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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, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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