Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "The people of Kalmykia are responsible for what happens on the Earth"

- One king once said: "The state is me". You, of course, are not a king, but would you say: "Kalmykia is me"?

In 1993, I openly said: "I will live without Kalmykia, but Kalmykia will not survive without me." I believe that Kalmykia was recognized as a result of my and my team activities. I feel I have  a certain mission. Someone should have a driving force to make it work.  

Kalmykia is known because of Ilyumzhinov. In 1993, the old people didn’t like me but, nevertheless, they all voted for me. I realize this responsibility and I do not rest on my laurels. -Where did you learn this subtlety?

I do not know. Probably, life taught me. School, army, factory, books. I always emphasize that we live not in Kalmykia but in Russia. Our Constitution – the Steppe Code – reads as follows: "All people of the Republic of Kalmykia are responsible for what is happening on the Earth." Maybe this does not work very well for the elderly but the young people begin to realize that they do not live in Kalmykia, Russia or Europe as such. They share the same land, sun and the sky with all the residents of planet Earth. When young people are brought up in such a way, then they have an open mindset to appreciate all economic and political reforms.
- Kirsan Nikolayevich, who worded that Steppe Code extract you just quoted?
I wrote it. I made the Constitutional Assembly and the referendum to accept it. At first no one understood it, and now they begin to realize that I was right.
- As you have already noticed, we are of the same age and of the same generation. Both you and I have been given freedom by perestroika. What do you think would have happened to you if there was no perestroika?
In 1985, when Mikhail Sergeyevich announced perestroika, I studied in MGIMO. If there had been no perestroika, I would have probably been working at an embassy, possibly, in Japan.
- You have achieved a lot: the image of Kalmykia is inseparable from the image of the smiling Ilyumzhinov.
Even before the elections, in February 93, I talked about how I was going to promote the republic. There are 350 thousand people in the republic and only150 thousand Kalmyks. "No one will notice if you, the Kalmyks, are pushed into the Moscow metro. And no one will come to the God forgotten Kalmykia." Therefore, I said, Kalmykia must be promoted. First, it is necessary that they should write about the republic. And who will write about it? Before that, only Pushkin mentioned Kalmyks in "Captain's daughter", "Monument", "Journey to Arzrum" and "Eugene Onegin" mention Kalmyks. The poet himself was even in love with a Kalmyk girl and wrote a magnificent poem "Farewell, my beloved Kalmyk girl." In September, Karen Shakhnazarov started making a film about Pushkin, which takes place in Kalmykia.
- When I was in Elista, I was shown a Buddhist temple and an Orthodox church. They said that they were built on your own money...
Yes, they are built on my own money.
- Kalmyks suffered from Communists no less than other nations, but nevertheless, there is a monument to the leader of the world proletariat in front of the government building.
In April 93, a lot of friends – the democrats from Moscow came to my inauguration. At one time, when I was a businessman, I funded a democratic movement. They all congratulated me on winning the elections and shouted: "Kirsan, this is the first capitalist revolution! For the first time in Russia, a capitalist became president." When they saw the monument to Lenin, they immediately suggested that I demolish it: "Let's bulldoze it." Well, you know what drunken democrats are. And the only argument saved this monument. I told them that the mother of Lenin's father was a Kalmyk. "Well, then let's drink to a relative", they said.
- During the war, the Kalmyks were deported from their native republic, like many other peoples of the Caucasus. But nobody in Kalmykia blames the Russians, as they do in other republics.
Yes, the Kalmyks were in exile for thirteen years. On 28 December, 1943 they were deported to Siberia. If other peoples – Germans and Crimean Tatars – were deported to Kazakhstan, the Kalmyks, the inhabitants of the steppe, were sent to Siberia, and even in such a cold month as in December. We really suffered from Stalin, from the Communists. Half my relatives died in Siberia.
Why did the Kalmyks not transfer their hatred to the Russian people? Because there, in Siberia, they were met by ordinary Russian people who did not let the Kalmyks perish. My mother often recalls how the Russians brought them potatoes, bread and dress. Therefore, we are very grateful to the Russian people.
In 1993, when I became president, the first thing I did was to organize the "Train of Remembrance from the grateful Kalmyk people to the Russian people." We collected a whole echelon of old men and sent them to the places in Siberia where they were deported to.
When the parade of sovereignties began, when Tatarstan and Chechnya began to gain some kind of independence, that’s when I said: "We came to Russia on our own will. Nobody conquered us." In 1609, we signed an agreement with the Russian Tsar Vasily Shuisky on admission to Russia. We smashed the Swedes at Poltava, we entered Paris in 1814, and we helped to establish order in the Caucasus. One of the provisions of the agreement with Russia was that the Kalmyks guarded the southern borders of Russia. Nobody enslaved us. We voluntarily came and voluntarily stayed. This is our homeland, this is our country.
- They talk about a specific model of Tatarstan. Is there a specific model of Kalmykia?
I do not know, I think that the whole of Russia has the same model. We move from one formation to another. Of course, from an economic point of view, there are nuances. But we have one rouble, one customs and one border. On the other hand, each nation has its differences.
Recently, I was in Ukraine. You know what struck me: they reconstructed the Soviet Union. And I want to do the same. I still consider myself a Soviet citizen. I am grateful to the Soviet school and the Soviet army...
Of course; every nation and every republic has its own specifics. Does Kalmykia have its own specifics? Yes, it is the only Buddhist republic in Europe.
- You once said that there cannot be sovereign republics in Russia.
I have great respect for Mintimer Shaimiev. When I meet with him at the Federation Council, I consult him on various issues. As for my statement, I still adhere to it. Kalmykia renounced sovereignty in 1994. I then said that Kalmykia does not need a Constitution, citizenship and president. Russia is one and indivisible.
- Would you call yourself a politician or business executive?
I am engaged in both politics and economy. I was an amateur in everything. I had to learn everything so as not to sign some bullshit instead of normal Decrees.
- And what do you know in detail?
Probably, diplomacy and politics. I know the technology of elections. The elections that I participated in were held eight times: I was twice elected president of Kalmykia. I was twice elected to the Federation Council, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and to the Supreme Soviet of Russia.
- As far as I understand, there is absolutely no opposition in Kalmykia apart from five or six individuals.
There are much more! I fired about six thousand deputies. Our small Kalmykia had the Supreme Soviet and City Soviet. I get rid them all in one day. And you say there are no opposition! Within four years of my presidency, several dozen bosses were either put in jail or fired.
-Why were they jailed?
For bribes. It was necessary to jail a head of the administration of one district. From the very first days I began to fight corruption and mafia. The head of the tax inspection of the republic and deputy head of the tax police were put in prison for taking bribes.
Earlier, when I came home, my mother did not let me go out in the evening. There were shootings; the city was divided among rival gangs.
I spoke on television: "We have had enough! There will be no more mafia protection. You have the only one protection and that is the president. Now I, as the president, am responsible for you. You have elected me, and I am responsible for your safety and for each of you personally".
- