Baku, May 20 – Fewer than one Russian in 20 although almost one in five Muscovites has travelled beyond the borders of what was once the Soviet Union in the last two to three years, figures that raise questions about the accessibility of one of the new rights Russians value most and highlight the gap between the Russian capital and the rest of the country.
According to a new poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, six percent of Russians say that they have visited a CIS or Baltic country sometime in the last two or three years, and four percent say they have travelled at least once to countries in what Russians call “the far abroad” (www.polit.ru/research/2008/05/19/fom150508.html).
Muscovites in contrast are far more likely to have travelled to both, with 12 percent saying that they have visited “the near abroad” and 17 percent have gone to countries further afield, figures that are nearly three and more than four times respectively the national average and that reflect the greater incomes of people living in the Russian capital.
The major reason Russians give for not travelling abroad is a lack of money. Fifty-eight percent say they and people like them have not made such trips is a shortage of funds, but among the other reasons they gave are the impossibility of leaving work (six percent), personal problems (three percent), and poor health or age (one percent each).
But slightly more than one in four said they would not travel abroad even if they had the money to do so, citing that they do not like to travel, that there are many places in Russia itself to visit for relaxation, or that they are older or have poor health. At the same time, only one percent of the sample said that they had travelled to either the “near” or “far” abroad on business.
Among the countries Russians said they would like to go if they had the money were France (12 percent), Italy (10 percent), Gremany (eight percent), Egypt (seven percent), Turkey (six percent), the United States (six percent), and Great Britain and Greece (four percent each). Other countries were mentioned significantly less often.
Asked whether they would be willing to borrow money to take a foreign trip, a new service Russian banks and tour firms have combined to offer, Russians overwhelmingly (82 percent) say they would not do. But residents of the largest cities, the young, and those with higher educations are somewhat more likely than the total sample to say that they would.
Especially interesting given the importance many Russians today give to this right, the share of them who say they are thinking about vacationing abroad has risen only slightly over the last three years although the share who say they can afford to do so has gone up almost twice as much.