Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia is an organizing and leading center of its social economic development. On December 1 , 1997 its population numbered 103.6 thousand which makes up 32.6% of the whole population of Kalmykia.
Elista, the capital of the steppes is exactly the geographical center of Kalmykia located at the intersection of Tsaritsin-Stavropol and KizIyar-Astrakhan routes, two main ancient roads which crossed the Kalmyk steppes. 1865 is believed to be the year when Elista was founded.
From a small settlement of the second half of the last century it has grown into a beautiful modern town with a multinational population where the Kalmyk, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Kazakh, Chuvash, Tatar and other peoples of Russia live and work together.
Elista saw its most tragic days during the World War II when it was occupied by German fascists and completely destroyed. The tragedy of war and occupation was followed by another when at the end of 1943 the Kalmyk fell victim to Stalinist policy of repressions and were exiled to Siberia and to the upper most northern parts of Russia.
In the late 50es with the reconstitution of the Kalmyk Autonomous Republic and return of the people to their homeland there began a revival of the republic and its capital. It was a period of rapid growth for Elista with a lot of construction of schools, hospitals, kindergartens, libraries,
theaters, colleges of different kinds and a university. With its industry expanding and producing more goods Elista has become an industrial center of the republic. Its position at the crossroads of the most important transport routes of southern Russia (air, railroad and highways) adds to its prominence.
Today with the election of Kirsan Nikolayevich llyumzhinov as the President of the Republic of Kalmykia there has begun a new exciting life for Elista as it has hosted several important international events such as an international conference devoted to the 550th anniversary of the great Kalmyk epic "Djanghar", an international forum of women, national conferences on the problems of ecology and the history of peoples - the victims of Stalinist repressions, as well as most important chess tournaments: World and National chess championships.
There are Russian Orthodox, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim religious centers in Elista representing different religious beliefs of the peoples living in the republic.
The leader of Buddhists, His Holiness the Dalai-Lama XIV has been to Elista twice, His Holinessthe Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexi II has also visited Elista.
In 1997 the President of Kalmykia Kirsan llyumzhinov issued a special decree on the status of Elista as the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia which outlined the most important directions for its further development.