Destinations Magazine

Russian Roulette

By Stizzard
Russian roulette A billion on Siberia, please

THE shiny new Tigre de Cristal casino looks like a black glass and steel spacecraft that has landed in the Siberian forest. A neon sign advertises “Seafood delicacies from the Sea of Japan”. Inside, Russian ladies deal out baccarat cards to Chinese gamblers. The casino itself represents a bit of a bet: that Russia can tap some of the cash from rising Asian economies to help develop its own Far East, a territory larger than the European Union that is home to just 6m people.

Though the Far East is staunchly Russian, it has grown dependent on its Asian neighbours. Some regions do 85% of their foreign trade with China. Europe feels a world away. When Russia’s economy was booming, locals took their holidays at Chinese resorts and popped over the border for cheap massages and shopping.

Since the collapse of the rouble the flow has reversed. Chinese shoppers come to buy Russian food, which they think safer than their own chemical-ridden produce. Others come for a bit of Europe. Li Tsang, a hairdresser from Fuyuan, raves about Khabarovsk, just across the Amur river: “It’s so clean!”…

The Economist: Europe

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