able to assemble.

Finally, Part 4 discusses the 'cycle of disadvantage' that represents
the main problem that minorities have to cope with as an everyday part
of their lives. In this cycle, poor education leads to poor employment
prospects, which in turn lead to poverty, poor living conditions and
social exclusion. This, of course, results again in poor education, so
that the cycle is closed. The problem is worsened by the feeling of
hopelessness that the cycle of disadvantage engenders, and the whole
sequence is fed by the prejudice and discrimination of the majority.

We go on in this final part to examine ways in which the cycle of
disadvantage can be broken; this section, the most important in the
report, contains our recommendations. Drawing on our own and others'
experience of working in the region, we discuss a number of projects
and approaches. Some are successful and some less so, and we try to
use the lessons which can be drawn from these projects to set out some
more general conclusions about how to tackle the evil of prejudice. We
include a number of pointers to good practice which, we believe, can
be used for the future. These include the following: 

1. Support from the outside for minority groups is vital. Many of the
minority communities are not only desperately poor, but they have
temporarily mislaid many of the skills and abilities that they need in
order to improve their condition. This is what the external world can
offer them. Money can help, but technical and practical advice are
frequently of much more long-term benefit.

2. Next, although money and technical support from the outside world
are important, no project will succeed unless it is based on the
desire of the community itself for change. The will to change must
come from within, it cannot be imposed from the outside.

3. Any successful project must be based on the genuine needs of the
community, determined by the people of the community themselves.
Outside organisations can provide invaluable help, but they should not
try to impose their own ideas about what will work and what won't. 

4. Anyone working with minority groups must be prepared to experience
racism or other prejudiced attitudes on the part of the majority
community and, crucially, to be ready to challenge these attitudes.
They must also be prepared to deal with these attitudes in project
partners, since prejudice is deeply embedded in the societies where we

5. Project workers need to be alert to the possibility that positive
discrimination will need to be exercised. This will inevitably cause
difficulties on occasion: "Why are you bothering to help those Roma
when there are so many poor Romanians?" one Roma community leader is
often asked. But, as in the previous point, project workers must be
prepared to challenge these kinds of views.

6. A further central point is the need to be prepared, to have
formulated the responses needed to counter the kinds of arguments that
are heard in the previous two points.

7. Project staff must be ready to confront the possibility of their
own prejudices. Again, they are a part of the society that they are
working in, and it is difficult to escape the effects of the
conditioning that we have all received.

8. Finally, all project staff must be trained to treat prejudice and
discrimination against minority groups not as an add-on to their
'real' work but as a central part of it. Mainstreaming action on
prejudice in this way will help to ensure that it is always taken
seriously and tackled appropriately.

These steps, if implemented carefully, can help to begin the process
of defying prejudice and advancing equality for all in the societies
of the region, whether minority or majority.

MINELRES - a forum for discussion on minorities in Central&Eastern

List archive: