Elista is the Capital of the Russian Chess

When I became the President of Kalmykia, I faced simple but vital questions: how to feed people, give them jobs and prevent the loss of the Republic...

It’s worth reminding what was happening in those years. It was the time of enormous non-payments; people were getting no salaries, pensions and allowances for months. I had to stabilize the prices of milk and bread using the profit of my business enterprises. Demographics were terrifying- general drunkenness, incredible crime level. Eventually, we managed to fix it with time.

At same time, I worked much on the revival of the national memory and Buddhism as its integral component. It was very important to find a place for Kalmykia in the modern world. Our economy, trade relations and industry depended on it.
At that time very few people knew about Kalmykia. Our neighbours from Astrakhan and Volgograd sometimes would ask: "Elista? Is it somewhere in Asia?” We needed some impulse to make people talk about us.
The solution came by itself – the 1998 Chess Olympiad. We took the matter very seriously, having built the special ‘Chess City’ complex. It is also called ‘New Vasyuki, alluding to the fancy idea of Ostap Bender in the novel ‘The Twelve Chairs’ by Ilf and Petrov.
You could laugh at it as much as you can but its mission was completed! Elista gathered the smartest people from all over the world and hundreds of journalists. Today, if you ask anybody, Elista would be strongly associated with the chess capital of Russia even if they know nothing of Kalmykia.

President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE)
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov