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Putins Crimean Gamble

If history is any judge, transforming Crimea into a Russian Las Vegas is an idea that is unlikely to work, writes Galina Stolyarova.

Published: April 30, 2014 (Issue # 1808)



  • Monte Carlo, a model for Crimea?
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While Russia faces intense international pressure over the annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin appears calm. Not only is the president adamant about the legal basis for the occupation, he is also vigorously pushing forward with ambitious commercial plans for the newly seized territory.

The formula the Kremlin has hit upon for invigorating the Crimean economy sounds like a Freudian slip. The peninsula that became the object of a dangerous political gamble and an armed takeover is now being touted as Russias answer to Monte Carlo.

Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev told news agencies on Apr. 21 he believed there would be strong support from investors to develop the prospective gambling zone. In his view, the peninsula already has an infrastructure suited to further tourism development

The gambling center stands a good chance of becoming a competitor to such sophisticated territories as Macau, Monaco, and Las Vegas, Temirgaliev said.

The idea won swift support from Putin, who sent a bill to Russias parliament aimed at enabling Crimeas transformation. It also received immediate backing from the Russian Regional Development Ministry, which projects that an entertainment and tourism complex would bring Crimea which in peaceful times sees about 3 million vacationers annually an additional 600,000 visitors a year, worth roughly 1 billion extra rubles ($28 million) to the regions budget.

However bizarre the idea may seem outside Russia, it is clear that the Russian authorities wish to lose no time in stamping their mark on the newly acquired territory. They are sending out the message that there will be no withdrawal and that they know what they are doing.

The Kremlins confidence over its Crimean gamble is rooted largely in Russias massive stock of oil and gas. However much EU members may protest, the view goes, Russia, as a huge supplier of fuel to the rest of Europe, ultimately has its critics over a barrel.

While Russians may be willing to pay some kind of price for Crimea, the plan to turn it into a new casino mecca suggests that the Kremlin itself is not quite certain why it wants Crimea back or what it wants to do with it. The plan looks particularly questionable in light of the recent fruitless launch of a Las Vegas-style resort in Sochi after the Winter Olympics.

Support for the Sochi plan is said to have been lukewarm both among Russians and on the international tourism market. The complexs projected prices would have approached those charged by some fashionable European resorts, and there was doubt over whether enough visitors would be willing to pay up. In the end the idea of a gambling palace was rejected as clashing with the kind of high-end resort Sochi aims to become.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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