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‘Red routes’ and Volga cruises: what brings Chinese tourists to Russia

Industrial tourism is also popular with Chinese tourists coming to the Urals region

MOSCOW, December 8. /TASS/. The Russian regions are witnessing the increase of tourist flow from China. Chinese tourists are interested in visits to all sites linked to the country’s Communist past, as well as trips to Soviet flagship factories and museums dedicated to old Russian traditions.

A number of experts told TASS that Russia has all chances to attract more tourists from China by creating new routes and showing them new sites.

Some 840,000 Chinese tourists visited Russia as part of the visa-free exchange program in 2017, which is 24 percent more than last year.

“About 40,000 guests from China annually visit the expositions of the Vladimir-Suzdal museum-reserve,” the museum’s director, Igor Konyshev, told TASS.

“However, they have a special interest in visiting revolutionary sites,” said Konyshev, who previously headed the Lenin Hills museum, one of the most popular ‘red tourism’ destinations.

Konyshev said the Vladimir Region has no sites linked to the Chinese revolutionary movement but this fact does not make the regional museums less popular.

“About 50 percent of Chinese guests coming to the region are individual tourists,” he added.

The neighboring Yaroslavl Region, also part of the popular Golden Ring tourist route, has opened a Chinese education center to solve the communications problem. Many local restaurants offer menus in Chinese and the ancient Russian town of Rostov Veliky has street signs in Chinese.

“Chinese tour companies have tough demands to hotels,” said Irina Plishina, head of the regional tourist department. “Chinese tourists have problems with understanding English-speaking guides and bring their own interpreters. But the tourist flow keeps growing.”

“Most tourists come to Yaroslavl on board the Volga cruise ships. They like the Yaroslavl Fine Arts Museum which organizes 18th and 19th century balls,” said Svetlana Danilenko, head of a local tourism agency. “But most of all Chinese tourists like the Soviet history and industrial tourism.”

According to Viktor Topolkarayev, the head of the Intourist company, by the summer of 2018 Russian tour operators will take Chinese guests on tours to the Urals industrial sites. A direct flight between Inner Mongolia, one of China’s largest autonomous regions, and Yekaterinburg will be launched to increase the tourist flow.

Industrial tourism is also popular with Chinese tourists coming to the Urals region. They visit the giant Uralmash factory which served as a model for the construction of China’s largest heavy machine production facility in 1958.

One of the halls of the Uralmash museum is dedicated to the friendship of Chinese and Soviet people, said museum employee Sergei Ageyev.

“We have Mao Zedong’s signature in the guestbook. The Chinese tourists adore it,” Ageyev said.

According to him, Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, became the first foreign leader to visit Uralmash in 1950.

“After that China decided to build a similar factory. Soviet experts coordinated the launch of the Chinese Uralmash,” Ageyev said. “Chinese engineers underwent training in the Urals.”

Chiang Ching-kuo, the President of the Republic of China from 1978 until his death in 1988, also worked at Uralmash in the 1930. While in the Soviet Union, he was given the Russian name Nikolai Yelizarov and even met his future wife at the Urals factory.

The government of the Tula region expects the new museum of the 1917 October Revolution’s centenary to attract Chinese tourists. 

The museum unveiled in November at the Kimovsk railway station (some 180 kilometers to the south of Moscow), features a painting, which depicts all stages of the Soviet Union’s development, a portrait of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in his office and a sculpture of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the chief of the Soviet secret police.

“The exposition also features copies of archive documents, historical photographs and Soviet posters,” said Natalia Kiparina, the museum’s guide.

Another 12 museums have recently opened at railway stations across the Tula Region.