Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: We all have to support each other

- Kirsan Nikolayevich, we all, including the FIDE, make plans for 3-5 years. However, they say that the end of the world would come on December 21, 2012. Has the end of the world been cancelled?

Very interesting question! We don’t know when we would die. We await death and know that we all would die eventually. Lord has given us life, which has a beginning and an end. You can live for 80 to 100 years but you will die eventually. Nobody knows for sure when he would die.

Now they tell us that the Mayan calendar ends in December. We all would have to cease to exist. When? Maybe, it will happen tomorrow or in 3012. Fact is the end is inevitable. However, you can’t go on continuously thinking that you will die. An asteroid or planet Nibiru may kill you tomorrow. Look at the painting by Aleksey Parfenov. You can see 12 signs of the zodiac, Adan and Eve holding the Earth, the Creator and planet Nibiru.
-Is it really Nibiru?
Yes, it is. They say it will approach the Earth in 2012 and change everything here. Aleksey Parfenov is a well-known artist. However, one must always have plans to implement. Therefore, we will continue to work regardless of whether there will be the end of the world in 2012 or not. FIDE has plans until 2017.
-Do you mean that FIDE has plans up to 2017?
Yes. We have detailed plan up to 2017 including the date for holding the Grand Prix. We have a detailed schedule for men’s tournaments and we are working on the women’s schedule that would be published soonest. Same applies to the World Cup and World Championship. We will publish final schedule by 2017. It is good news for chess players – they would be able to adjust their plans accordingly. We have promoted women’s chess. Before that, women often complained that there were not many tournaments compared with 5-6 years ago. Now they are unable to catch up with the current eventful tournaments schedule.
-Kirsan Nikolayevich, you were the best Komsomol member in the USSR in 1997. There is a street called after your grandfather in Elista.
There was a collective farm named after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the Rostov region in Velikoknyazheskaya village. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, my grandfather's brother, was a gymnasium teacher in that village. He was drafted into the ranks of the Russian army in 1914, where he launched a revolutionary activity: they said that war was useless; the imperialists were fighting each other.
He was sentenced to be shot. He fled and organized a revolutionary circle in Petrograd and came to Kalmykia after the February Revolution. He was a commissioner in the Second Cavalry Army. And he opposed the Sovietization of the Don region in 1919. He was either shot or shot himself. He saw that Bolsheviks killed all those who opposed them; they verbally cut off their heads in the village where he worked... The civil war is a tragedy for all the Russian people...
I always worked hard. I was a commander of the squad and a captain of the national chess team. When I was 15, I became a champion of Kalmykia among adults.
- Kirsan Nikolayevich, did the fact that your great-uncle was a hero give you some privileges in the childhood?
No. My mother is a veterinarian and she is still working. She was born in 1933 and she will be 80 next year. She is awarded with a certificate of honour signed by Agriculture Minister Gordeev as the only veterinarian with an uninterrupted experience of 50-55 years. She graduated from the Achinsk Veterinary College in Krasnoyarsk 60 years ago and moved to Kalmykia. She gets up at 6 am and goes to work to treat cats and dogs. I told her: "Every dog in the city knows you!"
My father is still working: he used to work as a manager of bread production plant and he works at the council of veterans now. He was born in 1929 and he is 83 already. Yesterday I called home: my father was at work and the neighbours came to my mother: their cat choked on something and she operated it. That is, parents live and work.
-Are they still in Elista?
- Yes. They do not have a car. After I became a businessman; I bought a car for my father. He said: "Why? Our city is small, we can get anywhere on foot or call a taxi." I wanted to build a garage but my mother said: "Why would we need a garage? I would rather grow cucumbers and tomatoes." We have our own garden, the house is big. So I do not remember any privileges. They themselves earned for a living. After I became a Champion of Kalmykia when I was 15 years old, I started earning money myself: I travelled around the regions, played simultaneous games and was paid by either a lamb or a bag of apples.
- Did they pay you with the natural products?
Sometimes coupons were given or money was paid. I used to work at the station. When I was in the 9th grade, I earned enough money to buy a tape recorder. I graduated from the school with a gold medal. I was the winner of almost all republican and all-Russian Olympiads in mathematics, chemistry and literature.
- How did you choose the university?
I had the right to preferential admission to the Moscow State University and a number of other universities: I had the gold medal and I was the captain of the national chess team. I was the winner of the Olympics and was photographed on the cruiser Aurora. But I decided to test myself and purposefully and consciously went to work at Zvezda plant after school.
