Oppression in Chess City

elista1126.jpgSally Feldman of the New Humanist writes about a peculiar project in far-flung Republic of Kalymykia: “the carnival atmosphere in Kufa was a celebration of chess as a joyous assertion of freedom, it can also be a tool of oppression. In the tiny and desolate Russian republic of Kalmykia chess is rampant. Despite the region’s gruelling poverty and unemployment, its eccentric president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, has invested £25 million to build a “Chess City” complex on the outskirts of the city of Elista. He has also insisted on compulsory chess lessons for every child over six, with a special school for the most promising players. Widely regarded as a corrupt dictator, Ilyumzhinov is also president of the World Chess Federation, an honour scorned by his detractors. “He’s a pathological liar with serious psychological problems,” said Semyon Ateyev, the director of the Kalmykia Bureau of Human Rights. “We don’t have any economic development, because he spends his whole time organising chess tournaments.” Also, see lots of photos of Chess City here, and more information here.