Russian Information and Educational Project NERV (“Russia’s Unseen Greatness”)
NERV (“Russia’s Unseen Greatness”) is an educational project focusing on Russia’s great scientists, cultural figures and artists who are of non-Russian origin, including Jews and other ethnic groups. The project’s goal is to illustrate that Russia became a great country through the efforts of the many peoples living there. We want to affect the way people view race relations in Russia by making them aware of all the outstanding individuals who are not Russians but who nonetheless dedicated their lives and careers to making the country great. It is important that we act now, because the Russian government and society have realised how dangerous nationalism and xenophobia are in a diverse nation. We have to be proactive in order to keep the hate from spreading further. That is the goal of the NERV project.
The NERV project aims to encourage tolerance in Russian society, support religious and cultural pluralism and fight xenophobia. People around the world admire unique Russian culture and arts which, to a large extent, were created by people with very different ethnic roots, different faiths and different cultural traditions. A wide variety of cultures contributed to Russia’s cultural standing because they interacted in a way created a greater whole. NERV reminds people that plenty of Russia’s heroes were not ethnic Russians. As people begin to realise that their favourite actors and writers and the great artists and musicians that everyone associates with Russia, as well as the scientists who contributed to the country’s power and the military commanders who built the country’s defences, were members of Russia’s many ethnic minorities, they will start to see those groups in a new light. We started the programme by listing the Jews who have made considerable contributions to Russian history. There were several reasons why we started with Jews. First of all, anti-Semitism is considered the most virulent and ideologically elaborated form of xenophobia, and it the simplest and most reliable indicator of the level of xenophobia in society at a given time. Secondly, the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), which is a major supporter of NERV, has the knowledge and resources to organise events as a part of the project.
Reaching Our Goals
The project envisions informational, educational, scientific and other events organised in close coordination with national diasporas and community organisations. Most of the projects will take the form of exhibitions and memorial evenings, research, topical television and radio broadcasts, print and online publications, publication of books, letters and memoirs, and support for museums and house-museums.
The RJC is a co-founder of the NERV project and has already organized a number of events focusing on great individuals such as the physician Lev Landau, film director Roman Karmen, and outstanding contemporaries including writer Lev Kandel and artist Boris Nepomnyaschii.
In parallel to the NERV programme, the RJC has also initiated another project called Tolerance Lessons. The lessons, which were held on January 22-28, 2007 in all schools in Moscow and some schools in the regions, focused on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27). The idea for the lessons was originally voiced by RJC President Viatcheslav Kantor in a speech to the Moscow city government in early 2007.
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the Moscow city government welcomed the RJC’s idea for tolerance lessons and included the concept in their plans to enhance inter-ethnic tolerance in the capital. Specialists from Moscow’s Education Department developed instructional materials for teachers to use in the lessons.
One of the recommended tolerance lessons the Education Department distributed to Moscow schools was a field trip to Russia’s only Holocaust museum at Poklonnaya Gora. The museum was founded by the Russian Jewish Congress and operates under its administration. Museum visitors viewing evidence of the crimes of fascism and the tragedy of the Holocaust are given an idea of the danger posed by xenophobia and nationalism.
This year, International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed beyond Moscow in more than thirty regions of Russia, including Vladimir, where tolerance lessons were held in all of the city’s schools, and Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar Krai, and Tambov, where local education authorities published a special Tolerance Lesson brochure.