During the pre-1991 era, tourism for Soviet citizens was generally confined to the regions of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Eastern Bloc. Due to the quasi-totalitarian nature of Communist rule, most Soviet citizens were prevented from traveling abroad (foreign travel was a privilege of the Soviet nomenklatura>), and few tourist visas were granted to visitors from Western Europe and North America. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this has changed radically, with Russia seeking to attract revenues from tourists from the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and, increasingly, the People’s Republic of China.
   For foreign tourists, the key destinations are Moscow, which enjoys such architectural and cultural gems as the Kremlin, Red Square, and the Bolshoi Theater, and the historic capital of St. Petersburg, known for the Hermitage, neoclassical architecture, canals, and numerous tsarist palaces. Both cities teem with art and history museums. Transportation-themed tours, such as river tours, are popular on the Volga and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Beyond Moscow, the late medieval cities of the Golden Ring attract tourists interested in Russia’s Orthodox past. Heritage tourism is also popular, particularly among ethnic Germans and Jews. In recent years, Russia has developed its eco-tourism industry, which caters to environmentally minded visitors; the country’s pristine northwestern lake region and surrounding taiga, the Russian Far East, the Altay Mountains, and Lake Baykal are primary destinations.
   In terms of domestic tourism, Russian citizens continue to observe Soviet norms, including vacations to the Black Sea coast or resorts and health spas across southern Russia (Abkhazia and Crimea are also popular). Sochi, long a mecca for sun worshippers, will host the XXII Winter Olympiad in 2014. Since 2000, a booming economy and an increasing standard of living has allowed average Russians to travel abroad, with top destinations being Turkey, Egypt, Bulgaria, and China. Many Russians have also purchased property in these countries, often for purposes of retirement.
   Difficulties in securing visas to the European Union prevent largescale Russian tourism to Western Europe, though France and Great Britain are popular destinations for affluent Russians. Citizens from outside the CIS require visas to visit Russia, an expensive and sometimes arduous process. A substandard tourism infrastructure outside of the two capitals, limited English-language proficiency among older staff, and a number of high-profile arrests of tourists on espionage and antiquities-smuggling charges also dampen Russia’s attraction to foreign visitors. The rapid rise of the ruble in 2005 resulted in a significant drop in demand for foreign tourist visas.
   See also Altay Republic; Foreign trade; Kaliningrad Oblast.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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