Can Russians Afford a Vacation?
Travel Russian style
During any season of the year, Western tourists are amazed at the number of Russians on the beaches of Turkey, Egypt, Spain and Italy. In Egypt and Turkey you might have trouble communicating complicated thoughts in English, but you will never have a problem finding locals who understand Russian or billboard targeted exclusively at the Russian tourist crowd.
These observations paint a picture of rich Russians traveling abroad and spending tons of money as they go. Stories abound of Russians throwing hundred dollar bills left and right on their Mediterranean vacations. To find out if these rumors of prodigal Russians are representative of the general Russian population, RussiaBlog decided to take a closer look at who is traveling where and how much they are spending. The numbers we found challenged many generalizations about Russian tourists. It appears that only 1.4% of Russians will go abroad for their vacation this summer, and only 13% of Russian kids will be able to afford summer camps. The rest of the nation will stay close to home, working at their "dachas" where many families and elderly raise fruits and vegetables to get them through the rest of the year.
Why is all this important? As I'm watching Russian movies like Beamer with my American friends, I see their surprised faces over the brutality, chaos and undeveloped infrastructure of Russia. At the end of each movie, without any push, these friends would say "Now I understand why Russians don't care about that new NGO bill". Really, why care about the freedom of travel if you can't afford it? And why care about freedom of speech if there is no one to hear?
Once in awhile there are reports in the media about some fake travel agencies, stealing Russian tourists' money and disappearing (a very common practice in any field of Russian life, weather it's business, social sphere bribes or politics). One would think that such news reports would outrage civilized people and make them think about enforcing the laws and protecting fellow-citizens' private property and money. Not at all; common Russians are usually happy to hear about the losses of the rich.
There are even great phrases, compliments and copyright of the Russian nation, like: Ne Sebeh -- Ne Lyudyam (not for yourself, though not for others either); Chornaya Zhavist' (Black Envy -- an envious feeling, when you would rather see someone else fail than try to succeed on your own); Ne Delay Dobra -- Ne Poluchish Zla (don't do good, then you won't get evil in response)...
Anyway, returning back to the tourism topic -- it reflects the rest of the Russian life. There are plenty of commercials of fancy cars, foods, clothes and properties. And if you visit Moscow -- you'll find all of that to be really driven, eaten and used. But if you get out in the country side, it will give you a better understanding of why communism and fascist ideologies are coming back; not from Putin but from the grass roots.
Here are the plain statistics: this summer season 52% of Russians will not leave their home (they can't afford traveling, they don't have dacha or they live on the land they are going to work on); 22% will go to their dachas. Among children: 13% will go to summer camps, 10% more will go the Black Sea with their parents; 15% of Russian children will spend their summer helping their parents or simply hanging out at dachas; 62% of Russian children will do nothing. Given those statistics, one might be less surprised to read about the millions of homeless children or the booming child pornography industry in Russia.
Almost every number in this table improved since last year by approximately one percent. But a one percent rate is not enough to ease the rising class tensions among Russians. This topic is the last thing on the mind of the Russian Minister of Economical Development German Gref, who recently said, "Given the enormous patience of the Russian nation, absence of income to provide quality vacation for a common Russian family is the last thing on the list of reasons for rising social tensions and possible social cataclysms".