History and Geography: The Experience Economy and the Future Campus. Part II
02.09.2019

By the specific resource that Tomsk and the Region have in order to develop the experience economy I mean the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society. Almost all Russian cities have such branches and they all do something, but not all of them get to be awarded by the Russian President for their activities. On April 23 2019, our Branch was awarded with a silver medal for active research and study of the Siberian region, Russia, and the world. As the Chairman, I was happy and honored to receive it.

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The Tomsk Branch has been conducting expeditionary, publishing, enlightening, and research activities aimed at studying the natural factors of the Siberian regions for 70 years. The main distinguishing feature of this Branch is that it was established on the basis of Tomsk State University. Therefore, its research activities are conducted systematically and comprehensively. We have 10 commissions that work on physical geography and geomorphology; studies of seasonal rhythms of nature; ecological climatology of Siberia; hydrology; glaciology and mountain hydrology; nature conservation; historical geography; cartography and geographic information technologies; scientific tourism; and domestic and international tourism.

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These commissions deal with a wide range of tasks. A significant part of them is directly related to the formation of what could be called the future “experience economy” of Tomsk, the Tomsk region and Siberia. These are the tasks of reconstructing the ancient history of Siberia, creating a unified geographic information space of the Tomsk Region and the geoportal of the Tomsk Region, developing and implementing new regional touristic routes, developing informative tourism based on the efficient use of natural, historical, and cultural resources of the Tomsk Region. Much attention is paid to the school scout movement and youth tourism. All this great work is embodied in a wide variety of projects, in which thousands of people have been involved.

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The results of most of our research can be successfully used in the future as part of the regional “experience economy”. In particular, this refers to the archaeological site "Scythians on the shores of Tom"; the expedition “History of gold mines of the Tomsk province”; study of the natural and information-cognitive potential of especially valuable natural objects of the Tomsk Region, as well as the natural conditions and cultural and historical features of the Tomsk Region for the development of domestic tourism.

Of course, all of the above can only be carried out by people sincerely interested in their work and devoted to the ideals of the Russian Geographical Society. And this is exactly what our Tomsk Regional Branch is famous for.

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For a quarter of a century it was headed by doctor Okishev, professor of the Department of Local History and Tourism, full member of the Russian Geographical Society, who was a student of professor Tronov, a famous scientist and climber, researcher of glaciers and the first Chairman of the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society. His followers are members of its Council today: famous traveler and public figure Kovalevsky; Head of the Department of Paleontology and Historical Geology Tatyanin; and Executive Director of the Tomsk Branch Kalyuzhnaya, as well as a number of other specialists in charge of various areas of the Branch. Thanks to all of them, many other people are involved in the branch’s activities.

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It is necessary to say some words about the work done by the Board of Trustees of the Tomsk Branch, headed by Sergey Zhvachkin, Governor of the Tomsk region. The Board and the Governor not only help the Branch to carry out its projects, but they also participate in them and even initiate some of them.

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There is a strong bond between the Branch of the Russian Geographical Society and Tomsk State University, which determined the high potential of the Branch, its scientific validity, and diversity. As I have already mentioned more than once, Imperial Tomsk University, as a mega-project, was founded to bring Siberia into the Russian cultural space and develop it as a place very rich for natural resources. Over more than 140 years, many scientific schools and institutes have been established in our university to study various aspects of Siberia. In addition, several years ago, a new strategic academic unit, “TSSW: Siberian Institute of the Future”, occurred. It collaborates with many well-known international researchers and is known by its interdisciplinary and network approaches to studying the issues of Siberia related to its history, natural resources, geographical features, climate, economy, urban studies, and culture.

It is noteworthy that today's TSU scientists, participating in such projects, become real travelers and climbers themselves. For example, professor Sergey Kirpotin, Director of the TSU "BioClimLand" center, won the Arctic Awards 2018, established by the Arctic World Club and the Association of Polar Explorers; and professor Ludmila Borilo, TSU’s Academic Secretary and Head of the “TSSW: Siberian Institute of the Future”, won the mountain top of Mount Belukha in 2018.

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These examples, like the examples of many other Tomsk researchers, confirm Victor Frankl's idea that "the path to oneself lies through the whole world." The philosophy of the Tomsk Branch is also built on the statement: to consider travelling not only as one of the ways of knowing one’s Fatherland and the world, but also as a resource for the development of an individual, an instrument for the formation of human capital.

People who have mastered such a method of self-cognition will never be victims of consequences of total globalization, since they will always be interested in their local cultures and wildlife. The problem, however, is that in many countries all this is beginning to disappear for good. Relaxing on artificial grass is good, but "being on an island of intelligence in an ocean of wildlife" is even better. With our common will and active assistance, the Tomsk Region can become not only such an “island”, but also a huge interactive “open-air museum”. Just think about this: as of January 2016, there were 672 (!) objects of cultural heritage of federal significance in Tomsk and the Tomsk region. Among them were and still are dozens of unique monuments and buildings; many ancient settlements, hillforts, and burial hills discovered by Tomsk historians, archaeologists, and paleontologists. However, now, only a small part of all this treasure is open for the public to see and is included in the local touristic routes. Meanwhile, these are the very “historicity and authenticity” that determine the cultural uniqueness of our place and can, along with natural artifacts, become a powerful foundation for its future experience economy. To make the place where we live a magnet that attracts international students and tourists, it is not enough for the Russian Geographical Society, TSU and other Tomsk universities to put their efforts. It is necessary to attract federal resources and private investments.

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During my recent trip to China, I was convinced that Chinese people are interested in Tomsk as a place for their students to study, as well as a place for educational and cultural tourism. They are ready to cooperate with us and invest their money, developing touristic routes and building touristic facilities. The main thing is to correctly lay out the routes and position them, relying, among other things, on the idea of the "third-age universities", into the global network of which we have already entered. Then not only young people, but also adults will come to us to listen to the lectures of leading Tomsk professors, to practice new crafts and types of art, to visit historic places, and so on. If we rebuilt the “old” Tomsk merchant estate, I am sure that Chinese (and not only Chinese) tourists would line up to live in it.

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In conclusion, I would like to emphasize once again, history and geography are the key factors for building new cultural and educational bridges between Siberia, Russia, and other countries. We can successfully export our national education only if we do the same with our history and culture.


02.09.2019
By the specific resource that Tomsk and the Region have in order to develop the experience economy I mean the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society