Development of Russian tourism in the contemporary social and ethnocultural conditions


The author considers tourism as a relevant social-cultural phenomenon of contemporary Russia, which is important for economic development and establishing interethnic and interreligious balance in the cultural-axiological space of Russa. The author pays special attention to the migration processes in their connection with the situation in the tourism and hospitality industry and prospects for its development. Considering the global diversity of migration forms and types, the category of legal foreign labor migration is analyzed to clarify some substantial issues of external labor migration as having social and intercultural meanings. The author explains the efficiency of labor migrant flows in the renewing Russian touristic sphere; emphasizes the ethnocultural specificity of tourism and the ethnic character of migration; considers the regional situation through the host population’s perception of labor migrants and the native population’s assessment of the ambiguous role of foreign specialists in the formation of ethnic-cultural and civil identities in the multicultural Russian society. Tourism is defined as a significant economic and intercultural stabilizing factor contributing to the development of a tolerant environment and integrating external migrants into the host society. The article describes the relationship between the effective development of internal tourism and the progressive regulation of foreign labor migration. The analysis of the features of migration processes shows the changing nature of external labor migration due to objective socialeconomic factors, and the role of labor migrants in the formation of the all-Russian civil identity. The author insists on the correlation between the growing attractiveness of tourist sites and a stable and peaceful situation in the sphere of interethnic and interreligious relations, including between the autochthonous and allochthonous peoples of multinational Russia.

Full Text

The state of tourism and hospitality in Russia directly correlates with social, migration, and ethnocultural factors both in the country and in its regions. Initially caused by the pandemic, difficult communications and a sharp decline in inbound foreign tourism have led to negative consequences in the tourist industry, which are complicated by the current geopolitical conditions. In connection with this situation, to improve the established forms of tourism and the formation of its new types acquiring popularity (religious and pilgrimage, medical, etc.), Russian scientists are developing the actual model of domestic tourism with the possibility of its application in the regions. Ethnocultural and religious factors of international tourism, which two years ago played a significant role in the formation of new types of foreign travel and routes, today are purposefully reoriented to the domestic market of tourist products to support the general Russian tourism industry and hospitality.

The vital role in the development of domestic tourism is played by socialcultural, religious, educational, and communicational characteristics of certain territories. However, of no less importance are migration processes associated with internal and external movements of the labor force, and the perception of incoming people (often bearers of ethnicity other than the host population) by autochthonous ethnic groups and the emerging interaction between the arriving and the receiving population. Attractiveness of tourist destinations as social-cultural objects is directly related to the qualitatively stable, tolerant, and peaceful relations between migrant workers and the host population (especially in territories with an ethnic enclave settlement of migrants), and in the sphere of interethnic and interreligious relations.

The article aims at examining Russian tourism as closely connected with the ongoing social phenomena of a complex and dynamically changing world. Tourism is presented bilaterally: in social and ethnocultural contexts, manifesting both in institutionalized forms and in real inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations of people arising from external migration to Russia. In addition, in a more specific expression, emphasis is made on the ratio of external labor migration and the opportunities for the progressive formation of domestic tourism in Russia.

Social contexts of tourism

As a social global phenomenon, tourism essentially aims at preventing conflicts on the ethnic ground and overcoming threats to human existence. Tourism per se can be interpreted as people traveling to know another culture, religion, everyday life, etc. In this context, tourism partly eliminates contradictions between ethnical and religious groups that still emerge in different regions of the world because of ongoing economic, social, and international events.

The social understanding of tourism helps to find theoretical and practical grounds for eliminating the opposition of one ethnic group to another, the host population and the incoming flows of people as a result of global migrations. Arriving groups are often perceived not only as other but also as strangers, being in opposition to the sustainable and habitual lifestyle of the host people. A stereotype of foreignness and alienation associated with invasion sometimes prevails in the autochthonous people’s consciousness and provokes conflicts on the ethnic ground, although different ethnicity per se does not cause conflict situations or alarmist mood in the host population. The ideology of solidarity is based on the impression of the commonality of origin, history, faith, and culture. Sometimes, a myth of shared originality and culture lies in the center of such sort of ideology, being produced by some political elites for their own goals.

