Russia has already poured big money into building bases in scenic, separatist Abkhazia, but now it claims that it plans to pour big money as well into the iconic resort town of Gagra — the ruble equivalent of about $25 million over the next two years.
The amount makes up a big chunk of both the 4 billion rubles ($76 million) in annual investment and 5 billion rubles ($95 million) in annual aid that Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to Abkhazia when the breakaway region agreed in 2014 to address many policy-areas with the Russian Federation's assistance.
The breakdown about how the cash will be used is not yet clear. But, with summer on the way, no public sign that anyone in Abkhazia is sweating the details.
Many older people throughout the former Soviet Union pine over Gagra, once the Saint-Tropez of the Soviet Union, and the times when it was synonymous with swanky beach-holidays. Getting a путёвка (putyovka) – a vacation voucher – for a trip to Gagra was like winning a jackpot and many a popular movie was set in the town.
(“Yakin broke up with his hag and talked me into going with him to Gagra!” enthused one parvenue in a famous moment in the 1973 Soviet comedy hit, “Иван Васильиевич Меняет Профессию" (released in the US as "Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future"). The line turned into a popular meme when Russian President Vladimir Putin divorced his wife, Lyudmila, in 2014.)
Gagra lost much of its luster after the 1992-1994 war between Tbilisi and Abkhaz separatists. With most of the world backing Georgian claims to the Black Sea region, Abkhazia now is left largely dependent on money from Moscow and Russian budget-tourists to make repairs and keep the town running.
But don't expect all this Kremlin-cash now to go to the creation of swish gated communities or the like. Like a diligent Soviet-worker, Moscow has power-stations first on its mind.
Gagra’s power-station, set up in 1957, needs “practically all” of its equipment replaced, and Russia is already on the job, Russia’s minister for North Caucasus Affairs, Lev Kuznetsov, declared on May 27, RIA-Novosti reported.
The facility will get a 250-million-ruble (over $4.76 million) “modernization”-makeover before 2016, he asserted. It's all part of returning Gagra to its former glory, Kuznetsov claimed.
Providing funds for re-glamorizing Gagra and/or its power-station, though, is not something handled by Russia’s foreign affairs ministry, which recognizes Abkhazia as an independent country.
That the ministry for North Caucasus Affairs is dealing with Abkhazia speaks to the fact that Moscow effectively treats the region as one of its federal subjects within the Caucasus.
Not much glamorous about that.