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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

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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