Kalmykia - the Capital of Chess
A faraway Russian republic of Kalmykia situated near the Caspian Sea is one of the Federation's poorest and most remote regions. It's territory nearly the size of Scotland is nothing but flat windswept steppe and boundless distance with occasional herds of sheep or camels. The ruler - an eccentric multimillionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is also the President of FIDE. His greatest ambition is to turn a nearly empty desert into a chess paradise, a goal he partly achieved by building a huge complex called "Chess City" on the outskirts of the capital Elista. The City comprises a Chess Palace with huge chess boards in the lobby, a chess museum of trophies and memorabilia, chess tables, restaurants and shopping malls. Around the Palace there are luxury homes with swimming pools for the government establishment and visiting dignitaries like Dalai Lama, Vladimir Putin and Chuck Norris. The "Chess City" project was greatly criticized for spending large sums of money on a tourist resort because the nation is economically depressed and many of its citizens live in poverty.