Bali Tourist Hotspot Renamed ‘New Moscow’ As Russian Influx Continues, Locals Outraged

Told you so.

Bali Tourist Hotspot Renamed ‘New Moscow’ As Russian Influx Continues, Locals Outraged

Image: DMARGE/The Fit Traveller

Canggu, Bali, was controversially renamed ‘New Moscow’ on Google Maps amid rising Russian tourism and upcoming direct flights from Russian airlines.

We’ve been pointing out that Aussies have been mightily toppled from the infamous top-spot of “worst tourists in Bali” for months, pointing out earlier this year that the Indonesian island, once renowned as the place for Aussies young and old to go and let loose for a few weeks (much to the chagrin of the authorities) has since been wrestled into the hands of Russian expats.

Almost as if we predicted it, the quaint village of Canggu in Bali recently found itself in the international spotlight after being listed on Google Maps as ‘New Mockba’ or ‘New Moscow.’ This unexpected and apparently unplanned change sparked fierce online backlash both online and amongst locals, prompting swift responses from top Bali officials and Indonesian government ministers.

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Adding fuel to the raging fire that is this very heated debate, reports have emerged that two Russian airlines are planning to launch direct flights to Bali in the near future. Though the carriers in question are yet to be revealed, it’s clear they are eager to secure slots at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport.

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Many officials have long advocated for more direct flights to boost tourism and the local economy, but this development in conjunction with the apparent re-naming has not been too well received…

Nikita Kondratjev, Director of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects at the Russian Ministry of Economic Development confirmed the plans, saying that although “there are certain conditions that must be met so that we can launch direct flights”, Russian travel agents are ready and raring to fill flights to the Indonesian paradise.

Bali’s top dog of tourism, Tjok Bagus Pemayun. Image: Bali Picture News

While the influx of Russian tourists could undoubtedly bolster the local economy, the controversy over Canggu’s renaming has drawn somewhat melodramatic but nevertheless telling comparisons to an annexation. Bali officials, however, have been quick to dismiss such notions. The Head of the Bali Tourism Office, Tjok Bagus Pemayun, said this:

“If in Bali there is New Moscow [used] as a term, it doesn’t matter as long as the residents in that place still obey all the rules and regulations that apply in Indonesia, and don’t cause problems with the local communities around them.”

Tjok Bagus Pemayun

Indonesia’s Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies, Santiago Uno, echoed Pemayun’s sentiments. Minister Uno emphasised the positive economic impact of these investments and assured that national interests would be safeguarded. He also pointed out that similar scenarios in other parts of Indonesia — such as Korea Town, Little India, and Chinatown — all of which have seen harmonious international integrations with minimal backlash.

Image: Google Maps/Bali Sun

Bali officials have stated that, despite the very real political response, the Google Maps listing was ultimately nothing more than a prank. The Head of Public Relations for the Bali Regional Police, Commissioner Jansen Avitus Panjaitan, confirmed that while an investigation is underway…

“There has been no change in what applies in Indonesia. The map name is still Canggu. We will coordinate to find out who made it, or whether it was just a fad.”

Commissioner Jansen Avitus Panjaitan

Suffice to say that while this story has really whipped up the online discourse around the island, police have plenty bigger fish to fry: with preparations for the World Water Forum requiring over 14,000 security officers and significant ongoing drug-related investigations, the island’s police force remains heavily engaged in maintaining security elsewhere.

As Bali reels from this unusual episode, the ‘New Moscow’ saga comes as a timely reminder of the ever-changing complexities of modern tourism… and just how handy it can be to have a well-humoured friend working in the Google headquarters.