Wiping stereotypes in the Barents region
20 years of Barents cooperation has helped eliminating stereotypes and prejudices, but more work is needed to make the changes irreversible. The conference “Breaking Stereotypes in the Barents Region” that opened in Arkhangelsk yesterday marks the beginning for a new program for better cross-cultural communication
Myths, prejudices and stereotypes always exist in the relations between nations and countries. They are normally based on bad or misrepresented knowledge about other people divided by distances, cultural peculiarities and national borders. But sometimes the stereotypes about other nations are specially supported by the authorities and politicians.
Russia, a huge multinational and multicultural country spaced from Europe by thousands kilometers was an inexhaustible source for such distorted views and fantastic myths. The 70-years period of Soviet power only strengthened the situation, with Europeans believing that brown bears freely were walking along the snowbound streets of the Russian cities. The Soviet authorities also actively supported the sustainable illusions about the cruel capitalist’s reality among common people in the USSR. Stereotypes often hamper the economic and cultural ties between countries distorting the true and creating artificial reality.
The Barents Euro-Arctic Region being established soon after the crash of the “iron curtain” became an important mechanism for elimination of stereotypes and prejudices in the North of Europe. Its basic philosophy of direct and close people-to-people relations makes conditions for free communication and cooperation across the borders. For nearly 20 years of Barents cooperation a lot of people got a possibility to get a true picture of life and culture, political, social and educational systems of neighboring countries. But still there is an amount of work to do in order to make these changes irreversible.
The new international project that has been launched this week in Arkhangelsk is going to make another important step in this direction. The conference “Breaking Stereotypes in the Barents Region” that started yesterday in the Northern Arctic Federal University became a meeting place for experts in cross-cultural communication from all BEAR countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. During three days the conference participants are going to discuss issues important for better communication and understanding between the Barents nations.
The conference was opened with bright lecture by Professor Ingvild Broch, former Research Director at the University of Tromsø and one of the key persons among those who made the first steps in the university cross-border cooperation 20 years ago. The headline of the lecture was “Russian and Norwegians: Do we Understand Each Other?”. This was actually an extract of a survey being made by Ingvild Broch and her colleague Alexander Krylov describing peculiarities of two neighboring nations and their views on each other.The conference program includes a number of seminars devoted to international trends in cross-cultural communication, peculiarities of literary translation from one language to another, practical aspects of learning foreign languages and interpretation. The conference is organized by the Institute of Philology and Cross-Cultural Communication of NARFU with financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Barents Secretariat and the General Consulate of Norway in Murmansk. The organizers are going to continue their activity in this direction in the future by building new networks between experts and researchers in this field, arranging seminars and open lectures, developing new projects of studying the Nordic languages.