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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Politically Correct Traveler's Guide

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Last fall at my friend's apartment in London I saw a poster urging democratically minded people not to spend their vacations in Turkey. The Turkish government violates human rights, persecutes the Kurds and we help it by spending our money in the country.

Such thoughts had never occurred to me before. But in planning this vacation, I could no longer justify myself by ignorance.

I'd love to go to Egypt. Alas, I open a newspaper and see an article about the persecution of Copts. And Egypt is hardly an example of democracy. The same story with Tunisia. Altogether in the Arab world, the situation with liberty and human rights is not great. Only in Morocco it gets better: Dissidents were released from prisons, censorship was lifted. What a pity it is too far away!

In Mexico they finally held free presidential elections. But who can guarantee that the recent clampdown on Chapas Indians will not be repeated?

Cuba is calling on Russian brothers to visit the Island of Liberty. The beaches are great. Fidel still rules. Dissidents are still in prisons. Citizens still get rationed food and the best education in Latin America.

Some young people obsessed with the East have traveled to Nepal. The flight is expensive, but all the rest is dirt cheap. Only the smell of the tear gas in the streets and murder of the royal family spoil the paradise.

In China neither democracy nor tourism are particularly developed.

Maybe Thailand? But what do you do about child exploitation in sweatshops and peasant girls being sold to the sex industry?

Overall, cheap tourism is in poor countries. And poverty doesn't fit well with human rights.

Croatia is very popular this season. There seems to be democratization there. But for some reason it is hard to forget that these charming people just recently expelled their Serbian neighbors from their houses, although the Serbs did the same. Israel fights against Palestinians who, in turn, are trying to blow up Jews. Clearly, not the most pleasant place for a vacation.

The Baltic republics were once very attractive to Soviet tourists. I used to go to Estonia. Alas, from a democracy viewpoint, it has its own problems. Talk about it with the Russian-speaking population. Well, we are told the situation is getting better. All right, when it really improves I'll go there.

It seems like I'd have to stay at home. Indeed, why not spend a vacation at the dacha? To tell you the truth, our Motherland is also not an example of respect for human rights. In addition, flies and mosquitoes bother you more than the secret police. The number of mosquitoes drops immediately when you cross the Finnish border. Maybe farsighted Europeans just deny them Schengen visas.

The human rights record also improves immediately, but the prices skyrocket: You are paying not half-hungry people from the slums for your services but full-fledged citizens organized in trade unions.

The longer I sit over a map, the more questions arise. And an old Soviet joke comes to mind about a Jew who decided to emigrate. He couldn't stand the Soviet Union any more, did not want to go to Israel because of war, to America because of the crime, to Italy because of corruption or to Australia because it was too far from Europe. The annoyed bureaucrat put a globe in front of the Jew and told him finally to chose a country. The old man spent about an hour thinking and then asked: "Don't you have another globe?"

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Moscow-based sociologist.