Alexander Bashkin: "Quarrels are not beneficial. We must trade, communicate."

Interviewed by the editor-in-chief of Vestnik Kavkaza, Maria Sidelnikova
Alexander Bashkin: "Quarrels are not beneficial. We must trade, communicate."

2017 will be very significant for one of the fastest growing regions of southern Russia. It will mark 300th anniversary since the creation of Astrakhan province. Astrakhan platform is regarded as a venue for the Valdai expert club, it will host the next Caspian Media Forum, and a positive image of this region will be the main topic of the Caspian Expert Forum. Senator from Astrakhan region Alexander Bashkin discussed this region in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- How can you describe modern image of Astrakhan region? What things Astrakhan residents themselves primarily associate it with?

- I'm was born in Astrakhan, and I visited many places, so I can say that we associate our region with the word "home" - comfortable, safe home. Astrakhan region is the territory of creative and mental freedom. From a remote provincial, pale town, which was a place of political exile in the XVIII-XIX centuries, Astrakhan region has developed into a modern scientific, economic and industrial center. This place attracts many people, investors. This place becomes center of positive political, economic, creative events. 

- Astrakhan region is a home for representatives of 147 nationalities, who live there in peace and harmony. What instruments were used to achieve this harmony?

- Our ancestors began this work, people who lived in this territory for centuries. Things were like that in Astrakhan province, in Astrakhan Khanate, in Khazar Khaganate. One of the main reasons for this - peoples inhabiting this territory never had any historical claims to this land. Everyone just came here at one point and they all were accepted. The second reason - Astrakhan was transport and logistics hub of the Great Silk Road. Peoples that moved along this road settled here, lived and worked in Astrakhan. Our ancestors understood that quarrels are not beneficial, that we must trade and communicate. Our city still has old buildings of Persian courtyard, Indian courtyard, Armenian courtyard. During Middle Ages and in early Middle Ages they were trade and cultural centers, they represented their countries. 

It is important to not just inherit something from our ancestors, but to also preserve it. We manage to do it. Astrakhan region has dozens of national-cultural societies. People themselves create them, and authorities of all levels support them. Astrakhan region has ethno-religious council under the governor, which includes heads of national-cultural societies and leaders of all faiths. It is headed by the governor, who was born and raised in Astrakhan. He understands this delicate matter, his work is based not only on legal documents and various legislative acts, but also on life experience. 

We host different national holidays: Kalmyk, Kazakh, Tatar, Russian. Other nations have tolerant views, they are not against these holidays, they are active participants in them. Time spent in a festive atmosphere contributes to mutual understanding much more than ten boring sessions of some official institutions. All this and many other factors allow us to enjoy peace, tranquility and cooperation between different peoples. This is, in my opinion, a positive example for many other regions. 

- In 2017 Astrakhan is considered as one of the platforms for the Valdai forum. What can you offer as a topic for discussion from the point of view of Astrakhan region's global agenda?

- Since 2014 Valdai club stopped working in the format "we want to tell the world about Russia", and started to actively form the global agenda. If such event will be held in the Astrakhan region, topics for discussion must match this trend. Caspian region influences the entire international community. Iran is a powerful Caspian state, as well as a powerful player in the Middle East. Kazakhstan - another Caspian state, but it is Asian player. Russia itself is no longer regional state, it became a world-level state, which forms international agenda. That is why these issues can be discussed at the Valdai forum. The topic of legislative support of such concept as "Russian nation", recently proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, can also be discussed. I'm sure the agenda will include topics discussed by the media, including by your agency.

- In the rubric "From Kaliningrad to Kamchatka" we ask our guests to tell us about their region. What can you tell about Astrakhan? What places should tourists visit to understan the spirit of this region?

- Astrakhan is no longer be associated with just fishing, though the number of hunting and fishing services is increasing. Astrakhan region has more than 150 tourist routes. There are 874 objects of cultural heritage, 45 of them - of the federal level. We also have 96 archaeological sites. 

Tourism is not a chaotic set of objects that can be visited. Tourism can be thematic. In order to navigate in our region easier, we created a territorial information center and information web portal. 

We develop eco-tourism. From July to September visitors can see blooming of the most romantic, most beautiful flower of the East - lotus. You can see magnificence of this natural phenomenon in the delta of Volga. We have natural park Volga-Akhtuba floodplain with unique flora and fauna. Tourists can visit Astrakhan Biosphere Reserve with outdoor ecological trails, famous salt lake Baskunchak, which resembles Dead Sea. The Bogd Khan Mountain is the only mountain in Astrakhan region, but it is a monument of nature.

Educational routes like Astrakhan Kremlin - a complex of fortifications and civil structures that won't leave anyone indifferent. It would be very interesting to visit historical complex "Sarai-Batu," where an ancient city - the capital of Golden Horde, was recreated. You can also see the exhibition "Gold of Sarmatians".

Cruise tourism by Volga River, famous since Soviet times, operates once again. We will also create completely new format of cruises - cruises by Caspian Sea. Astrakhan shipyards already began work on this.

It's easy to visit Astrakhan. The city has a large international airport, rail links with other neighboring countries, with the capital. People who visited Astrakhan at least once will always have very good and bright feelings and a desire to return.