MP in the Macedonian Parliament (SDSM), and Head of the Parliamentary Group to the Council of Europe
Diaspora cultures exist throughout the world. The diffusion of cultures has contributed to the existence of a number of diaspora communities, which seek to safeguard and consolidate active links with their country of origin – their ‘home land’ – whilst preserving their status within their current country of reception. This is a phenomenon that involves European cultures, but also cultures from across the globe.
The definition of the term ‘diaspora culture’ remains the subject of widespread debate and analysis. The term originated with the ancient Greeks, who used it to refer to their migration and colonization (dispersion, scattering). Some nations and groups were dispersed to a greater extent, for example; Roma from India to Russia and all over Europe; Vlachs all over Europe, mostly in Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Albania and Romania; Jews all over Europe and the USA since the medieval ages; Macedonians in Canada, Australia, USA, Europe, South America and in all the neighboring countries of the Balkans in several waves from the end of the 19th century to the present day; Albanians in Europe and the USA mostly in the second half of the 20th century; Turks in Europe, mostly in the second half of the 20th century; Serbs in the USA in several waves but mostly during the 20th century and especially in the 1990s; Croatians in the USA and South America since the end of the 19th and 20th century; Chinese in the USA since the19th century; Bulgarians in the USA and South America since the beginning of the 20th century until the 1990’s; Armenians dispersed in the neighbouring region and in the USA and Europe, mostly in the beginning of the 20th century.
To these historically established diasporas, can be added more recent or temporary diasporas. The association “Europeans throughout the world” identifies three categories:
immigrants who are in the process of being integrated (or descendents of such immigrants);
expatriates on a professional or long-term basis who may envisage, even theoretically, returning to their country,
individuals who live abroad for family or other reasons, while keeping their original nationality.
The size of diaspora communities throughout the world from Council of Europe countries is very considerable. An indication is given by “European throughout the world” which has estimated 35 million Europeans world wide, with 6 million living in another EU country (relating to the EU of 15 member countries).
The aim of the report is to raise awareness of the global situation surrounding diaspora cultures, and to table recommendations for the future treatment and relationship between the various cultural components of the ‘diaspora network’: the diaspora culture, the diaspora communities. the country of origin (real or perceived) and the countries of settlement.
The majority of the member states of the Council of Europe have experience of diaspora cultures, whether as a country of origin, or as a country of settlement. Therefore, the number of potential diaspora cultures covered by this report is too great for each to be examined in detail.
Where is “home”?
The trend of nation-state building, and previously the existence of city-states, and the effects of colonialism can affect the status and ‘ownership’ of the territory that is traditionally perceived by a diaspora community to be “home”. Boundary changes, for example, can mean that the area in which the ancestors of a diaspora culture once lived is now under the sovereignty of another state.
Moreover, the transition of diaspora communities to second, third and fourth generation appears to dilute the notion of a ”diaspora culture”. Inter-marriage between cultures, successful integration into the prevailing society, and the dissolution of sentiments of eventual return provoke an erosion of the diaspora sentiment. The basis of “diaspora” attachment ceases to be relevant in many such cases. This is identifiable in many examples, notably in the Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Macedonian and Armenian diasporas. The question of a perceived ‘home’ land is not therefore absolutely clear.
Roles of ‘home’ and ‘host’ countries within diaspora “networks”
The relationship between country of origin, country of settlement and diaspora culture varies tremendously between each diaspora “network”. It is, however, possible to observe a series of similarities that are shared by more than one diaspora, in the sense of duties, rights and freedoms on the part of each of the components of the diaspora network.
Nevertheless, it can be argued that actual provision for diaspora cultures, by both “home” and ”host” lands and regardless of any judicial provision, is inadequate in many instances. In addition, wide-ranging divergences exist between the treatment of different diaspora cultures by their respective ”home” and ”host” lands. Reasons for this situation include the indifference of the state authorities, the indifference of the diaspora community themselves, tensions within bilateral and multilateral relations, and contingent causes such as domestic crises. A potential role for the Council of Europe could be to ensure the preservation of a level of parity and a fundamental provision of status for diaspora communities, with regards the rights, freedoms and obligations of these cultures.
According to the recommendations of the Venice Commission in their report on preferential treatment of national minorities by their countries of origin, whilst the countries of origin of diaspora cultures should play a limited role in the preservation and treatment of diaspora communities, such countries should play active roles in the ‘protection’ and “preservation” of the culture of the diaspora group. Schemes of “cultural protection” vary within the member states of the Council of Europe, but their existence remains broad. On the one hand, one can observe the existence of public cultural institutes in France, Spain, Italy, Macedonia which seek to consolidate diaspora cultural ties. On the other hand, Portugal uses a system of voluntary and private sector cultural organisations to advance its cultural ambitions. However, notions of scepticism and concern also remain, to the extent that countries of settlement feel that countries of origin have the potential to use the excuse of a ‘necessary role’ in cultural affairs in order to adopt a more interventionalist stance in the treatment of the diaspora, and ultimately in the government of the country of settlement itself.
Countries of origin seek to influence the culture of diaspora communities through a series of active mobilisations and programmes designed at reducing the influence of the prevailing culture of the ‘host’ land upon the culture of the diaspora group. In addition, the majority of the ‘home’ states seek to maximise the benefits and resources for “home” states, of the intellectual and cultural prowess of diaspora groups.
An important part of the culture and education of the dispersed nations and groups is the tradition in music, customs, books, film, etc. This includes the influence of the domestic population on the immigrants and vice versa; contacts with home land; petrified customs and traditions that lead to conflict with the community or even an isolation of the groups in the host country (different religious affiliations, different levels of education and differences in accepting the benefits of the more developed community – for example emancipation of women) petrified language, not spoken in the communities of origin.
Several diaspora cultures maintain strong spiritual ties with countries of origin. The Jewish diaspora, for example, holds a strong regard for their respective countries of origin as a spiritual centre that seeks to promote and develop a cultural elite, to be subsequently diffused among the diaspora communities outside of the ‘home’ territory. Many diaspora cultures value the educational provision of countries of origin, in conjunction, or in opposition to the provision for education in countries of settlement. For example, the French diaspora communities’ benefit from a well- established network of educational and intellectual exchange, and Russian diaspora communities rely on their administration of origin to make adequate provision for ‘national’ educational infrastructure. Furthermore, Portuguese diaspora cultures enjoy substantial rights to various forms of education within the Portuguese educational system.
Cultural and educational policies of countries of settlement broadly encourage the integration (and in some cases assimilation) of diaspora cultures into the dominant culture, in order to facilitate cultural and intellectual interaction. Countries of settlement also seek to develop and harness the intellectual and cultural prowess of diaspora groups to maximise national expertise and resources. It is, however, possible to distinguish between two broad styles of treatment in relation to diaspora cultures, assimilationalist or integrationalist.
Assimilationalist policies range from the restrictive control of national language education within the ‘host’ society, through logistical constraints, to a broader, voluntary suppression of cultural elites within the public domain. It is possible to detect a restriction of the use of national languages, such as that of Russian used by the Russian diaspora, within the education system and to a wider extent in certain other situations, in Estonia. Finnish policy towards its Kurdish diaspora population can also be labelled as ‘assimilationalist’, as, according to observers, it encourages the restriction of cultural elites and initiatives. Assimilationalist policies hinder the natural growth, development and preservation of diaspora cultures and communities, which is in contravention to international and European convention.
The peoples that lacked their own state, such as the Roma, Vlachs, and in the past the Jews, Armenians and Macedonians emigrated comparatively more than others all over the world. For example in the Republic of Macedonia there are approximately 1,5 million Macedonians, while in the Diaspora there are almost double. The Macedonians emigrated to the USA and Canada at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The lack of their own country caused an inclination towards Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian communities and churches where the common denominator was Orthodoxy.
Examples can be found where the diaspora communities themselves take the initiative in cultural and educative interactions, often choosing to remain independent, or to attempt to dominate the agenda of both ‘host’ and ‘home’ lands, against the hegemony of the prevailing cultures already in existence. Some diaspora cultures view themselves as cultural ‘intermediaries’ between two substantially divergent sets of ethos, for example, in the cases of the Jewish and the Armenian diasporas. Some diaspora cultures attempt to assert their own culture upon the cultures of the countries of origin and countries of settlement. Such examples include once again the Jewish and Armenian diasporas, but also the Macedonian diaspora in Albania and Bulgaria, which attempt to maximise multicultural policies within their countries of residence.
