Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a wise acquaintance of mine and wonderful person

When it comes to talking about the main qualities of a leader (journalists like to ask about it in interviews), I remember the traditions of the ancient Romans. Any Roman triumphant was entitled to a state slave, whose duties included two important things. First, the slave held a golden wreath over the head of the ruler. And, secondly (and this seems to me the most important), from time to time he bent down to the ear of his master and, through the noise and shouts of an enthusiastic crowd, reminded him that he was only mortal man, who should not get too proud.

By the way, let’s talk about pride and conceit. These two are very similar and are based on an assessment of one’s own merits and achievements. Our world is so arranged that rulers and leaders often overestimate their merits and slip into the sin of pride. It is interesting to note that pride in different religions, both in Christianity and in Islam, is a terrible mortal sin.


Still, what we can say about the qualities of the ruler? When the conversation comes about what qualities a good ruler should have, I remember how one day Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then the president of Iran, answered a question from an American journalist from Fox News. “When you look in the mirror in the morning, what do you say to yourself?” the journalist asked. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied: “I see a person in the mirror and tell him: “Remember, you are no more than a simple servant.”

These are not just words of a beautiful answer remembered by many. This is the real life principle of an amazing and wise person - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with whom I was lucky to be personally acquainted.
We met back in 2000, when the final match of the FIDE World Chess Championship took place in the Iranian capital Tehran. Then the Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand defeated Alexey Shirov, representing Spain.
Later, when Ahmadinejad was already elected mayor of Tehran in 2003, I happened to visit him at his house. He lived on the outskirts of the city in a modest three-room apartment.
In June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential election with seven million more votes in the second round than his opponent did. Iranian newspapers said that when he first entered the president's office, he surprised many by the fact that first he replaced expensive Persian carpets that were hanging in the office with ordinary cheap ones. Later, he handed over those expensive ones to Tehran mosques. They also say that the new president amazed employees by bringing his breakfast - several sandwiches with cheese and olive oil made by his wife - to work in his briefcase. An amazing humble person! Being a president, he still took a bus to work, and his wife worked as a cleaner in a madrasah.
Ahmadinejad once said that he plans to create "an exemplary government for the people of the world" in Iran. I remember this statement, and I will never forget it. Is this even possible? I do not know. But some of the principles of government formation introduced by Ahmadinejad can be applied in many countries. According to the presidential decree of Ahmadinejad, each of the ministers, before being appointed to the post, had to sign a document stating that any official in the civil service has no right to get rich and that his accounts as well as the accounts of his relatives, will be subject to scrutiny...
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is called an amazing and extraordinary leader, and his ideas of principles of a government are shocking and even outrageous.
But why are they shocking? What's so shocking about the fact that being a president Ahmadinejad took the bus to work. Why does his asceticism and modesty surprise people so much? Perhaps we must blame ourselves for the fact that many rulers, who by the will of fate found themselves at the pinnacle of power, completely break away from their people and become servants of the golden calf. Maybe they should be told more often (like those Romans) that they are "only mortals"?
Ahmadinejad did not receive the president's salary, arguing that all wealth should belong to the nation. And after his resignation in 2013, he refused a substantial presidential pension, arguing that he worked not for his own good, but for the people. And he added that in fact he and his wife need very little money. Actually,  If you think about real life values, money is not a big issue.
After retiring in 2013, Ahmadinejad continues to live a simple life, teaching at the university and living in the suburbs of Tehran. In his spare time, he loves to graze sheep. He says that he liked this occupation from early childhood. And he also helps the janitors to sweep the local street.
This is how he is, an acquaintance of mine, an amazing former president of Iran.