Almost everyone from my class went to university, only I and my friend Sanal Salymov decided to go to the plant. I worked as a fitter for two years; I became a brigade leader of the Komsomol youth brigade. Then I went to the army. I wanted to see what "hazing" meant.
I served for two years, went from private to senior sergeant and deputy platoon commander. It was not easy. I served in the North Caucasus district, which is totally unlike any of the Moscow garrisons. I do not have anything against it. But it was like being on the front line. Interethnic conflicts have already erupted in the Caucasus in the 1980s. Our unit stood in the outskirts of Vladikavkaz. Once I was nearly killed there... After that I decided to enter the most elite university — MGIMO. I wanted to prove that I, a man from the provinces, can study there. I entered the most prestigious faculty of international relations— the eastern department and choose the most ‘prestigious’ language — Japanese.
-Why was it ‘prestigious’?
52 languages ​​were studied at MGIMO. Mind you, it was still the Soviet times. It was believed that if you study the French language you can go to Paris, English — to New York, Italian — to Rome. And I wanted to go to Japan.
- Do you speak Japanese fluently?
I was a member of Shevardnadze's group of translators. Of course, I have slightly forgotten the language. However, I was invited to Osaka for an international conference on religion and the struggle for peace two years ago. I decided to write a speech in Japanese. The guys from the Foreign Ministry checked and corrected it. And I spoke in Japanese. Later the speech was published in some magazine.
- What other languages ​​do you know?
English and Japanese. I am fluent in Chinese and Korean and even Mongolian.
- Did MGIMO help you to establish contacts with South Korean businessmen?
Yes. My friend Lee Myung-bak, the current President of South Korea, was the head of one of the subdivisions of the corporation Hyundai at that time. In 1990, I was the Deputy of the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and External Relations of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR — Vladimir Lukin. And the first delegation I met was from Korea — from Hyundai.
At one time I organized all the meetings, including those for Gorbachev. By the way, I have dinner with Mikhail Sergeyevich tonight. Last year, I was appointed the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Gorbachev Foundation according to his request. And he is the honorary patron of the FIDE programme "Chess in schools", overseeing school chess.
Do you remember that he went to Albania for the Women's World Championship Match recently? I will discuss several other issues with him today. For example, I would suggest that he should go to London to open Contenders tournament. Knowing languages ​​helps both in business and friendship.
- That is, you are always on the road. Where do you spend most of your time?
On the airplane.
- What about Moscow?
In transit only... Last year, I visited about a hundred countries. This is necessary for the promotion of chess and the programme "Chess in schools". After I arrive, I try to immediately meet with a president of the country or prime minister. Such meetings cause interest; they are covered by the press and serve as a powerful support for chess federations of these countries. Therefore, national federations ask me to come. I have a whole list of countries where I'm expected: Mexico, Cuba, the Emirates, Poland, and Kyrgyzstan... I recently visited Kyrgyzstan and presented chess sets to Prime Minister and President. And Issyk-Kul will hold the Central Asian Cup soon. But the main thing is that the Republic signed a decree on introducing chess into the school curriculum. 1200 schools will have the chess lessons from September 1! Over the past few months it was my third visit to Kyrgyzstan.
- Have many countries included chess in their school programmes already?
Armenia introduced it in all schools; my friend Serzh Sargsyan signed a respective decree. Azerbaijan adopted a state programme for the development of chess; Ilham Aliyev issued such order. They opened chess clubs in each district centre. The programme "Rural Chess" is developing very well in Moldova. I helped them financially. They introduced chess in Ho Chi Minh City schools in Vietnam as well as in some Spanish provinces, in Thailand and Mongolia... A lot of countries!
Now the FIDE joins 177 states and two or three are added every 2-3 months. I see my task in bringing this number to 193, as in the UN or even better — as in the IOC that has more than two hundred members. I think we will solve this problem in a year or two. And we will increase the number of people playing chess from 600 million to 1 billion.
We have introduced chess in many schools in India; we will sign an agreement with their Ministry of Education soon. Have you heard about my idea: "A billion of smart people on our planet"?
We asked the Education Minister of India: "How many children are studying in your schools?" He answered: "320 million." Thus, if we introduce chess in all schools, we can accomplish our task by one third! Chinese too have introduced chess lessons in a number of provinces, and if at least half of China introduces chess, we will exceed the target. Mind you, there are 70 million people in Thailand and 90 in Vietnam... 
-Are the people you work with friends of colleagues?