Criticisms of the cultural practices of both countries of origin and countries of settlement towards diaspora cultures, by diaspora communities themselves, seek to preserve their own, unique, culture from distortion and mutation. This is partially because many diaspora cultures, again using the examples of the Jewish and the Armenian diasporas, experience ‘reverse culture shock’ when they interact with cultures of their country of origin, as events and circumstances surrounding the country of origin have dictated mutations of their culture. In conjunction, many diaspora cultures experience ‘culture shock’ when attempting to interact with cultures and customs of countries of settlement, for example the Islamic culture, which exists continuously under a cloud of confusion and accusation of ‘fundamentalism’ in many countries of settlement.
Another form of independence on the part of diaspora cultures is the attempt to ‘self-exclude’ the diaspora community from the prevailing society or societies. A reliance on religion, for example the Jewish, Islamic or Armenian faith, and a reliance on networks of ‘solidarity’ and kinship, for example extended family units and local diaspora associations, attempts to preserve the diaspora culture without the potential for tension or conflict between diaspora and prevailing cultures, over a ‘shared identity’ or a disjunction of relationships.
One form of increased promotion and awareness of diaspora cultures throughout the world is through education at university and specialised level. Several universities in various member states offer courses and study programmes in “diaspora studies” and the like, and this represents a valuable opportunity for the continued interaction, awareness and involvement of diaspora cultures within the structure of a civil society. However, such education is generally limited to university and specialised study, and no education programme on the subject of diaspora cultures is in existence at more fundamental (and compulsory) levels of the education process, other than when diaspora cultures are involved directly, whether as students or colleagues of those undergoing such educative initiatives. Therefore, it is highly recommended that member state governments should examine this question more closely, with a view to the introduction and the consolidation of “diaspora studies” in more elementary levels of education, where deemed appropriate.
Whilst all diaspora cultures seek to preserve their unique and fundamental culture from potential mutation, assimilation, or conflict, the role of the country and the society of origin, and indeed the role of the country and the society of actual settlement, is vital and integral to the continued development and existence of the diaspora community. Therefore, any attempt to sever active ties between all components within a diaspora network should not be encouraged, as it could prove detrimental to all parties concerned, especially the diaspora culture itself. Furthermore, it is widely accepted that, whilst the needs of diaspora cultures should be promoted within countries of origin and countries of settlement, diaspora cultures themselves must abide by the law of the country within which they find themselves, and must accept the language, educational system and culture of the society within which they reside. Any attempt to abstain from the legal, educational or cultural systems of the country of residence will be to the disadvantage of all parts of the diaspora system, especially the diaspora community itself.
Roles of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
Non-governmental organisations play an integral part in the preservation of diaspora cultures. The assistance of any NGO can be greatly helped by a close liaison between governmental organisations, which provide essential resources and influence. and NGOs in order to maximise the potential benefits of their involvement. One example of such a liaison is in Armenia, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains close liaison with NGOs through its diaspora network and website. Similarly, governmental organisations should refrain from restricting the activities of such NGOs, evidence of which can be discovered in recent years in some member states.
The range of NGOs, and their associated activities, is widespread and varied. Examples include church and spiritual organisations, cultural and arts groups, criminal and terrorist networks, and militant and lobbying organisations. The main premise to note is that NGOs can be a valued resource to diaspora networks, but must remain within the boundaries of national and international law.
A major type of NGO associated with certain diaspora cultures in the modern era is of a spiritual or religious nature. The Jewish religion acts as a focal point for the spiritual and cultural direction of the Jewish diaspora, similar to the role of the Armenian Orthodox church towards the Armenian diaspora. These diaspora cultures adhere to a series of spiritual and religious laws originating from the faiths and their fundamental teachings. To use one example, many forms of orthodox Judaism advocate adherence to a series of Halakiclaws, which advocate unconditional allegiance to the society of the country of settlement, whilst preserving the culture and the identity of the Jewish diaspora and support for the ‘home’ land. Religious and spiritual links prove to be a fundamental component in many diaspora relations, and such links should not be restricted but encouraged to develop in order to consolidate the culture of the diaspora community in question.
A network of NGOs operates to preserve and reconstruct interaction and assistance to and from Serbia and Montenegro and the Serbian diaspora, and a similar arrangement is being developed for the diaspora and society of the Republic of Macedonia. NGOs exist to represent the interests and the needs of all members of their diaspora community, in all domains, political, economic and cultural. In recent years, the increase in political activity of NGOs, in the case of lobbying and influencing parliamentary and governmental affairs, has meant that the role of NGOs has taken on a new dimension: one of political representation and participation. This can produce a number of benefits to diaspora cultures within which they operate, but such benefits can be offset by potential tensions and conflicts of interests.
