Rostourism, the Russian federal agency for tourism, has been abolished on order from President Vladimir Putin.
Rostourism was only created 18 years ago, also by presidential degree from President Putin. But as of October 20th, the agency has been dissolved and its functions transferred into the Ministry of Economic Development.
“In order to improve public administration in the sphere of tourism and tourist activity, increase the efficiency of development of the tourist industry and optimize the structure of federal executive bodies,” the decree reads (translated from Russian).
It is the last line which is perhaps concerning – Rostourism had judicial authority over visitors to Russia and many Russians abroad. That has now been folded into the Ministry of Economic Development, which is a more central part of the Russian government with more authority and reach. That this is happening at the same time as ‘mobilization,’ a massive draft of Russian citizens, many unwilling, to fight in Ukraine, suggests a tightening of movement restrictions is on the way, akin to what happened under the U.S.S.R.
Last month, Zarina Doguzova, head of Rostourism, said she had not received any information about movement restrictions for citizens not yet summoned for military service, but the dissolving of her department came as a surprise for her too.
Currently, many Russians are counting on their right to freely travel and to leave the country as a means to avoid mobilization. Neighboring Kazakhstan, which lies between Russia, China, and the Caspian Sea, is reporting hours-long traffic jams along their border with Russia and through their checkpoints. Under Rostourism, this movement was legal. It remains to be seen what will change. Last week, President Putin announced that the local authorities of border regions would soon be given the authority to restrict movement if needed for reasons of economy or national security.