Welcome to Moscow!

chinamenThe photo accompanying the article translated below would leave no doubt in readers’ minds that it was people from China who would be targeted by the new surveillance measures. Photo by Gleb Shchelkunov. Courtesy of Kommersant

Big Tour Is Watching You
System for Monitoring Flows of Foreigners to Be Readied for When Borders Open
Yulia Tishina
Kommersant
April 9, 2020

It is not only the city’s residents that the Moscow mayor’s office wants to track: it is also interested in designing a system, based on data from telecom operators, for tracking the movements of tourists in the capital. The system should help monitor the incidence of coronavirus and localize breakouts after the borders have beern reopened. According to our sources, Yandex, which already supplies the authorities with data on transport flows and monitors the level of self-isolation in Moscow, could be eligible for the contract.

Moscow authorities could create a system for monitoring places where foreign tourists gather, a source in the mayor’s office has told our newspaper. It would track foreigners who came to Moscow and determine the areas where they spent the most time, using data from telecom providers based on roaming or local SIM cards.

According to the source, the Moscow Department of Information Technology (DIT) plans to sign a contract for providing such data with a sole provider. This information was confirmed by another source familiar with the authorities’ plans. According to the source, monitoring of tourists in Moscow would be required to control the incidence of infection after restrictions on movement between countries had been lifted: “The system should help track residents who have potentially come into contact with foreigners and localize outbreak areas.”

DIT’s press service said there were currently no plans to create such a system, but confirmed it was doing a “cost assessment of services for the provision of on-demand geo-analytical reports.”

City authorities have already been purchasing data from operators on the movement of individuals, based on the geolocation of SIM cards. Since 2015, DIT has spent 516 million rubles [approx. 6.3 million euros] on purchasing such data, Vedomosti reported in March 2019. The city administration’s analytical center acts as an intermediary between DIT and operators, and the data is anonymized.

Yandex could submit a bid design the tourist tracking system, said one of our sources. “The company already transmits its data to the authorities in various categories, including traffic flows,” he said. Yandex has also launched a system for monitoring the level of self-isolation in Moscow and other cities. Yandex declined to comment on city hall’s project. MTS, MegaFon, and VimpelCom also declined to comment.

A spokesperson at Tele2 said it is impossible to identify individual subscribers in projects using depersonalized data.

A system for monitoring coronavirus patients based on geolocation data from telecom operators was launched in Moscow on March 3.

To do this, the patient has to download a special app or get a device loaded with it from the authorities. The best option may be to implement monitoring of tourist traffic on the basis of the existing system, according to Dmitry Karosanidze, head of the network solutions sales support group at Jet Infosystems. “You would also have to work out how to rapidly upload data on newly arrived tourists from the databases of telecom operators, as well as the databases of the Tourism Ministry and the Border Guards,” he added.

Many companies in the retail and banking segment have been purchasing aggregated geolocation data for a long time from telecom operators to determine the best locations for stores and branches, said Kirill Morozov, head of the telecoms and IT division at PwC. “If data were collected and transmitted anonymously, it would not violate users’ rights,” he noted.

Such technologies already enable state agencies to analyze the flow of people in the city in order to make decisions about infrastructure development, said Anna Nikitova, an adviser at Yakovlev & Partners Law Group. “But selective tracking of individuals excludes depersonalizing information. And providing third parties with information about subscribers can only be done with their consent,” she noted. Therefore, bringing the system online would likely involve the authorities enacting new directives, the expert argued, while it would be important to ensure their compliance with European data protection regulation (GDPR).

Thanks to Anatrrra for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Russia Should Be World’s No. 1 Tourist Destination

zarinaZarina Doguzova. Photo courtesy of Maxim Stulov/Vedomosti

New Rosturizm Head Assesses Russia’s Tourist Potential
Vedomosti
February 11, 2019

Russia’s tourist potential was as huge and immense as the country itself, said Zarina Doguzova, Rosturizm’s new head. On Monday, Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin introduced Doguzova to staff at the agency, which has been given a new leader at the same time as it has come under the  jurisdiction of the Russian Economic Development Ministry.

“The principal task you and I face is discovering this potential and realizing it to the maximum extent,” Doguzova said.

She argued Russia should be the first country that came to mind when foreigners were planning their next holiday, while Russians should be happy to show Russia’s unexplored corners to their children and plan to travel to a neighboring region during the next long weekend, not to a neighboring country.

“This won’t happen tomorrow, but maybe it should,” she said.

When introducing Doguzova, Oreshkin noted that, under her leadership, Rosturizm would be tasked with creating the right image within the country, an image that would present the real picture and thus attract both domestic and foreign tourists.

In September 2018, President Putin signed a decree transferring Rosturizm from the purview of the Culture Ministry to the Economic Development Ministry’s jurisdiction. On February 8, Prime Minister Medvedev appointed Doguzova the agency’s new head.

Doguzova was born in 1985. In 2008, she graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) and, according to friends, got a job in the press service of Vladimir Putin during his stint as prime minister. In 2012, Putin won the presidential election, and Doguzova transferred to the Kremlin’s office of public relations and communications.

Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Vacation in Crimea and Make a Baby!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog for these public service messages.

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“Vacation in Crimea!” Billboard on the quay of the Obvodny Canal, 9 July 2015. Photograph by the Russian Reader

 

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“The more children there are, the happier we are. Don’t postpone having children.” Public service billboard in central Petrograd. Photograph by the Russian Reader, 9 July 2015

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[…]

Indeed, Russia’s window for further population growth is rapidly closing. Within a decade, according to RANEPA’s estimates, the population of Russian women aged 20 to 29 will shrink by nearly 50 percent. The corresponding decrease in birth rates, particularly when combined with the country’s mortality rates—the 22nd highest in the world, according to the study—makes it clear that Russia is still in for long-term decline.

In fact, without remedial action, Russia’s population could shrink to 113 million by 2050, a decrease of more than 20 percent from today’s population of 144 million. And in a worst-case scenario, RANEPA argues, Russia’s population could fall by nearly a third, to 100 million, before midcentury. The economic effects of such a shift would be dramatic; Russia’s working-age population would decrease by more than 26 million, making the country less competitive and less prosperous. But there is still some hope: if Moscow takes measures to reduce mortality and boost the birthrate, RANEPA estimates that the Russian population could rise modestly, to 155 million, by 2040.

In other words, Russia has a choice to make—one with deep social and economic consequences. If implemented in the near term, improvements in health care, tax benefits for families, and steps to discourage emigration could offset and even reverse Russia’s long-term population decline. The opportunity to do so, however, will be lost over the next decade, and the social and economic consequences of governmental inattention could be catastrophic.

[…]

Unfortunately, there’s little chance that the Kremlin will seize the moment. In recent years, preoccupied with regaining its place on the world stage, Moscow has only peripherally addressed the long-term sources of national decline. Instead, it has prioritized spending on programs that reinforce its reputation as a great power. Even before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, it was estimated that Russia planned to spend upward of $600 billion on upgrading its military capabilities by 2020. The increased expenditures have funded, among other projects, the creation of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, the deployment of additional long-range strike capabilities, and serious work on electromagnetic pulse weapons.

[…]

—Ilan Berman, “Moscow’s Baby Bust?” Foreign Affairs, July 8, 2015

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Crimean officials estimate that over 4 million tourists will visit the recently annexed peninsula’s beaches this year, boosting the region’s economy by up to 125 billion rubles ($2 billion), news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

“We expect to welcome 4.3 million people to Crimea in 2015, most of them from Russia,” Crimean Tourism Minster Yelena Yurchenko was quoted as saying.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March last year in a move widely applauded at home but condemned by the West, which imposed sanctions on investment in Crimea.