Technology and media in diaspora cultures
The roles of new technologies and media have developed and increased in recent years. As the development of such new technologies continues across the globe, new technologies continue to make their impact upon diaspora cultures and their ties with countries of settlement and countries of origin. New avenues of technology and media can be of great benefit to diaspora networks and should be further explored by all member states.
The development of new technology and sciences, and the subsequent domination by the Western world of this domain, has also provoked a development of the phenomenon of brain drain in recent years. Such a movement of assets and human resources, broadly speaking towards the Western world, has contributed to the dynamic of “scientific” diaspora communities across the globe. As more and more ‘scientific’ diaspora communities appear, their unique cultures and societies have a sustained impact upon the countries of settlement and origin.
Technology has developed involved interactions of communities within diaspora networks. Such a multiplication of relations between different components of a diaspora network, and between different diaspora communities themselves, has provoked a more extensive multi-polar structure of diaspora networks. This subsequently consolidates diaspora cultures through increased and more diverse interaction; interaction that can promote the original identity and culture of a diaspora, and can influence and alter the political, cultural and social agenda of a member state. However, such multi-polarity can also produce destabilising effects as it becomes increasingly difficult to localise and to identify diasporas and local communities within the broad outlook of a diaspora network.
Technology as one of the cornerstones to the dynamic of globalisation currently sweeping the world has enabled the internationalisation of goods and assets, persons, ideas and cultures. The increased capacity of diaspora communities to communicate and interact between themselves at all levels, transfer funds, transport goods and raw materials, and transmit ideas between the various components of a diaspora network is considered to be a broadly positive step in the consolidation of diaspora cultures and their relationships with modern society. Various examples, such as the increase in affordable travel, notably international air and rail travel, and the subsequent development of “return tourism” – whereby members of diasporas return to their perceived countries of origin for short visits, in the cases of Greece, Croatia, Armenian and Ireland for example – demonstrate the endless possibilities that technology presents for such continued development.
The development of computers has specifically enabled the greater interaction of diasporans, between themselves and between their communities and the prevailing societies of the country of origin and the country of settlement. The installation of “national languages” on computer hardware facilitates correspondence and communication. The development of the Internet facilitates instant communication between individuals, families and communities, and promotes the sentiments and the needs of diaspora cultures. However, it is surprising to note that many resources for, and created by, diaspora networks have not at present been developed to their full potential.
The development of various forms of media within diaspora networks also harnesses many benefits for all concerned and should be examined and exploited to the highest possible degree. Media serves as a method of diaspora publicity, a catalyst for group solidarity, and a potential mould for diaspora political and cultural agenda within the society of which it plays a part. The continued transnationalisation of media in recent years, with the establishment of satellite and cable television, the Internet, and the wider distribution of written media, has provoked an escalation of social and cultural awareness of diaspora cultures. New media enables continued advances in diaspora studies and education. New media also enables the fostering and the establishment of new links between communities. Moreover, new media is one of the many factors that can encourage the initial mobilisation of once dormant diaspora cultures.
Many member states make substantial provision for diaspora culture in terms of access to media and technological resources, both in their roles as country of origin and as country of settlement. For example, Hungarian authorities grant generous access to various forms of media and technology to its diaspora cultures. Portuguese authorities have continued to develop a wider access of technological and media resources for its diaspora abroad, in order to successfully promote increased interaction between diasporans and their “home” land. However, some member states are reticent to sanction continued growth of new media and technologies for diaspora use, citing political and social concerns, financial restrictions and broadcasting and copyright constraints. For example, the registration of British digital television must be to an address in the United Kingdom, in principle ruling out the possibility of transmission of broadcasts from British digital networks to British diaspora communities abroad.
However, potential benefits can be potentially masked by potential weaknesses and disadvantages. The transnationalisation of media and technology potentially causes the development of increasing ties, links and mobilisations, which, if handled unsuccessfully, can cause an over-complication of diaspora interactions, and provoke subsequent tensions and confusion. Ultimately, the excessive interaction between diaspora cultures and their countries of origin and settlement, and the disproportionate use of new technologies and media could effectively threaten the individual and traditional communities that originally developed. An example of resistance to such trends of globalisation and over-complication of interaction is the kinship-orientated Albanian diaspora, which maintain a closed sphere of interaction – a voluntary ghetto - among itself, in order to preserve its traditional diaspora culture from cultural and political infiltration from more dominant forces.
