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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Neo-Soviet Russia Attacks Guidebook for Telling the Truth About Russia

The Guardian reports that crazed, infantile, paranoid, idiotic Russia, rather than actually reforming those aspects of its society which shock and disgust tourists, has chosen to attack the guidebooks that document them, in a classic Neo-Soviet move:

Moscow officials have launched an attack on Lonely Planet, saying the backpackers' guide portrays the Russian capital as a gangster-infested Gotham and presents an image of the city that is at least 15 years out of date.

One television channel said the guide suggested that "life in the Russian capital is determined by the laws of the jungle. Foreigners are being warned: criminals, Aids and mites are raging in Moscow and shops are full of fake vodka."

Lonely Planet lauds Moscow's beauty and history in its 258-page guide, but notes the city is "riddled with corruption".

It highlights the business interests of the mayor, Yury Luzhkov, saying he is "as much a chief executive as he is a mayor" and has gained popularity with a "bread and circuses" approach to satisfying Muscovites. Criticism of the book comes as city officials launch a £14m initiative to improve Moscow's image abroad.

They have expressed anger at foreign stereotypes of the city, including a recent survey by British consultancy, Mercer HR, which suggested it was the most expensive place in the world.

Moscow is calmer and less dangerous than it was in the early 1990s, but maintains a reputation for social inequality, drive-by shootings and racist attacks.

Tour operators concerned that the capital's poor image was deterring visitors joined the criticism of the guide book this week. Aleksey Shavlov, the public relations director of Soviet-era tour operator Intourist, said on Russian television: "How could they write that prostitutes were standing at every corner in Moscow? We have never had this, we do not and will not have this. Brothels are prohibited here." The guidebook does not mention prostitutes on "every corner" but does say that Moscow "epitomises the seamier side of post-communist Russia".

Yevgeniya Pisarenko, a manager at the Godzilla hostel, said most of her guests arrived clutching the Lonely Planet guide. "They don't seem to have any negative expectations about Moscow," she said.

At a glance:

The number of tourists in Moscow is increasing by 10% a year

The city is to spend £14m on a multi-language website and glossy magazines to improve its image

Drive-by shootings remain common in central Moscow

122,000 crimes have been committed this year, a significant increase

A ticket on the super-efficient Moscow metro costs 35p

LR: So let's see now, you ride cheap and fast on the Metro until you are robbed of your wallet by a thug in one of the cars, but you don't care because you're amazed by the beauty that surrounds you when you leave the station and anyway you're soon killed in the crossfife of a drive-by. Sounds like tourists will be wanting to book passage on the next flight!

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