Before the annexation, 6 million tourists visited Crimea annually, according to Russia’s tourism watchdog, Rostourism. Most of these were Ukrainians.

Russia is trying to stimulate travel to Crimea to help the region’s tourism-dependent economy, but the land route through mainland Ukraine has seen a steep drop in use since Russian and Ukrainian guard posts were placed on the Crimean border.

Over half of tourists this year will come to Crimea by plane and 45 percent will come by the Kerch Strait ferry, according to Yurchenko.

Russia plans to build a multibillion-dollar bridge between Russia and Crimea, but construction will not be complete until 2018.

— “Crimea Plans to Make $2 Billion on Summer Tourism This Year,” The Moscow Times, March 19, 2015The emphasis, above, is mine.

China Friendly

2014_10_14_04_44_2014_10_08_01_04_1832_07_Students

Hotels in Petersburg Say “Ni Hao!”
September 30, 2014
Fontanka.ru

Petersburg hoteliers have begun negotiations on joining the China Today program, which helps participants gain greater visibility among tour agents and tourists in China. They are doing this because they need to replace the falling number of tourists from Europe and the US. Fontanka found out what tourists from China want to see in cafes and restaurants.

In the light of this past summer’s political events, Russia’s economy has turned towards the countries of the East. The tourist business, which organizes leisure in Russia for foreigners, has not been fighting the general trend. After the imposition of sanctions, the flow of tourists from Europe has declined, as has been visible on the streets of Petersburg even taking the season into account. As Fontanka learned, several major Petersburg hotels have begun negotiations with the association World without Borders, which unites inbound tourism tour operators, about participating in the China Friendly program.

Participation in the program helps hotels obtain certification for compliance with the requirements of Chinese tourists, who are supposed to replace European guests in the new political and economic reality. Vetted hotels are eligible to use the China Friendly status in their ad campaigns. It helps them to attract the attention of both Chinese tour operators choosing Russian hotels to accommodate their own customers or a Russian operator for collaboration, and Chinese tourists who prefer to travel on their own. Mikhail Vislin, the association’s executive director, refused to name the Petersburg hoteliers ready to open their doors wide to the Chinese. (At present, no Petersburg hotels have this status, which is attractive to visitors from the Middle Kingdom.)

“Unlike tourists from Europe and America, tourists from China have significant cultural peculiarities. They have a quite particular mindset. Moreover, the language barrier is a much more acute problem for them. Despite the fact that the Russian tourist industry is gradually becoming more oriented towards the Chinese, to date only a few sites are comfortable for them to visit,” says the program’s official web site.

China Friendly’s compliance requirements for hotels are posted on the program’s information portal. Most of them concern duplication of information in Chinese. To obtain certification, a hotel must develop a Chinese-language version of its site, put location information in Chinese in its rooms, and hire employees who know Chinese. Rooms must also always have green tea with a tea set and electrical sockets with the standard plug used in the PRC. Guests’ breakfasts must be adapted to Chinese tradition.

“The buffet at the hotel restaurant must include some elements of Chinese cuisine. It should include boiled eggs, steamed vegetables cut into small pieces easy to grab with chopsticks, chicken, and baozi—small dumplings with different fillings. Chinese porridge, a watery, salty rice porridge similar in structure [sic] to broth, must also be cooked,” explained China Today project director Anna Sibirkina.

[…]

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Russia and China Boost Student Exchange Programs
Anna Dolgov
The St. Petersburg Times
October 8, 2014

Russia and China plan to increase the number of students studying under mutual exchange programs to 100,000 in five years, Russian media has reported, shortly after Russia canceled a popular exchange program with the U.S.

The announcement came ahead of a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Moscow on Monday, when several dozen cooperation agreements on trade, investment, energy and cultural affairs were expected to be signed.

Currently, about 25,000 Chinese students are attending Russian colleges and universities, while 15,000 Russian students are studying in China. Moscow and Beijing plan to raise the total number to 100,000 by 2020, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified source from the Russian Cabinet.

As part of the 2014-15 Russia-China Youth Friendly Exchange program — a bilateral year set up to strengthen cultural ties — more than 300 events in both countries were scheduled throughout the year, with more than 7,000 students having taken part so far, according to the spokesperson.

The spokesperson also announced that China had taken first place in the number of visits to Russia this year, with more than 500,000 Chinese citizens coming to Russia in the first six months of this year alone.

“Last year, China came in second by the number of tourists visiting Russia [with 370,000 visits]. But in the first six months of 2014 alone, China has already taken the leading position — more than 500,000 Chinese citizens have visited Russia so far, and 135,000 of them were on tourist trips,” the source was cited as saying by the TASS news agency.

The apparent surge in Russia’s popularity comes as the country pivots toward China amid deteriorating relations with the West.

[…]

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Locals: Chinese Are Massively Eating Domestic Cats in the Leningrad Region 
Rosbalt.ru

SAINT PETERSBURG, October 12. Cats have been disappearing without a trace in the village of Divinsky, in Leningrad Region’s Gatchina District. Locals have conducted their own investigation and concluded that Chinese are destroying the animals. And that they are not just killing them, but using them for food.

As local resident Roza Vasilieva told Rosbalt, she has recently lost three healthy cats. The woman had a total of five four-pawed favorites, but two of them are quite old and stay at home. She has lost forever the other cats, which she let out to walk. Her neighbors have faced similar problems. Residents have tried to find the animals and posted notices, but all to no avail.

“You might think the foxes were to blame. But the foxes have long lived in the woods and don’t touch the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

“Yesterday, my husband went looking for the cats. He walked through all the fields, but didn’t find a single cat. But he did discover bait set out by the Chinese. They lured the cats with a wrapper soaked in some kind of narcotic. We let our cat sniff it: she just went crazy. Apparently, they drive around in a car throwing the bait, and then collect the cats. At first, we couldn’t believe that it was the Chinese, but then we concluded it was them. We are sure that they are eating the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Residents were alarmed, went to the village council, and began telling other people about the problem. (“Conducting propaganda,” Vasilieva calls it.) What they fear most of all is an invasion of rats. Life in the village would be impossible without any four-pawed hunters.

“The Chinese have two bases here—in the Luga District—the village of Krasny Mayak [Red Lighthouse] and near the village of Kuznetsovo. They have about a hundred greenhouses there. Around three hundred people live there. It’s not enough that they are poisoning our water and land with their fertilizers, but now they’re also catching our cats,” the woman complains.

However, she admits that residents have not found the remains of the animals.

“They hide it all, of course,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Nevertheless, she has no doubt about what has happened to the animals.

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The Chinese Revolution in Migration
Gorod (812)
October 13, 2014

[…]

According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, a researcher at the Institute for National Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Central Asian labor supply will run out in fifteen years or so. Instead, Chinese will work in Russia. They have now already densely “occupied” the Russian Far East and Siberia.

“Life without the Chinese is no longer conceivable in these regions. A survey was conducted in which one of the questions was, What is more important to you, relations with Moscow or relations with China? China took first place,” says Zayonchkovskaya.

The Chinese are actively cultivating the Moscow market. They have not made it to Petersburg yet. According to Zayonchkovskaya, the Chinese are good workers. They are quite adaptable, not prone to conflict, and know at least a minimum amount of Russian. In some sense, our country’s future belongs to them.

In Petersburg, the authorities have been making attempts to replace foreign guest workers with internal migrants from the provinces. According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, this is a futile undertaking. The population of all the surrounding small towns has already been “licked clean,” and there is just no extra manpower in Russia.

[…]

This article was published only in the print edition of Gorod (812), on page 11. Photo, above, courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times.