Diplomatic infrastructures: a vital role
Diplomatic relations are an essential element of diaspora relations. The continued liaison between a variety of governmental and non-governmental organisations through diplomatic means has preserved many diaspora links and interactions which otherwise would not have existed in their present form. Whilst diplomatic relations are an avenue that is used frequently in many member states, discussion over the role and the merits of exploiting diplomatic channels is limited. Awareness as to the extent of diplomatic influence within diaspora cultures is narrow, and therefore this report aims to increase understanding of these diplomatic functions. Therefore, the Council of Europe and associated organisations should consider a careful and detailed examination of the roles and potential benefits of increased diplomatic relations between diaspora cultures and member states.
Diplomatic relations comprise two main channels: the activities of embassies and the activities of consulates abroad. Embassies seek to promote the interests and the agenda of their state through a series of geopolitical, economic and cultural influences upon countries of settlement. Whilst embassies do not generally regard diaspora cultures as their target or concern, consulates endeavour to represent and to promote the interests of their nationals abroad. In terms of diaspora interaction, consulate structures seek to influence the agenda of the states of settlement through a series of geopolitical, economic and cultural levers. For example, Estonian consular structures seek to preserve and maintain the position of the Estonian diaspora within European Union countries and in Russia. In addition, both embassies and consulates perform the task of consolidation of cultural and mobility links, through such initiatives as bilateral student and cultural exchanges, transfers of scientific knowledge and human resources, the promotion of commerce and culture through bilateral trade, and currency promotion and trading. Diplomatic networks can also be charged with roles of “mediation” in the case of tensions between diaspora communities and countries of settlement (and countries of origin in some instances), or between diaspora communities themselves, which originate from the same ‘home’ land.
The Jewish diaspora presents a specific case, as members of the Jewish diaspora regard diplomatic services as ‘cultural exchanges’, a source of valuable interaction for a variety of governmental and social organisations and NGOs in Israel and in the country of settlement, and between individuals and social groups not attached to any group already mobilised. Such diasporans are regarded as ‘dormant’, who seek to interact with other diasporans without the attachment of political and cultural mobilisation. Notably, the Jewish / Israeli diplomatic system plays an integral part in the programme of kibbutzim that currently exist in Israel. Such ‘cultural awareness’ camps are regarded by diasporans (especially the youth of a diaspora culture) as a primary manner in which to accustom oneself with the country of origin – the phenomenon of ‘return tourism’ - and to develop cultural exchanges that young people encounter in diaspora life. Programmes of cultural exchange and temporary immersion in the country of origin is intended by many quarters to be the first step to an eventual return to the country of origin, and so encourage the use of such programmes to an increasing number of young adults through parental and solidarity links.
A diplomatic network can bring a great amount of benefits and advantages to the preservation and consolidation of a diaspora network. However, it must be noted that the excessive influence and involvement of diplomatic services, especially of one state in particular, whether the country of origin or the country of settlement, can produce destabilising effects for diaspora cultures. One example of this is activity specifically designed to limit and restrict the continuation and influence of diaspora cultures. The Kurdish diaspora have been previously the subject of various diplomatic moves, by Turkey and allies, to restrict their role as a diaspora in the societies from which they originate and in which they reside.
Museum presentation, promotion and protection of diaspora cultures
This report is also concerned with the phenomenon of the cultural implications of the European diaspora, both inside and outside Europe. Outside Europe, this is a matter of investigating the effects of the displacement of European cultures in other continents and how European culture and heritage are presented and interpreted in museums. Inside Europe special attention should be given to the recent re-distribution abroad of communities and national groups. This has occurred for a variety of reasons which include greater mobility due to a larger labour market, migration due to economic crises in different European areas and traumatic political events (dissolution of States, ethnic cleansing, armed conflicts). The increasing mobility of tourists, who now often own second homes abroad and exert their influence on local museums, is also examined.
We have to deal with such crucial questions as: How is Europe seen from the outside? What is the role played by museums in the process of communication of what Europe means outside Europe? What opportunities are offered to museums in terms of a new social role by cultural re-allocation? What are the main interpretation problems when presenting European collections to non-Europeans? What are the main features of this kind of public? How can museums help in preserving and communicating the culture of new residents coming from abroad? What are the main aspects of the experience of working in a museum by staff from another continent?
