Today’s Moscow Times picks up on the grim irony looming over one venture that Russia was particularly keen to tout at Davos; the $15 billion chain of skiing resorts in the remote climes of the North Caucasus mountains, which whilst being prime skiing territory, are also known for hosting separatists in their uncharted terrain. The Russian press apparently refer to this concept as ‘terrorism tourism’, otherwise known as a hard sell. From the AP:
“The problem: The Wednesday night presentation came two days after a bomb blast pummeled the international arrivals terminal of Moscow’s largest airport, killing 35. Suspicions immediately fell on extremists from the North Caucasus — including Chechnya, which fought two wars with Moscow over the last 16 years, and the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan, future home to one of the new resorts.
But the project’s backers were undaunted”.
“The events in Moscow, strange as it seems … show that we need todevelop this kind of project even more, because it’s clear that ifpeople are busy with something, they have their work and their family,then it will be difficult for these people to be pushed to carry outsuch extreme acts,” said Kremlin envoy Akhmed Bilalov, a native ofDagestan who presented the plan at the forum of world business andgovernment leaders in Davos.
“So I don’t think it will change our plans,” he said.
Despite the gallows humor, the premise is, of course, not an entirely preposterous one. As this Washington Post editorial points out, if theKremlin plans to curtail the insurgency, reducing the poverty which characterizes much of the region is an entirely valid alternative to Vladimir Putin’s scorched-earth approach. Liz Fuller on RFE/RL howevernotes the problems of this using the tourist model to facilitate economic growth:
What’s more, if just one insurgent with a shoulder-launched surface-to air missile (see the first of the four video clips here)managed to down a helicopter-load of tourists, the region’s chances ofbecoming a tourism paradise would plummet. And the planned resorts inthe northwest Caucasus and southern Chechnya will do nothing to addressunemployment in Daghestan, where an estimated 25,000 high-schoolgraduates enter the labor market every year.
Read her whole analysis here.