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Ufa: Soviet Cafeterias and IKEA Furniture

Published: October 19, 2011 (Issue # 1679)



  • Attracting investors to Ufa is a priority for Bashkortostan, whose finances were supported by its oil-refining and mining industries before tax law changes.
    Photo: FOR SPT

  • The striking Lya Lya Tyulipan mosque.
    Photo: FOR SPT

  • Eat at Akbuzat restaurant while watching races at Ufas hippodrome.
    Photo: FOR SPT

  • Many Ufa men wear black workers hats, popular in the Soviet Union.
    Photo: KHRISTINA NARIZHNAYA / SPT

  • The 10-meter-high Yulayev statue.
    Photo: FOR SPT

UFA Ufa is best seen fromthe window ofa landing airplane inthe early fall. Theconcrete center is surrounded bymulti-colored cottage roofs sprinkled onrolling hills, covered inyellow, green, orange andred trees, cut byrivers andlakes as still as glass.

Despite being amanufacturing andoil-refining center, thecapital ofBashkortostan has some ofthe best-preserved nature inRussia. Nearby are hundreds ofkilometers ofvirgin forest andmountains where some ofthe worlds finest honey is produced bywild honeybees.

Not surprisingly, customs fromthe long-gone Soviet era remain preserved along with thepristine nature. Government officials serve inan imposing white block ofa building with endless hallways ofcreaking lacquered parquet floors covered inred carpets. They dine ata real Soviet cafeteria, with white cloth-covered tables andtraditional Russian food.

Journalists andother visitors ofthe government a reporter for The Moscow Times, the sister newspaper of The St. Petersburg Times, visited Ufa ona government-organized press tour are accompanied bya member ofthe government atall times andare told not tomeet with anyone or go anywhere alone. Themain hotel forout-of-towners is located far fromthe city center, ina wooded area near ariver.

Themajority ofthe Ufa men wear black workers hats, wildly popular inthe U.S.S.R. andubiquitously worn byformer Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

But modernity is starting tocreep intothe republic. Swedish furniture giant IKEA opened its first store inthe republic inAugust. French supermarket chain Auchan opened its first Bashkortostan location earlier this month.

Since President Dmitry Medvedev appointed atop RosHydro manager, Rustem Khamitov, as Bashkortostans president in2009, great strides have been taken tomodernize therepublic. Attracting investors became apriority toreplenish therepublics budget, which had been supported byrevenue fromits oil-refining andmining industries prior tochanges infederal tax law during themid-2000s.

Therepublics government, previously closed tooutsiders politically andfinancially, has set up adevelopment corporation tohelp investors realize their local projects.

Traveling businessmen fromother regions said thebusiness climate has grown more open since therepublics former president, Murtaza Rakhimov, who held thepost fornearly 20 years, was replaced.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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