“Imaginary ‘we’ is built as an ethnical community: common ancestors, history, faith, and language. Community consolidation is reached through opposition to other groups. People are offered a simple means to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them’ by nationality. They are explained that different people have different interests. Russians bear their own and non-Russians have their ones” [8. P. 25]. Usually the myth “our–others, or strangers” spreads rapidly at the everyday culture’s level, becoming an obstacle for migrants, who aim at integration into a new society, and creating an unfavorable environment for successful economic activity, intercultural relations, and sustainable development of the tourism industry.

A solution to these problems can be partially found in a design of a proper tourist infrastructure where arriving people will be employed. Tourism, existing on cognition of different cultures, establishes peaceful and moral principles of working and communication of people with diverse civil and religious identifications. Eventually, such identifications are revealed in the formation of the various world models of ethnic groups.

Scholars consider tourism as a new form of migration, including such its types as medical, ecological, and even nostalgic. “Tourism as a form of migration has not yet received (unlike, for example, compelled or labor migration) an accurate conceptual framework and mechanism of legal regulation both in the international law and Russian legislation. There are only more or less recognized definitions, the main components of which are staying for up to one year in another country or another region for health, educational, entertainment and other purposes” [3. P. 51]. In this context, tourism as a form of migration assumes a long sojourn in another country or region, shifts the place of living for that period and changes cultural, social and religious circumstances which differ and sometimes contradict to habitual deep-rooted conditions of travelers. For instance, medical tourism can embrace not only months but years, accounting for the treatment and rehabilitation of a tourist-migrant. Therefore, it seems logical to define tourism as a specific form of migration.

Tourism is sensitive to social and economic changes occurring both in our country and in the global world. Thus, the sphere of tourism and hospitality mostly depends on labor migration flows and on bursts of unfavorable migration situations caused by the mass movement of people — often illegal — from one country to another to find employment or, at least, contemporary income. It is hardly possible to witness a prospect for tourism development in a country or region with enormous accumulations of illegally arriving people, refugee tent camps, rejection of migrants by the population, or other obstacles to integrating the arriving people into the host society. The flashes of negative migration situations repel travelers and aggravate the economic situation of the surrounding territories.

Migration processes of the late 20th — early 21st centuries cover the global space and expand quantitatively involving both increased human flows and severe problems, which evoke waves of legal and illegal migration. These processes are well presented in the works of J. Urry on the so-called sociology of tourism and mobility [12]. The massive shifts of people aspiring to different countries and sometimes to uncertainty — are some kinds of a mirror of contemporary states with their internal social, economic, and international problems. “Migration of population is the complex social process rather than merely mechanical displacement of people, and this process affects many spheres of social, economic and cultural life of entire nations” [13. P. 100]. However, migration processes are always related not only to the economic sphere but also to the culture of the host society, where difficulties and problems arise.

Migration and tourism: Ethnocultural contexts and civil identity

At the beginning of the 21st century in Russia, the very nature of migration has changed, and it is determined by objective social-economic factors [11] rather than the forced movement of people, which was typical, for example, in the early 1990s. As a result, the ethnocultural character of Russian regions that receive large flows of external labor migrants has significantly transformed. In some multi-ethnic region, there is a mixture of autochthonous and arriving peoples. There is also a replacement of some ethnic communities: representatives of other groups arrive instead of diasporas leaving the region (this is especially characteristic of those subjects where ethnocultural diversity has been historically established — the Southern Federal District, the Volga Region, the Krasnodar Region, etc.). Many territories of Russia have become characterized by a diversity of professional and qualification levels of external migrants and their specific ethnic ‘attachment’ to a federal subject. “This is partly determined by the territorial proximity of particular countries to the region, partly by the specialization of industries and organizations that attract foreign labor (visa labor migration). The ownership structure also plays a significant role. Foreign owners of enterprises give preference to their compatriots” [7. P. 108].

