Culture Is Everything

Article excerpt

"There are no easy routes to development of cultural tourism, either here or in Russia. You simply have to be dedicated, determined and tenacious." With these words, Robert Morris opened last November's conference in Williamsburg, Virginia on Cultural Tourism Development in Russia.

The conference brought together an unprecedented number of senior representatives from Russia's northwestern regions, to meet with their American counterparts and to study issues of developing cultural tourism. The gathering included the governor of Pskov region, vice-governors from Leningrad, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl and Novgorod, as well as the foreign minister of Karelia and dozens of tourism officials.

The tone for presentations and discussions was set early on by Yekaterina Genieva, president of the Soros Foundation in Russia (which, together with Finnair the US-Russia Business Council and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, sponsored the conference). "Everything," she noted, "is colored by culture ... we need to preserve Russia for humanity." And the best way to do that, Genieva and others commented, was to focus on Russia's regions, which have a lower propensity to corruption, are easier to deal with than Moscow, and have greater prospects for growth.

Take Pskov. A gateway to Europe through the Baltics, this town of 200,000 has many potential "attractors" for tourism: Pushkin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov were all born and raised nearby; there are the-fascinating Pechora monastery built into a cave and the Izborsk fortress; the town's old town is one of the best preserved in Northwest Russia; the region has over 3700 lakes. …