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Gentrification Hits the Regions

agalarov080208.jpgSo many new millionaires in Russia, but where to put them? A new series of luxury housing developments and gated communities out in the regions, often pushed forward with aggressive tactics and intimidation of local population, is raising a whole new series of tensions between the haves and have-nots, and posing a threat of an all-out social class war which could threaten the foundations of the Russian political model … but I guess that’s what authoritarianism is for. The Houston Chronicle has the story:

The challenge of building an enclave for Russia’s wealthy elite near small, poor villages lays bare a central socioeconomic tension in Russia today: The large rush of cash brought on by high oil and gas prices has created an ever-widening gulf between the super-rich and the rest of the country. Moscow has more billionaires — 74 — than any other city in the world, according to Forbes magazine, and Russia is second, with 87 billionaires in all, only to the United States. Agalarov is one of them; he puts his net worth at more than triple Forbes’ estimate of $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, the average salary in Russia is about $720 a month, and inflation is in double digits, according to official statistics. (…) A band of residents in the nearby village of Voronino — a feisty collection of pensioners, their children and middle class Muscovites who spend the weekends there — has waged a campaign of letters and complaints to Russian officials alleging that Agalarov tried to force them to sell their property. The villagers told the regional prosecutor’s office that after a round of menacing phone calls to those who wouldn’t sell, a local dog was shot, another had its throat slit, and a bathhouse was burned down.