Some Russian regions are characterized by a mono-ethnicity of the “visa foreign labor force”. For instance, visa migrants from China in the Republic of Tuva, Primorsky and Sverdlovsk Regions account for about 100 %, and in Ryazan, Pskov, and Vladimir Regions, Vietnamese citizens prevail [7. P. 108]. There is a number of territories with a more multi-ethnic component of labor migrants, mainly regions without a pronounced dominance of residents of a particular country and with a share of migrants making up less than half of the quota — Volgograd, Krasnodar, Penza Regions, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, etc. [7. P. 108].

Even in challenging contemporary conditions the share of external labor migrants has remained very high in Russia. However, the composition of the foreign labor force is changing significantly because of limited transport communications and new geopolitical realities. The dominant position of migrants from Central Asia, who were unable to leave Russia under the first wave of the pandemic, is being consolidated. Based on the sociological study of the employment in the Russian labor market of highly-skilled migrants from Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan [10. P. 188]), the researchers note their great adaptation potential to radical changes in this market. Highly qualified specialists from this region did not leave Russia during the pandemic due to the closed borders and managed to occupy a privileged position in the labor market under its significant transformations [10. P. 187].

Even though hundreds of thousands of migrants from Central Asia could not come to Russia for objective reasons, Central Asian migration continues to prevail in 2022, represented mainly by migrants from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. At present, there is no clear prospect that the lost niches in the labor market will be filled by specialists from other countries. In such a situation, migration flows from Central Asia might be considered in the perspective of their high efficiency for the Russian market. However, the increasing number of Central Asian specialists (even highly qualified ones) may have a second side, related to ethnocultural reasons and identity foundations of the host society: “The potential of Central Asian migration in the short term is very high and can cause serious perturbations not only in the labor market — since significant flows of migrants not adapted to the Russian realities can arrive to Russia in a short time” [10. P. 187].

Thus, problems may arise that have to do not so much with the qualification of migrants and their adaptability to the demands of the Russian market as with their ability to adapt to equally important spheres of social and cultural life in the host society. The most important problem here is the prospects of at least the slightest integration of external labor migrants into the social-cultural sphere of the country’s autochthonous population. This would allow incoming labor specialists to avoid compact settlements in the form of ethnic enclaves. An enclave, as a form of residence (and often survival) of people of one ethnic identity inside a different (alien to them) social-economic and cultural system, today does not correspond not only to the civilization standard of living but also to the establishment of tolerant relations between the native inhabitants and the incoming flows of migrant workers. After all, migration flows are an increase of people with different life attitudes, ethnic and religious identities, social traditions, and daily living norms. Everyday life is brought into a new society and causes the need not only to adapt their socialcultural skills to the conditions of the host society, but also to adequately perceive the cultural values, religious customs, and social norms of the latter.

There are often problems of survival and adaptability of migrants to new social-cultural conditions due to the obstacles (sometimes subjective) for integrating newcomers into the host society [9]. We can distinguish two structure-forming types of external labor migrants — those who purposefully integrate into the new society and those who reject it, seeing in it only a temporary economic resource. Since there is such a significant disposition in the arriving labor migration flows, despite their increase, there will be opportunities for the emergence of such forms of nationalism as extremism, xenophobia, and ethnic nationalism [1], alarmist moods of autochthonous citizens about the loss of their cultural identity and rejection of foreign ethnic migrants as foreigners. This is characteristic not only of Russian residents but also of many countries, including European ones. Contemporary migration processes in Europe have acquired the essence of dialogic interaction between the western and eastern areas of the world: “Problems with migrants demonstrate an acute phase of social-cultural rather than social-economic crisis. It is a clash of civilizations within a single state… within the European Union. If in the past there had been a one-sided export of the Western views, now it has become a two-sided exchange between the East and the West, between the South and the North” [6. P. 178].

Despite the complex geopolitical situation, it is very important to outline the trend towards the erasure of inter-ethnic boundaries between different peoples, to overcome the artificial opposition of ethnic groups on the principle of “ours” — “not ours”. Today, “there are ethnic communities that are cemented not by external threats, but by interdependence, erasing the line between the stranger and the local. But this requires a calm environment and a sense of common identity” [6. P. 179]. A common sense of identity is based on shared values, agreement on common norms of living together, and respect for the cultural and religious traditions of different ethnic groups (both the host and the arriving population).

In Russia, one of the consolidating values is the desire for a unified multinational state with the peaceful existence of peoples and their civil identification. The correlation between ethnic and civil (all-Russian) identifications has long been discussed in the Russian social thought, and we would like to emphasize the importance of a united nation in Russia grounded in the all-Russian culture, values, and all-citizen aspirations. All this is tightly connected with the civil identity of Russians and irrespective of the ethnic principle of statehood. At the same time, personal sense of belonging to an ethnocultural community should not diverge from the simultaneous sense of belonging to the all-civil union, called ‘nation’ [2. P. 11].

We argue that cultural and cognitive tourism to some extent contributes to the establishment and awareness of national and civil identities. After all, the formation of the civil nation and all-Russian identity affects and largely solves the problems of the influx of foreign ethnic labor migrants, who introduce new cultural ‘codes’, other traditions and norms of their everyday culture into the culture of the host country. Mutual cultural enrichment can occur between the native population and new migrants, including the proper organization of the use of migrant labor in building new tourist infrastructure. Migration processes and the reorientation of tourism to the domestic market are interdependent, and the flows of external labor migrants entering Russia must also be considered for the effective development of the tourism and hospitality industry. For example, labor migration is needed to create cultural tourist and recreational clusters as a new type of domestic tourism. Such clusters are already being created in some regions and are classified according to certain criteria: skiing, resorts, ethnocultural, religious and pilgrimage, and medical. For instance, the Southern Federal and the North Caucasus Federal Districts boast diverse natural, climatic, historical, and cultural attractions, and several clusters are expected to be created here. Clusters are already being formed in Adygea, Ingushetia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar, and Astrakhan Regions. “According to preliminary estimates, upon the project hitting full capacity, the tourist flow will reach 10 million people. The project will serve as a serious basis for the socio-economic development of the entire North Caucasus Region” [13. P. 107].

Tourist and recreational clusters can use large flows of labor migration and provide high employment for both arriving and local populations. The influx of tourists means the need to create new jobs, expand the labor market, and create a certain system of training for migrant workers. The increasing number of travelers and the extensiveness of the labor market contribute to the improvement of the clusters, development of infrastructure, improvement of services. This is one of the ways of effective interdependence of the tourism industry and migrant labor flows while creating a certain tolerant culture of inter-ethnic relations.

When using foreign labor force for creating a tourist infrastructure in Russia, it is crucial to involve representatives of ethnic migrant groups in forming a unified value space of culture, which can cover both indigenous peoples and arriving people. Consolidating ideas can be based on the awareness of the unity of combining ethnic and civil forms of the Russian identity. In any person’s worldview, the civil and the ethnic do not contradict and can peacefully coexist. Russian sociological and philosophical studies have long established discourse on the inconsistency of civil and ethnic identities in the worldviews of both Russian and non-Russian ethnic groups. In the Russian nation-state building, its civil component and general civil values have been increasingly asserted. However, the role of ethnicity, ethnic cultures and languages is not being abolished. On the contrary, it is increasingly being cultivate: “The notion that ethnicity decreases with the establishment of a pan-Russian civic identity is not confirmed. In a nonhyperbolized form, these identities coexist in the minds of people and can become a resource for social development” [4. P. 49].

Migration flows of legal labor specialists can also contribute to the formation of the general civil and cultural space of our country. The inclusion in this process of migrants — representatives of different ethnic groups — contributes to the prosperity of the economy, culture, education [5], and the flourishing of multiculturalism in Russian regions.

Thus, even in today’s difficult conditions, tourism and migration act as the most important social factors affecting the intercultural relations of the incoming ethnic communities and the local population. To some extent, they stabilize the economic decline of the Russian regions through the transition to the model of domestic tourism with the prospects for the development of appropriate infrastructure and tourist-recreational clusters. Integration of external labor migrants into the Russian society and effective use of their labor force in the tourism and hospitality industry will give ensure new trends in tourism and will promote rapprochement and dialogue of ethnic cultures.


About the authors

O. V. Chistyakova

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
Miklukho-Maklaya St., 6, Moscow, 117198, Russia


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