The June issue of the Smolensk diocesan Gazette (periodical of the Smolensk Orthodox Seminary) published an article by Maria Zhukova, Deputy head of the Department of the Smolensk diocese for relations between the Church and society and the media, co-author and curator of the project "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia", international project "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia": youth Orthodox tourism as an instrument of public diplomacy. The text is presented below.
international project "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia": Orthodox youth tourism as a tool of public diplomacy
the international project for the development of youth cultural and educational tourism "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia" can be attributed to the number of large-scale and bright projects of the Smolensk diocese, currently being implemented. This project, the author of the concept of which is Metropolitan Isidor of Smolensk and Dorogobuzh, is conceived as a practical tool of public diplomacy, allowing to solve a set of important tasks related to the need to develop and strengthen good-neighborly relations between Russia and the Republic of Belarus, the expansion of forms of international youth cooperation in the field of culture and tourism. With the blessing and personal participation of Metropolitan Isidor, the project was presented for participation in the second competition of 2018 for grants from the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society and was among its winners. The project Manager is the rector of the Orthodox Parish of the Church of the Holy new Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church in Smolensk, head of The Department of the Smolensk diocese for relations between the Church and society and the media Archpriest Valery Ryabokon.
The article describes the problems to be solved by the project "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia", presents the goals and objectives of the project, and describes the mechanisms for its implementation.
An important area of the public service of the Russian Orthodox Church is the activity in the sphere of public diplomacy, which is now among the priority areas of joint work of state and public institutions. In the context of the ongoing crisis of international political understanding, the growth of Russophobia, the leading direction of public diplomacy is the development of relations between civil societies of countries United by a common historical destiny, centuries-old spiritual and cultural bonds. The process of formation of national identity in the post-Soviet countries is characterized, among other things, by a clearly expressed desire to separate from Russia, its culture and the values of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, such latent trends are observed in the scale of Russian-Belarusian society: in Belarus there is a search for national identity outside Russia, an attempt to revolutionize public consciousness, which lays the idea of Polish and Lithuanian roots of Belarusian culture. Representatives of the Orthodox Church in Belarus and experts of the Institute of CIS countries note the assistance of representatives of the Catholic Church, Polish cultural organizations from Belarusian officials in the field. In line with this trend, school and University educational content are being implemented in Belarus. As a result, the youth of the two countries is segmented and divided: there are not enough points of intersection in the Russian-Belarusian historical and cultural space. Such sphere of youth international cooperation as cultural and educational tourism is poorly developed. In this regard, the expansion of cooperation between Russian civil society institutions on the territory of the Republic of Belarus as organizations acting in the interests of the Russian world is an important area of public diplomacy in the field of preserving the common cultural space of Russia and Belarus. In this regard, it should be noted that the Russian Orthodox Church as an important institution of the Russian civil society has sufficient resources to "promote the image of Russia as a country rich in its culture, its ideas and meanings, the development of relations between the civil societies of countries United by common historical destiny, are in the same civilizational space" (the Council's word of the XXII world Russian people's Council).
For the Smolensk region, bordering two of the six regions of the Republic of Belarus, the solution of the above problems is particularly relevant. In this regard, the development and implementation of the international project for the development of youth cultural and educational tourism "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia" can be considered in the context of the practical activities of the Smolensk Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in the field of public diplomacy.
The objectives of the project are:
- development of international youth cooperation in the field of cultural and educational tourism as a tool for preserving the common cultural space of Russia and Belarus;
- to promote the formation of the commonality of Russian and Belarusian cultures in the public consciousness of young citizens of the border regions of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus as two branches of a single historically established spiritual and cultural principle.
During the project, it is planned to create and test the international youth tourist route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia" in six regions of Russia and Belarus, which historically constituted the North-Western part of Ancient Russia. The route includes the cities of Pskov, Novgorod, Smolensk and Mogilev, Vitebsk, Polotsk (Republic of Belarus). The project provides for the creation of 6 tourist cases of these cities, which will then be combined into a single route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia". The creation of tourist cases and the route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia" is carried out by a group of volunteer students from five leading universities of the Smolensk region under the supervision of curators on the main profiles of the work performed. An important component of the project is its wide information promotion: there are presentations of the project in all cities of implementation, as well as the creation and maintenance of a specialized information resource – a multilingual project site.
The main principle of the project is to organize cooperation between the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Belarusian Orthodox Church, universities of the border regions of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in the promotion of spiritual, historical and cultural heritage. The peculiarity of the project is that the basic platform for its implementation is the Smolensk regional Department of the world Russian People's Council, which allows to consolidate the efforts of various organizations, whose leaders are conciliators, and use their resources for the implementation of project activities. Among the main partners of the project were the Pskov diocese, the Novgorod diocese, the Vitebsk diocese, the Mogilev diocese, the Smolensk Orthodox Theological Seminary, the Smolensk state University, the Smolensk state medical University, the Branch of the National research University "MEI" in Smolensk, the Smolensk state Institute of arts, the Department of internal policy of the Smolensk region, the Department of culture, the Administration of the MO "dorogobuzhsky district" of the Smolensk region, the Vitebsk oblast Executive Committee.
Another important principle is the Association of students from different universities in the form of joint project work, the organization of direct personal acquaintance of students with the historical and cultural heritage of a number of regions, promoting the acquisition of experience of familiarizing with the culture and historical memory of both their country and their nearest neighbors, which contributes to cultural socialization, the formation of cultural background, the development of creative qualities.
Next, it is advisable to consider the practical aspects of the project.
The first stage of the project was aimed at solving organizational problems, announcing the project among the target groups and organizing the necessary training of students for the development of tourist cases of the cities of the route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia".
Interuniversity group of volunteers was formed in the amount of 36 people from among the students of Smolensk state University, Smolensk state medical University, Branch of The research University of MEI in Smolensk, Smolensk Orthodox theological Seminary, Smolensk state Institute of arts.
The curators of the project developed a program of theoretical and practical classes, according to which in November 2018 – February 2019 a series of lectures and discussions on the basics of designing tourist routes was held for students. Classes were held on the following topics: "General principles of design of tourist routes and cases"; "Features of the use of historical information in the design of routes"; "Features of the preparation of descriptions of objects and their literary processing"; "Visual design of guides and travel cases, information promotion»; "Safe travel: logistics and health care". Students received the necessary theoretical knowledge, practical skills for further teamwork in the preparation of tourist cases of cities, including the skills of excursions, practical skills of photographing objects of the route, worked out the skills of formation of routes taking into account the number of objects, the time of their visit, logistics, met with the use of modern means of tourist navigation.
With the participation of students developed and launched a specialized multilingual site of the project, adapted for mobile devices.
The first presentation of the project took place at the round table "Modern routes of Orthodox youth tourism" in the Smolensk branch of "national research UNIVERSITY "MPEI" 14 November 2018, and at the IV Regional socio-economic forum "Territory of development" in the framework of the forum of the Smolensk regional branch of the world Russian people's Council 23 November 2018. The project was presented by Metropolitan Isidor of Smolensk and dorogobuzhsky and project Manager Archpriest Valery Ryabokon. It is important to note that during the presentation of the project at the IV forum "Territory of development" signed agreements on cooperation in the implementation of the project between the diocese of Smolensk and 4 partner universities of the project. In January 2019, Metropolitan Isidor of Smolensk and Dorogobuzh presented the project during his report at the conference of the VRNS "Youth movement for human dignity in the era of globalization", held within the framework of the XXVII International Christmas educational readings "Youth: freedom and responsibility". In his speech, the Head of the Smolensk metropolis noted that "the project "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia" provides for the creation of conditions for students in a number of regions of Russia and Belarus to study the historical and cultural heritage and modern life of the two countries through the development of youth tourism. In other words, our task is to tell young people about the shrines, historical and cultural sites, the peculiarities of traveling to Russian and Belarusian cities in their language, to give an opportunity to look at the cities that historically formed the Western borders of Ancient Russia through the eyes of their peers. Participation in the project allows to ensure a real rapprochement of groups of students, both participants of the project and wider layers of youth, United by modern information and communication space".
An important part of the first stage of the project was the development of technology for students to create tourist cases of cities of the route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia". The tourist case of each city includes information, as well as video and photo materials about the shrines and the main attractions, which will allow young people from different cities to make independent trips to the cities of the route. The creation of the tourist case of the city of Smolensk was attended by all students who are part of the project team; a group of students from a particular partner
of the University is responsible for the development of the tourist case of other cities. The creation of the tourist case of the city of Smolensk began with the compilation of the list of historical and cultural objects of the city of Smolensk: the list of objects is determined by voting in the project group in the social network "Vkontakte" and questioning students. Students independently prepared descriptions of objects and conducted their photography. Profile curators carried out an examination of the prepared materials, together with the students made the necessary corrections. Then the students developed walking routes for independent walks in Smolensk. A presentation video about the city was also created. Tourist case of Smolensk was posted on the project website.
Currently, the second stage of the project is being implemented: tourist cases of the cities of the route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia"are being developed. This work involves the project team visiting each city included in the route. During the trips, students not only get acquainted with the history and culture, collect the necessary photo and information materials, but also make presentations of the project at universities.
In March and April 2019, trips to Vitebsk and Polotsk took place: in each of the cities, the participants visited the main Orthodox shrines, other historical and cultural sites, corrected previously developed materials for tourist cases, and established new contacts with students from Belarusian universities. At the meeting of Metropolitan Isidor of Smolensk and Dorogobuzh with the project team, held on April 2, 2019, the students presented the first results of their work in the project. Metropolitan Isidor noted the importance of joint work of students under the auspices of the Church.
In may and June, the project team will visit Mogilev, Pskov and Veliky Novgorod, and in the autumn of 2019 a pilot tour will be organized along the developed route "Pearl necklace of Holy Russia".
It is planned that the project will become the basis for the further development of humanitarian educational programs that justify the unity of cultures of Russia and Belarus on the example of border regions, elements of which can be integrated into the content of the newly created tourist routes aimed at citizens of the Republic of Belarus.