DEUTSCHE WELLE ONLINE – February 15, 2011
The Russian love affair with Goa
Editor: Sarah Berning
The Indian state of Goa attracts 2.4 million tourists
annually, out of which half a million are foreigners. Among these
foreigners, Russians have become the largest group.
The Russian love affair with Goa started as a trickle at
the turn of the century. Today Russian tourism turns out to be the
fastest growing market for sunny Goa.
season starts from October and lasts until March. In the current
season, more than 65,000 Russians are expected on 800 chartered
flights - even from smaller cities like Yekaterinburg and
Historical ties between the former Soviet Union and India
have formed the basis for a strong connection. And with the opening
of the Russian markets, more and more Russians are travelling to
India, with Goa as their favourite haunt.
A Russian tourist told Deutsche Welle what makes Goa so
unique: "From my personal experience I can tell that Goa gives you
such a great feeling of freedom which is great for Russians. For 70
years we used to live in a country where freedom was a legend.
...you couldn’t talk to anyone freely. You couldn’t travel freely.
You always had to obey some rules. And then you go to Goa - no one
is asking anything. I think this is a very special spirit of Goa."
"The Goan-Russian mafia"
But some say that Russian crime has also made its way to
Goa through the tourism industry. Russians buy large tracks of land
in villages like Arambol and Morjim which the locals have dubbed
"little Russia." Some of the land deals are under scrutiny from the
federal authorities for having contravened several laws. The Indian
media speaks about a "Russian mafia phenomenon" emerging in Goa, and
about conflicts between Russians and the locals.
Dr. A. Xavier, President of the Indo-German Friendship
Society in Goa is convinced that the "Russian mafia" is presently
the strongest criminal group in Goa and is facilitated by the local
"Surely the majority of the Russians coming to Goa have
nothing to do with the mafia. But it is there," according
to Xavier. "In my opinion this Russian mafia is severely disturbing
the Goan society; without the protection of the government of Goa,
the Russian mafia wouldn't have a chance here in Goa. The main
people responsible for this situation are the Goans themselves."
Huge Goan rave parties are world famous. Xavier presumes
that a prohibition of these parties would mitigate the influence of
Russian criminals. "Which corrupt politician in Goa would have the
courage to forbid the rave parties in Goa? Rave parties in Goa mean
drugs and sex. And that is the point where the Russian mafia is
On the other hand, Ralph De Souza, President of the Tourism
and Travel Association of Goa, argues that Goa is still safe. He
denies that a so called "mafia" is active in Goa. "Crimes are only
stray incidents and this is not of great concern since the level has
declined recently." He argues that he has not seen any gangsters in
Goa and the word mafia creates the wrong images. "That gives the
impression that there are gun fights and street brawls and we have
never experienced a single thing like this."
Indian authorities have recently reduced visa validity
periods for visitors and introduced a number of other tough
restrictions in order to curb illegal activities.