"Follow the money."

Deep Throat was talking about the Watergate scandal when he gave that advice, but it's just as sound when applied to investing. You can watch where the big boys invest their cash to get clues for where you might want to invest yourself.

Earlier this week, one of the biggest boys of all, banking powerhouse Citigroup (NYSE:C), announced that in the six months remaining before the end of 2006, it will double the number of retail banks it operates in Russia. And I'm not talking "two plus two more equals four" doubling, either. Citing internal statistics showing that its U.S.-generated retail revenues dropped 9% year over year in the fiscal first quarter, while international consumer revenues climbed 8%, Citigroup intends to open as many as 40 new branches throughout Russia this year. This bank sees where the growth is and aims to capitalize on it.

And so should you.

Follow the trend
Over the past decade, Russia's RTS index of stocks has grown by an incredible 780%. This, despite a stomach-churning drop following the financial crisis of 1998. Starting at 167 back in September 1996, the index now sits at 1,470 -- and if you think the game is over and the growth has to stop, think again.

A full 593% of those gains came in just the past five years, 213% of them in the past three years. And how has the Russian market done more recently? It's up 119% over the past 12 months alone. That's right, folks. Russian stocks made 15% of their gains in just 10% of the past decade, meaning that far from slowing down, the country's growth is accelerating.

Russia : the capitalist superpower
Everywhere you look these days, formerly state-owned and private Russian companies are launching IPOs for some of the world's biggest and most profitable firms. Already public and available to individual investors: steel titan Mechel (NYSE:MTL), oil and gas powerhouses Gazprom, Tatneft (NYSE:TNT), and Lukoil, and phone companies Rostelecom (NYSE:ROS), VimpelCom (NYSE:VIP), and Mobile TeleSystems (NYSE:MBT). And more are going on the block all the time. Why, just last week, television network CTC Media (NASDAQ:CTCM) made its debut on the Nasdaq, and its shares promptly climbed by 21%.

If the businesses don't sound particularly sexy to you, take another gander at the stock returns a few paragraphs above. Or if you're not a numbers person, then consider the following: Russia is the No. 4 producer of steel in the world. It's home to Norilsk Nickel, the world's No. 1 producer of both nickel and palladium, as well as to Gazprom, the world's leading producer of natural gas and owner of 25% of all proven natural gas reserves. Cell phone providers VimpelCom and Mobile TeleSystems are among the world's fastest-growing -- and contrary to what you might have read, they still have more room to grow.

Then there's my personal favorite, a little-known Russian dairy company that I recommended to buyers of the Motley Fool International Stock Report. I won't give away the name here, but those who bought the stock when our report was published have already enjoyed 21% gains in less than three months.

Opportunity knocks twice
Investors tempted to write off the Russian stock market just because they missed the September 1998 low got a gift this month. While it's no longer possible to buy these stocks at their just-post-debt-default prices of yesteryear, the economy has strengthened considerably since then, the companies likewise, and guess what? Overall, the Russian stock market is now trading at a 15% discount to what it was fetching just one month ago.

"Thump, thump." Hear that sound, Fool? It's opportunity knocking. Don't just sit there waiting for Citigroup to answer the door. Answer it yourself, and let the profits in.

Eastern Europe is facing South America in this Investing World Cup match. Go back to the intro page to navigate your way to another part of this contest, and then vote for the region that you think should advance to the next round of the tournament.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position, short or long, in any company mentioned in this article. Looking for more investment ideas? We've got a ton of them. Just click to order a copy of the International Stock Report: Around the World in 80 Minutes to see what all the fuss is about.

This article represents the opinion of one Fool and should in no way be taken as the opinion of either The Motley Fool, Inc., or the company in question, or as representative of anyone or anything other than that specific Fool's thoughts. So before buying, do your homework and review The Motley Fool's superbly sportsmanlike disclosure policy.