Such questions help define some of the main points in the approach to the problems and opportunities of intercultural communication in museums. Examples of good practice can be identified in planning activities or an interpretative framework for collections presenting the spirit of Europe to non-Europeans or to ethnic groups coming from abroad to live permanently in a European country.
Basic documents for the discussion include recent documents on the subject of the European diaspora, focusing on some of the problems of communities - of both Europeans and non-Europeans - representing cultures differing from those of the host countries.
Historical anthropology provides modern evidence that diasporas began when modern humans started to disperse from Africa to other continents. Multiculturalism, in the same way, is old and not a new phenomenon, and seems to be a characteristic of human cultures.
There were periods in history, when the movements of human populations were more intensive and they always gave birth to diaspora populations and cultures. Many of them have not disappeared for centuries. Now mankind is facing a “new migration period”. In our times, too, it is often not people who move but borders, or political formations change, and people find themselves isolated. Differences may be defined from both directions: inside and outside. Diaspora ceases to exist when people feel at home, do not want to live elsewhere, do not feel different and do not have an affinity to their home culture. The melting of diasporas is not necessarily positive as cultural diversity is important for a sustainable future.
Together with human migration, objects (everyday, cult, valuables) were also carried away and these are now important evidence for contemporary humans. With the appearance of modern collections collected objects also became numerous and are themselves scattered, divorced from their community. In many cases distant cultures are represented in a European (or other) country by such objects only and not by the people who had or have that culture. In other cases old or new diaspora communities are existing in a country, together with their culture, including the objects of that culture.
Museums, especially European museums, house a series of “diaspora objects” in one place. Museums are holistic environments for directed and undirected learning (formal and informal teaching). In the new migration period which mankind is facing and participating in, it is essential for museums to deal with diaspora issues, and for the communities (host or diaspora) to involve museums. However, all museums are not equally involved. For example ethnography may be more relevant to deal with the issue than a Renaissance Art collection. In museums people from many cultures and walks of life can listen, enjoy, understand and transform. Multiculturalism and diaspora as well as access should be dealt with in the mission statement of museums. Diasporas are part of our cultural heritage, and cultural heritage action should include them.
Museum professionals as well as objects are mediators in culture. Objects are the sine qua non for museums. Objects in themselves often represent multiculturalism (for example, silk originally from China, processed in Italy and the cloth used by an English resident there). In most European museums the composition of the collection is such that it represents several cultures. Also, the museum profession is highly multicultural. Diaspora of objects enriches a museum collection just as diaspora cultures enrich the culture of a country. Cultural diversity is important in maintaining the human population on Earth, so diaspora cultures should not be automatically diluted, but praised for their difference. “Diaspora objects” are often valuable additions to collections. Museums may benefit from the existence of diasporas (for example, donations, information, reflections from far living members of a host community or, on the other side, information on, or interpretation of “dispora objects” from members of a diaspora community in the museums country).
All European museum institutions can make an important contribution in the sphere of museum presentation of diaspora cultures, thus presenting valuable information about migrations, immigrations and movements of certain peoples, especially in the recent centuries.
The presentation of the diaspora may certainly be placed in the context of ethnographic expositions rather than in historic or archeological ones. In certain regions of Europe in the past, the presence of the foreign conquerors was evident in the acceptance of certain fashion elements in the clothing style of the domestic population, in the style of living, in the items for everyday use, in the furniture etc. Similarly, smaller groups of people that lived in enclaves also imposed their living style on the community. Ethnology, among the sciences that help in the museum description, to the greatest extent shows the multicultural life in certain communities. Even the migrations to the new world, to the USA and Canada in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, through the ethnological tradition are today an integral part of life of the third and fourth generation of immigrants.
Diaspora cultures and their importance for modern living can bring people closer together through museum presentation. Especially important elements in the persistence of the identity of the emigrants are: music, customs, influences through culinary traditions – preserving their own elements and accepting elements from the new environment and creation of new ones, and lately books, film, contacts with home land and petrified customs and traditions.
In the future, museums should be involved in organising symposia for studying the history of diasporas, thus researching directions of immigrations, the processes and motives as well as the social aspects of immigration; religious and ethnic grouping; cultural and educational activities; folklore and ethnology; literature; processes of assimilation; economic potential of the community; social status and legal aspects of the organisation of immigrants.