They are both friends and colleagues. When I headed Kalmykia I tried to distance myself from everyone. I don’t pay attention whether someone is a driver or minister. I treat all equally. I consider my staff as like-minded people.
-How do you manage to keep yourself fit?
I don’t manage it at all. Sometimes I play tennis and badminton. Incidentally, FIDE and the Russian badminton federation, headed by Sergei Mikhailovich Shakhrai, signed an agreement. I would like to practice it several times a week, but it not always turns out. The other day Shakhrai asked me why I missed some lessons. I visit hotels swimming pools when I’m abroad. I am a good boxer – when I was 14, I became an Elista boxing champion.
- How do you treat your critics?
I am all right about that. If you become a politician or simply a leader you must be prepared for this. I was taught this in the army when I was appointed commander of the unit of ten soldiers. I heard them talking in the smoking room: "What kind of sergeant is he?" The first time I accidentally heard what they say behind my back. Who makes them run the cross-country race and do pull up? If you fail to pull up for six times then you would not get leave. They said: "Blast him; he didn’t let me have a leave."
When I heard it, I went mad. The sergeant-major (a wise man, Viktor Verovskiy, a front-line soldier, who was conscripted in 1940s), said to me: "Kirsan, became a chief, in other words thick-skinned. Do not pay attention to what they say about you; otherwise you cannot be a boss or leader".
So, if you are heading a republic or a large enterprise, you should not listen to the crowd. You have a programme, and you have to move forward to the intended goal like a ram. And you should ignore what critics write about you. There would be no time left for work if you always lash back or write back. This is my principle, and I am grateful to the Soviet Army, in which I served for two years, for what it gave me – the proper perception of the world rather than being thick-skinned.
We need to work, do our work and time will tell who is right. Probably, mistakes were made but leaders always desire to change life for the better. You cannot move on without making mistakes... Lenin wrote: "Only those who do nothing make mistakes."
- Kirsan Nikolayevich, do you have time to rest books to read, watch TV or go somewhere?
I watch TV when I have free time, for example, on a plane.  And, yes, I read books. I pick some book at ransom from a bookshelf and read it. Recently I picked "Hero of Our Time" by Lermontov and re-read it.
-Are you a fan of any football team?
I am fan of ‘Uralan’ team.
Understood. Now that you are no longer the head of Kalmykia, do you continue to participate in the Republic’s life?
Of course, I am the first and last President in the history of Kalmykia. I have recently sent 70 students to Thailand.  I have many friends there. At my own expense, I sent there 50 students from Kalmykia and 20 from MGIMO: I paid for two-way tickets, a month of accommodation, meals and lectures. 20 best teachers went to Italy. I have recently agreed that 10 Kalmyk students will go to study in the University of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
- You have many acquaintances, like-minded people to communicate with. It was amazing to hear in one of your interviews that most of all you are afraid of loneliness. Is this feeling familiar to you?
I am afraid of not the loneliness as such but misunderstanding. Then I feel like I'm alone in the desert. For example, when I announced the introduction of a knockout system in 1995, everyone took it hostilely. Later, they got used to it and started to plead: "Oh, do not take it away, leave it!" In the end, the Championship was transformed into the World Cup.
I declared in Elista in 1994: "There should no paper sovereignty!" After that I refused to be a President, abolished the constitution of Kalmykia, the declaration of sovereignty and the law on citizenship. We have one border, one Central Bank, one customs. Why play in paper sovereignty and rewrite copies of constitutions of the republics, regions and territories? There is in fact a common Constitution of Russia for all.
But they did not understand me and the crowd immediately gathered in the square: "We will not join Moscow at any cost. Kirsan, get out to your Moscow!"
I wrote the "Steppe Code" but they said, there should be the word "constitution". I said that the "constitution" is not exactly a Russian word same as the "President"; so let it be the "head". I suggested it back in 1994, but they did not support me.
That's when I felt loneliness and misunderstanding. At home they also told me: "Well, what are you trying to achieve by this?" I was young then — 30 years old. And in 2010, Medvedev said that there should be only one President in Russian Federation. However, I suggested it as yearly as in 1994. For how many years were they late? For 16!
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, here is the last question: what is the secret of your success?

I do not have any secret! I work and finish my working day by two o'clock in the morning. I wake up at six o'clock or quarter to six in the morning and start working. My personal time lasts from two to six. After I graduated the institute, I never had a vacation or a single day off. What can I say about success? This question is kind of simple but, on the other hand, it is very complicated. Probably, you simply should work in order not to be ashamed of yourself...
- Thank you very much for the conversation, Kirsan Nikolaevich!