Natural resources play a key role in the economic development of the Russian North. However, natural resource extraction cannot alone promote the long-term socio-economic sustainability of resource peripheries. My paper analyses the challenges of economic diversification in two single-industry mining towns in the Murmansk region, Kirovsk and Revda, which have taken different historical development paths. Tourism has developed in Kirovsk alongside the mining industry since the 1930s, while mining has been the only significant industry in Revda. However, recently both Kirovsk and Revda have adopted tourism as the main target of their economic diversification. My paper asks how the challenge of diversifying the economic development of these two communities can be explained by path-dependency, the resource curse and paternalism. The empirical data of the study was collected by the author on fieldwork trip in 2012. It consists of semi-structured interviews with town, region and enterprise representatives in Kirovsk, Revda and Murmansk. Moreover, articles from regional and local newspapers concerning the diversification efforts of these two communities were used. Both interviews and articles were analyzed using qualitative methods. The paper reveals how the different development paths of these communities have shaped their ability to promote economic diversification in the present era. This paper shows that the obstacles to economic diversification are not only related to obvious issues, such as the lack of realistic alternatives, but also to deeper structural hindrances to the use of local potential and human capital to create diversified local economies in the Russian Arctic.