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Economy

Russia’s New Recipe For Opening The Violence-Prone Caucasus: European-Style Winter Tourism

With the lingering threat of violence from Islamists and groups seeking independence from Moscow, Russia has turned to French firms to create a safe and lucrative winter sports business in the Caucasus.

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

It has the makings of a James Bond plot, post-Cold War style. The Russian government, eager to create new economic opportunities in the perennially restive Caucasus region, sees an opportunity to recreate the European Alps' lucrative winter sports model. But before calling in the ski instructors and fondue, they know they must first answer the security question.

Moscow has called on French electronics company Thales, which delivers information systems and services for aerospace, defense, and security markets, to improve security in the mountainous area where both independence fighters and Islamists have been known to operate.

Jean Pierre Thomas, who is leading France's efforts to build economic cooperation with Russia, confirms the nature of the agreement: "The Russian state will guarantee the security of the French investment. It's the sine qua non condition for the firms to go there."

The Caucasus has been the scene of two wars in Chechnya over the past two decades. Since then, violence has increased in neighboring semi-autonomous republics such as North Ossetia and Dagestan. It still is a very unstable region, plagued by poverty and Islamist rebellion. In February, three skiers were killed by armed men near Mount Elbrouz, the highest European Mountain located in Kabardino-Balkaria.

Despite the uncertainty, this is one of the five issues taken into account in a joint declaration by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev on the project to "open up" the Russian Caucasus. The declaration was published last May during the Deauville G8, and later solidified during an economic forum in St. Petersburg. Investments required are estimated at around 15 billion dollars.

Laurent Vigier, CDC head of International affairs, says that a Franco-Russian joint venture will be created next year. "For coherence's sake, this structure will gather all the offers by French mountain professionals, from ski lift to ski runs to security specialists."

Vigier noted that the CDC had implemented the Snow plan in the French Alps in the 1960s, though he acknowledges the current project is a bit trickier. "The situation is sensitive. But sustained tourism development is a way to put an end to violence."

Read the full story by Benjamin Quénelle

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Society

"Splendid" Colonialism? Time To Change How We Talk About Fashion And Culture

A lavish book to celebrate Cartagena, Colombia's most prized travel destination, will perpetuate clichéd views of a city inextricably linked with European exploitation.

Photo of women in traditional clothes at a market in Cartagena, Colombia

At a market iIn Cartagena, Colombia

Vanessa Rosales

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — The Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz is celebrating the historic port of Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia, in a new book, Cartagena Grace, published by Assouline. The European publisher specializes in luxury art and travel books, or those weighty, costly coffee table books filled with dreamy pictures. If you never opened the book, you could still admire it as a beautiful object in a lobby or on a center table.

Ortiz produced the book in collaboration with Lauren Santo Domingo, an American model (née Davis, in Connecticut) who married into one of Colombia's wealthiest families. Assouline is promoting it as a celebration of the city's "colonial splendor, Caribbean soul and unfaltering pride," while the Bogotá weekly Semana has welcomed an international publisher's focus on one of the country's emblematic cities and tourist spots.

And yet, use of terms like colonial "splendor" is not just inappropriate, but unacceptable.

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