A Russian leader embarks on a crash-course program to transform a sleepy Black Sea town into a world-class resort. Billions of rubles are spent on remaking the city and the landscape in just a few years. Elites flock to the region, while local residents complain they are pushed aside. Sochi 2014? How about Sochi 1936?
It was actually Josef Stalin who put Sochi on the map back in the 1930s. Back then it was a quiet town where he kept a private house, or dacha. Stalin liked Sochi's sub-tropical climate so much that he decided to make it into the Soviet Union's premier health resort.
During his nearly 30-year rule, he poured in millions of rubles to lay down sewage and electricity lines, a tree-lined boulevard (named Stalin Prospect) a new theater and dozens of spa facilities housing more than 9,000 tourists, according to historian Anne Gorsuch at the University of British Columbia.
"It had everything to be a prime health resort," Gorsuch said. "It was a spa, a healing location."
Sochi was a spa in the European tradition, a destination where people flocked to cure ailments like rheumatism or tuberculosis, hoping that mineral water and mud baths, fresh air, exercise and sunshine would cure what modern medicine could not.