Ilyumzhinov: "On the occasion of visit of the Dalai Lama to Kalmykia"

Buddhist spiritual leader the 14th Dalai Lama will visit the capital of Kalmykia Elista on November 29 and 30, 2004. This visit encountered great difficulties, because the public figure of the Dalai Lama -- the Nobel Peace Prize winner and political leader of Tibet and the living embodiment of compassionate and merciful bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is extremely complicated on the contemporary political World arena. He was expelled from Tibet in 1959 and since then is officially considered a political refugee with headquarters in India. Any visit of the Dalai Lama to any country of the world is greatly disapproved by Beijing.  Beijing, which seized Tibet in 1959, sees any such visit as a threat to its power in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama's last visit to Russia was fraught with serious diplomatic problems, which seem to be resolved eventually.
The main initiator and organizer of that visit was President of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is a person with bright personality: he is being both loved and hated with passion. Kirsan Nikolayevich is young -- he is 41 years old. He became a businessman and politician at his early age unlike some pompous heads of subjects of the Russian Federation. In 1993, he became a 30 year old President of Kalmykia who proclaimed a target for market values.
"The sensitive morality of the East and the technical progress of the West are two wings of Kalmykia to fly on" is the epigraph of the President Ilyumzhinov’s website. This duality is the solution to ‘Kirsan phenomenon’ as it is universally called in the Republic.
- Mr. President, I know that you are one of the main initiators of the visit of Buddhist spiritual leader the 14th Dalai Lama. Please tell us why his visit is so important and what goals it may achieve.
I will answer as a Buddhist: the overwhelming majority of Kalmyk people profess Buddhism. The Republic of Kalmykia is the only Buddhist republic that is located in Europe -- to be exact in the European part of the Russian Federation. I have been friend of His Holiness for a long time -- more than 15 years. There were about a hundred Buddhist Khuruls and libraries before the Great October Socialist Revolution in Kalmykia. All of the hundred Buddhist khuruls were blown up and destroyed after the deportation of Kalmyk people to Siberia in 1943. And not a single Buddhist khurul was rebuilt or built during the Soviet era. His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the Republic of Kalmykia in 1992. And I, as a Kalmyk and Buddhist, was a little ashamed that we had no place to receive His Holiness at that time. He is not only the Buddhist spiritual leader but the spiritual leader of Kalmyk people since we profess Buddhism. Thus, we had to receive him in bare steppe -- in a field.
His Holiness consecrated a place for the construction of main Kalmyk Buddhist temple. We were not able to build it for quite a long time because there was no money. In 1993, I was elected President of Kalmykia and allocated my own money for that purpose. We built the main Buddhist temple of the Republic of Kalmykia in 1996. After that we built another 30 Buddhist temples. Now there are 33 Buddhist temples in Kalmykia. Our main shrine and temple is unconsecrated. Lamas who work there have not yet received a blessing from His Holiness.
And therefore, Kalmyk people and the Union of Buddhists of Kalmykia have been inviting His Holiness to visit Kalmykia since 1996. I invite him not as President of Kalmykia but as a Buddhist and a member of the Union of Buddhists of Kalmykia. The most important thing for us is consecration of khurul. And so we are waiting for the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
His visit is purely pastoral and religious in nature and it has two goals only. The first is to consecrate the main Buddhist temple of Kalmykia and conduct all necessary religious procedures. Believers ask for it. And the second one is to bless the believers of Kalmykia with the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, we pray and we are waiting for His Holiness to come to our Kalmyk land.
- Mr President, Buddhism is one of the world's religions. And the two main world religions, Christianity and Islam, confront each other in Russia today. Do you think that Buddhist faith can somehow play the role of a cushion or intermediary between these two world religions?
I always said that for five thousand years of history of Buddhism, the world saw Christian wars, crusades and inquisitions but mankind had never heard about the Buddhist wars. Probably it is because it’s a very ancient religion. I can even say it's not so much a religion as a philosophy. And of course, the main thing is that Buddhism preaches compassion.
- Let me ask you a chess question. You are President of FIDE and probably know the situation better than anyone else. But common people are somewhat embarrassed. Who is the best chess player in the world today? What are the differences among the various definitions of the best chess player?
The World Champion is the one who won the title of champion in the World Chess Championship. The World Chess Champion is now the Uzbek international grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who became the Champion having won the crown in an honest and difficult fight in June.

Tengiz Gudava