Monday, January 12, 2015

Could Casino Gambling Save Russia’s Smallest Peoples?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 12 – Some activists among Russia’s numerically small peoples of the North would like to open casinos on their territories in the hopes that such facilities would provide them with jobs and money of the kind that some of the native peoples of America have obtained by doing so.


            On the one hand, this is a fascinating example of the way in which contacts between the numerically small peoples of the Russian North and those of other indigenous peoples around the world, contacts that Moscow has promoted from Soviet times on, can have a blowback effect on the attitudes and expectations of these nations within the borders of the Russian Federation.


            But on the other, such ideas face enormous difficulties, not only those like the severe climate and the enormous distances these nations are situated from major population centers but also those from Russian officials who, while happy to promote casino gambling elsewhere don’t want non-Russians to gain the economic and political leverage such facilities might provide.


            Grigory Ledkov, a Duma deputy who now heads the Association of the Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, said that casinos might work in the US but wouldn’t in Russia ( and


            Native peoples in the US have many advantages that the numerically small peoples of the Russian North do so, he said, thus contradicting what has long been the Moscow line that indigenous peoples in Russia have it so much better than do the native peoples of the United States.


            The climate in the US is better, the roads and infrastructure are better, “in a word,” Ledkov says, “it is beautiful! God gave them such a land. But we in contrast live in a world where one must use helicopters or planes to reach us.”  They come at best “once a week.” Northern peoples are prepared to travel by snowmobile, but not everyone is.


            “For all normal people living in other regions, this is the most extreme of extremes,” Ledkov adds, something that anyone thinking about opening casinos in these regions needs to reflect upon.  For Russians to come as guests or customers, he point out, they would face not only great expense but even “at times” risks for their own lives.


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