News / Europe

'Russia’s Tibet’ Opens to Jet-Age Tourism

Jet Age Tourism Comes to 'Russia’s Tibet’ - the Altaii
|| 0:00:00
X
September 18, 2012 9:36 PM
Russia’s remote Altai Republic has long been seen as ‘Russia’s Tibet.’ Long isolated by rugged mountains, this region on the border with China and Mongolia, has just opened up to jet age tourism. VOA correspondent James Brooke reports from Altai.

Jet Age Tourism Comes to 'Russia’s Tibet’ - the Altai

James Brooke
The remote Altai Republic has long been seen as "Russia’s Tibet." Isolated by the tallest mountains in Siberia, Altai is located on the border with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. But now Altai is opening up to jet-age tourism.
 
Last year, workers at the region’s only commercial airport doubled the length of the landing strip and built a new terminal. In June, jets started bringing tourists directly from Moscow, Europe’s most populous city, to drink the milk of horses, contemplate clear, glacier-fed rivers and breathe the fresh air of Altai’s Golden Mountains. The range, with peaks of 4,500 meters, is one of Russia’s nine natural areas listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
 
  • The new air terminal at Gorno Altaisk, capital of the Altai Republic. Three months ago, regular jet flights started from Moscow, bringing affluent Russians and foreigners to a long isolated corner of the world's largest nation. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • A white ribbon, a good luck totem of the mountain people’s shamanistic faith, flutters from a larch tree overlooking a ridge of the Altai-Sayan mountains. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Nadezhda Yegorova offers bowls of fresh mare’s milk to foreign visitors. Two years ago, after attending a class on eco-tourism offered by WWF, Yegorova decided to open to tourists her traditional family yurt in the village of Inya on the Chuiskii Track.
  • Mutton sausage, river fish, and sweetened cranberries are some of the delicacies that Altai hosts serve their guests. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • At Chui Oozi cultural center, also on the Chuiskii Track, rock etchings – thousands of years old – commemorate deer and elk hunts by prehistoric peoples of the Altai. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • At the Chui Oozi cultural center, a young woman shows off traditional native dress. In the background, Bolot Byiryshev, one of Altai’s most accomplished throat singers, rests after singing an epic ballad. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • A young Altai boy walks to school, where he will study in Russian and Altai, the region’s Turkic language. An Altai population boom means that within a generation, Altai people will probably displace Russians as the ethnic majority.
  • In a high mountain yurt, a woman elder from the Kun community burns juniper twigs in a shamanistic purification and blessing welcome ceremony for foreign visitors. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • By the fast flowing Bashkaus River, a man rides past Azalo, a family compound that opened last month for visitors, complete with a new cedar plank, ecologically friendly latrine. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Muscovites ask visitors returning from the Altai: Did you see a Snow Leopard? No, but we bought little leopards fashioned out of felt, made from the pressed and matted wool of sheep raised in the Altai. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • A summer season of white prayer ribbons festoon a cedar tree on a mountainside. Following shamanistic beliefs of the White Faith, travelers tie white ribbons to tree branches for good luck. VOA Photo: Vera Undritz
  • On a cool autumn evening, a mountain lake carries the reflections of high mountain slopes where the first snows of winter have already fallen. These high altitudes are home to the snow leopard and its prey, the Argali sheep.

Visitors are also attracted by the Altai’s exotic traditional culture. Alexei Kaichi, for example, is a throat singer who voices the epic ballads of his native land.
 
“I truly stand for worshiping the hills, the mountain passes, and the water springs,” he says as he stands outside a yurt, a traditional circular dwelling of Altai’s semi-nomadic people. “Because, as I was taught, every part of the land is a deity.”
 
Galina Toptigina, who built the Chui Ooz Cultural Center near her ancestral village, emphasizes the importance of tourism revenue as foreign and Russian visitors bargain for locally made scarves and hats of silk and felt.
 
“With the new airport, we get different people, and we make money with this,” says Toptigina. “We have to keep tourism in our hands, offering our tourism, our services, our handicrafts.”
 
Selling hats, scarves and toy snow leopards made of felt, Olga Safanova says she was unemployed for three years until she took an eco-tourism course from the World Wildlife Fund nature group.
 
"Tourism here is just developing, and I think it is not bad because the local people have started to prepare souvenirs," she says. "And we have our traditions and customs that attract tourists and earn money.”
 
But some big city tourists do not share the mountain peoples’ reverence for land. At one stop, trash of picnickers and campers is piled between a mountain lake and a sacred pass where good luck strips of white cloth flutter from cedar trees.
 
Igor Kalmykov, who directs the Altai Biosphere Reserve, says the first step is to get local community leaders to see that local jobs depend on a pristine environment.
 
“We prepare local guides,” he says. “We try very hard to give them the possibilities to sell locally made souvenirs in places where they can sell.”
 
With unemployment high, nature tourism could provide jobs for the next generation growing up in Russia’s faraway Altai.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid