Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Encountering other pasts in Russian post-imperial tourism

Fri31  Mar02:45pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


Alena Pfoser1
1 Loughborough University, UK


Russia used to be one of the largest markets for outbound travel, until the international sanctions following the military invasion of Ukraine dramatically cut down the possibility of travel. Among Russians’ favourite destinations were cities in Russia’s neighbouring states that used to be part of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire. This paper examines the cultural politics of these little researched tourism mobilities, based on ethnographic research conducted in the cities of Tallinn, Kyiv and Almaty in summer 2019. Drawing on literature in tourism studies, memory studies and Russian national identity, I particularly focus on the promotion and consumption of “different”, national and regional pasts. The search for “difference” – scenes, sights and landscapes out of the ordinary – is a key part of the tourist experience and alongside familiar imperial pasts, their different histories make post-Soviet destinations appealing. Not all difference is however equally attractive; the paper distinguishes between antagonistic heritage and easily digestible commodified difference. I reveal how tourists are encouraged to experience other pasts in walking tours, for example through an immersion into Medieval Tallinn or Almaty’s ‘exotic’ Green Bazaar. These experiences deemphasise antagonistic difference and perpetuate stereotypical conceptions of alterity. Overall, they provide important bottom-up insights into Russians’ perceptions of their neighbours and thems