What the third and fourth generation of immigrants, as well as the new, are faced with today are: persistence of the religious identity of the immigrants, organisation of the education expressed through opening additional classes for national history and geography, setting up of cultural and art societies and choirs, literary societies, publishing activities, non-governmental sector – human rights, TV and radio hours. In these segments the museum education can contribute a great deal. Through visits to the museums and acquaintance with the history of one’s predecessors, through lectures for the children and organised concerts and cooking demonstrations, one group of immigrants can be brought closer to the population of the host country, and this will help the immigrants to build their feeling of self-confidence.
The contemporary museum approach is not to organise exhibitions in the strict frame of the museum work. It calls for an interactive relation between the visitor and the material exhibited. Is there a better way than this to organise exhibitions, lectures, introductions to traditions in touch with the past, organising live events: invitation of narrators, live preparation of food, recitation of songs, wearing clothes from grandma’s chest? Is there a better way of learning than showing live examples? Only museums can provide this, and they should not miss this opportunity for the entertainment and education of their audience.
European and international organisations
Diplomatic services of member states have moved increasingly from a dynamic of bilateral agreements to a system of multilateral and communitarian agreements in diaspora relations. Therefore, the role of transnational and supra-national organisations is becoming increasingly prominent, even if it remains somewhat limited as far as diaspora cultures are concerned. Lack of Europe-wide (or worldwide) activity or interest in this subject results from the reticence of member states to “encroach” upon the sovereignty or the concern of individual nations and their governments. One example is in the case of the Armenian economic crisis of the 1990s, when European organisations were reluctant to assist the Armenian authorities in the belief that the Armenian diaspora should help the Armenian government in resolving such a crisis, with economic and social assistance. A critical reassessment of the function of such European and worldwide organisations is vital. The Council of Europe, especially, has a potentially significant role in the cultural ‘mediation’ of diaspora relations.
UN missions in the Balkan states provide a valuable source of diplomatic assistance. Such assistance is beneficial and should be developed as much as possible within international guidelines, logistic and administrative constraints, and at the wishes of all concerned.
European institutions have occupied themselves occasionally with certain matters that affect (directly or indirectly) the lives of diaspora cultures and communities. Language and linguistic diversification and preservation is a primary concern to European organisations, and the Assembly has itself adopted recommendations on Roma, Yiddish and Aromanian, specifically diaspora languages. The Council of Europe has also advocated the teaching and greater awareness of such languages in national education systems, open to both diaspora and non-diaspora communities.
European organisations have a real potential for influence. Certain national governments, for example Hungary, have improved or radically altered their previously restrictive policies regarding the treatment of diaspora cultures and communities because of potential accession to transnational organisations – the European Union and NATO for example. A careful examination of their roles in cultural mediation, diffusion of conflicts, and the exploitation of all possible interactions between governmental and non-governmental organisations, is vital, and their role with regards to diaspora relations should be fundamentally examined. The Council of Europe, in its national cultural policy reviews, through ECRI or in the context of the framework convention for national minorities, is directly involved in cultural “mediation” and arbitration in the event of tensions between diaspora cultures and member states. Thus, the Council of Europe should now become more prominent. The fundamental recommendation remains the notion of recognition for all diaspora cultures by all member states. Diaspora cultures are a fundamental and integral part of societies of member states, and as such should be recognised and treated in a just and equal manner.
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Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Documents and texts adopted
Document 5778 (1987): Miguel Angel Martinez and Resolution 885 The Jewish contribution to European culture.
Document 6497 (1991): Lluis Maria de Puig and Recommendation 1162 The contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture.
Document 6733 (1993): Josephine Verspaget and Recommendation 1203 Gypsies in Europe.
Document 7489 (1996): Emanuelis Zingeris and Recommendation 1291 Yiddish culture.
Document 7728 (1997): Lluis Maria de Puig and Recommendation 1333 Aromanians.
Document 8339 (1999): Manuela Aguiar and Ana Guirado and Recommendation 1410 Links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin.
Document 9397 (2002): Csaba Tabadji and Recommendation 1557 Legal situation of the Roma in Europe.
Document 10072 (2004): Zvravka Busic and Recommendation 1650 Links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin.
Under preparation by Lord Russell-Johnston is a report on the cultural situation of the Kurds
Venice Commission of the Council of Europe: Reports
Document 19 (2001): Report on the Preferential Treatment of National Minorities by their Kin-State.
Doc. 10342 19 October 2004
Report Committee on Culture, Science and Education Rapporteur: Mrs Eleonora Petrova-Mitevska, Republic of Macedonia, Socialist Group