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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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