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Minority Rights in Europe: Policies and Practices in CSCE Participating States

30 June 1991

Report on the Leningrad Minority Rights Conference, USSR, held from 2 to 4 June 1991 by Minority Rights Group and the Leningrad Association of Scientists

Conference objectives

The Conference’s primary objective is to contribute to the continuing ‘Helsinki’ process. It will provide the forthcoming CSCE (‘Helsinki’) conferences on the Human Dimension with policy recommendations on minority rights issues based on research, analysis and discussions that will take place at the Conference. The results of the Conference will be presented to the Meeting of Experts on Minority Rights in Geneva, July 1-19 1991, and to the CSCE Conference on the Human Dimension in Moscow, September 10 – October 4, 1991.

The Conference focused on minority issues that have not yet, in our opinion, been solved satisfactorily. There are several open ends in the theoretical and pragmatic approaches that are currently discussed internationally: the content of collective minority rights that need elaboration after decades of focusing on individual human rights only; ways in which one can include rights for non-territorial minorities (e.g. migrants); and the role non-governmental organizations and independent researchers can play in a process that is still dominated by governmental (i.e. majority) bodies.


The Conference was planned to be a non-governmental conference of experts on minorities, including some individual European members of the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, academic experts, intellectual leaders in the Minority Communities, non-government organisations and other authorities. In the event, Ambassadors and Diplomatic staff from eight different countries asked to attend and were invited in a personal capacity alongside the other participants. 155 people from the following 18 CSCE states attended the Conference: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Yugoslavia. It included participants from the majority of the Soviet Republics and from Australia (see page 4 for a full list of participants).

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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