The history of the 20th century is inseparably connected with wars, revolutions, forcible change of governments and other political cataclysms in which the leading role was often played by bright, extraordinary personalities – leaders, chiefs. Impetuous was also the history of legislative regulation of gambling games and bets. They were allowed, then prohibited, then allowed again…
A lot of these bans and legalizations were directly connected with the principle political acting personalities of the 20th century. How venturesome were the most famous totalitarian rulers of the previous century and what was their role in regulation of activities on organizing and playing games and bets?
When in a small town of Simbirsk little Volodya Ulyanov was born nobody of the people around, including his parents, could ever guess that one of the main heroes of the 20th century came into the world. After many years it is already difficult to unambiguously evaluate the activities of Vladimir Lenin in the office of the chairman of the Soviet of National Commissars, but there is no doubt that he has gone down in history as the main ideologist of the bright ideas of communism which the Russian poor strived for so much and never achieved despite the long 70-year way.
It is not known for sure whether Vladimir Lenin was fond of gambling, in his public speeches he never mentioned the words “gambling-house” and “casino”. However, in his boyhood the future Ilyich played chess and russian bowling (gorodki) with passion. Having grown up, he played cards as well, alas, the history does not give a single answer as to the games the chief of revolutionists played and whether the bets were made
It is interesting to know that even when Vladimir Ilyich was still alive there were anecdotes and tales concerning his love of card games. But still the most favourite game of Ilyich was politics. But with regard to regulation of gambling industry, of course, Vladimir Ulyanov succeeded in the way so typical of him.
Having become the statesman, firstly, he started to fight against bourgeois heritage, established censorship. And he decided to establish order in gambling in addition to this. In provisions of the Petrograd (St. Petersburg)military-revolutionary committee as of the 24th of November of 1917 the task was set to “close all the clubs and gambling-dens where card games were played”. Despite this, in spring of 1918 the commissar of municipal economy of Petrograd the future “all-union head” M.I.Kalinin taking into account the interests of reimbursement of state treasury proposed legalization of gambling. This proposal was rejected though “on revolutionary grounds” and all the gambling establishments were found illegal.
In 1921 Vladimir Lenin introduced NEP – so to say new economic politics of the state at which the priority was no longer general equality and fraternity but earning money by the young Soviet state for its own budget for realization of revolutionary ideas. It was at that time that gambling business was founded in the Republic of Soviets. On the 9th of November, 1921, The Soviet of labour and defence of the RSFSR issued a decree according to which sale of playing cards was allowed on the territory of the country. Also in 1921 when there happened to be the worst drought in Russia, the first All-Russian lottery to help the starving people took place.
In the course of two years local authorities allowed activities of gambling-houses, following financial principles and collecting rather large amounts of taxes from organizers of gambling games. In spite of this fact, at the end of 1923 there was created a commission on struggle against “moonshine, cocaine and gambling” in the USSR.
Struggle against gambling started to follow its regular soviet course, however, Vladimir Lenin could not witness its end. On the 21st of January, 1924, Lenin died. It happened just at the time of flourishing of soviet gambling industry, but after half a year after his death CEC of the USSR and SNC of the USSR issued a Decree dated the 1st of August, 1924, “about state monopoly on production of playing cards”. And afterwards still four years later gambling industry was finally prohibited in the USSR as a remnant of the old times which was to be done away with.
Iosif Stalin (Djugashvili) was born on the 21st of December 1879 in a small Georgian town of Gori. A friend and adviser of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, his great successor, he took the reins of government in his hands after Lenin and kept them till his death. The time of Iosif Stalin’s rule is still reflected with joy and pain in the hearts of those Soviet citizens living at the time of his being in power. Industrialization, the victory in the war and continuation of communistic construction, on the one hand, and concentration camps and mass repressions – on the other hand. Without taking into account personal characteristics of the second chief of proletariat and without estimating the deeds of his in the course of almost 30 years of his being in power, we’ll point out only one thing – Iosif Stalin was not a venturesome person and except for games in politics, where stakes were sometimes hundreds of thousands of human lives, he acknowledged only billiards and races on the race track.
Let’s point out that totalizator on the race track under Iosif Stalin the only legal pastime for venturesome Soviet citizens. The most famous race tracks were situated in Moscow, Tbilisi, Tallinn, Odessa, Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod) and other cities. The son of Iosif Vissarionovich – Vasiliy was also a great admirer of race tracks.
The death of Iosif Stalin did not have any impact on the existence of legal gambling in the Soviet country. They did not exist when Stalin came to power and did not appear after his death. The exclusion were horse races and races on the race tracks which attracted rather large cash means with the help of the totalizator for development of the Soviet horse breeding.