Berlin. Do you know Wildberries? That's the name of a Russian online mail order company that is now also on the market with a German-language website. The range includes thousands of items from hundreds of brands, including wholly non-Russian ones like Levi's, Puma and Reebok.
Tatyana Bakalchuk was 29 when she started selling goods from Otto or Quelle catalogs in Russia in 2004. Today, the US magazine "Forbes" estimates the fortune of Wildberries and his owner at 13 billion US dollars. This makes Bakalchuk the richest woman in Russia and the country's first self-made billionaire. Your example shows that in the largest country in the world, there is definitely something going on economically beyond the oligarchs from the raw materials sector.
Another success story is written by farmer Stefan Dürr (57) from Ebersbach am Neckar, who started out trading used agricultural machinery in the East and is now one of the largest agricultural entrepreneurs in Russia with 630,000 hectares of farmland, 110,000 dairy cows and 12,900 employees.
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But when the talk is of the Russian economy in these days of extreme political tension, there is only one topic: Nord Stream 2. Of course, the gas pipeline is a billion-dollar project and has a completely different political focus than the trade in jeans and sports shoes or production of milk and cottage cheese.
But for all the political demands (“switch off”), strangely enough, the biggest lever is never discussed. A general import embargo against Russian gas, decided at EU level, would have much more impact than the ban on a single pipe. Even more painful would be an embargo on Russian crude oil, which is worth up to five times more than gas. In addition, Europe imports 32 percent more crude oil from Russia than gas (26 percent).
But nobody dares – for good reason – to do it. This is how Nord Stream 2 becomes a never-ending story that only bores some and behind which everything else fades. Too bad actually.
Jan Emendörfer is RND's chief correspondent for Eastern Europe and Russia. Every Wednesday he gives an insight into economic life between Warsaw and Vladivostok - alternating weekly with his colleagues from Washington, Beijing and London.