Ilyumzhinov’s Defence

Ilyumzhinov is more than known in Kalmykia. His grandfather, after whom he was named, established Soviet power there. Later, according to family tradition, he doubted the need of the power, which kills half of the villagers and brain washes the other half. In general, the circumstances of the death of his grandfather are still vague.

Did the revolutionary glory of you grandfather affect your relations with classmates?

‘You know, the official authorities remembered my grandfather a couple of times a year, on holidays. All the rest of the time, if I stood out somehow, it was only because of my character. For example, I quit smoking as I went to first grade. And I stopped being a hooligan at the same time. I finished school with excellent marks, but they did not give me a medal because I started to speak for justice in the tenth grade.’
In a provincial town, tiny by Moscow standards, a schoolboy Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was a figure more than noticeable. Winner of city and republican Olympiads, an athlete who’s been heading the national adult chess team of Kalmykia for fifteen years.
- Kirsan, of course, you entered the university after graduating from high school...
‘By no means. I started to work at the factory. I wanted to try and find out if I could be myself not only in comfort zone. A year later I joined the army.’
However, what's the use talking about the army? This is a well-known topic to everyone. Everybody who served knows how they value real men there. Therefore, I'm not surprised to learn that Kirsan finished the service as a sergeant, deputy platoon commander, secretary of the Komsomol committee and member of the national chess team.
‘After the army, I returned to the factory. I worked there for some time and understood that my time has come. I decided to go to Moscow to finally enter MGIMO.’
- Kirsan, we are almost the same age and we studied at the same time.  I know very well what a prestigious university is. I myself studied in one of them. Have you entered MGIMO without anyone’s help?
‘I never had benefactors. Indeed, I entered the university and studied at the Japanese language faculty.’
In 1987, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was already an undergraduate and, naturally, a popular personality in the university. Cheerful and open, he had plenty of friends. His hostel room is still remembered by the fact that there were rarely less than twenty people gathered at any time. Kirsan served as a living embodiment of the American dream within the walls of the university – a simple man, who became one of the best students of the most elite Moscow university.
In the autumn of the same year, Kirsan spoke at the institute party meeting – he could not understand why seditious Yeltsin's speeches could not be printed in newspapers and why it is necessary to create a halo of secrecy around the then leader of the Moscow Party Committee. Kirsan thought that he spoke passionately and with conviction like a real communist. The rest of the communists could not understand: was this young and gifted man brought to us by aliens? Did he forget where he lived, or did he believe in these sweet songs about democracy? This comrade does not understand. This comrade needs to be corrected and to be advised the real values of this life.
And Ilyumzhinov's two fellow students, either on their own or by someone’s advice, informed to the KGB on Kirsan. Kirsan was accused on twelve counts – as a spy and a saboteur, who allegedly drinks a bottle of cognac without a snack.
As usual, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's birthday was fun and noisy. Those two friends spent the whole evening messing around with the camera. Nobody knew that the pictures would go to the KGB – ‘see, they drank vodka, a whole bottle of vodka’.
Ilyumzhinov remembers how two brave guys put him in the car right at the entrance to the institute and brought to the KGB. All day long, Kirsan was interrogated by investigators and detectives with psychologists trying to make him confess to espionage. Kirsan denied everything.
Everything collapsed in one day – the end of the institute and internship abroad. Yesterday's idol of MGIMO became an outcast, he was even afraid to greet the acquaintances. During the long and tedious meetings, two issues were discussed: whether Kirsan should be excluded from MGIMO and from the party. The wording was: "for violating the rules of the socialist community."
‘The then rector told me: "stop resisting, no one will help you. Stop complaining, seeking justice, sit quietly, leave Moscow and in a year, so be it, we'll take you back as you realized your mistakes." I understood that this is just the political system, but I was always disgusted to accept the rules of the game that they impose. Why should I realize mistakes if I'm not guilty of anything?! I knew that either I will achieve justice or I am perished; there is no other way out.’
Well, he was lucky – he achieved his goal. Eight months later, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was restored to the number of students and those, who dragged him through the mud yesterday, now became his friends again.  
‘I do not keep evil at MGIMO and the KGB. I took those times and system for granted. There was no other way out for me; I had to win.’
The further progress of the businessman and politician Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is similar to the incessant ascent to the stars. Through thorns, naturally.
Suffice it to say that Kirsan was elected the People's Deputy of Russia exactly in the district with the largest competition – twenty one candidates per seat. Naturally, Kirsan won because such people cannot fail to win; they simply cannot be losers. Regardless of tricks of fate, they still make their way like the grass breaks the asphalt stretching toward the sun.
Of course, in addition to incredible performance, the ability to live for years in a border situation, to sleep for few hours a day and do ten jobs at the same time, people like Kirsan Ilyumzhinov yet have another gift – a talent for balanced calculation and cold analysis.
At home, in Kalmykia, Ilyumzhinov is so popular that he is seriously portrayed as the president of the republic. Ilyumzhinov's current friends include such people as Yves Saint Laurent and Oppenheimer. I was not interested in the personal state of Kirsan, but I think that he is far from being poor.
"You see," he says to me, "I do not want to convince everyone that I'm just a lucky person. On the contrary, I always try to calculate everything and I act only within my own strengths and possibilities. I cannot allow myself to be lightheaded. In business, in politics, a solid foundation must be erected and only after that they erect floors, otherwise the roof will collapse."
Russia was always rich in strong guys and talents. Probably, I will not go against the truth, if I say that our last hope lies in just such people as Ilyumzhinov – by saving themselves, they can save us all.

  4th of July, 1992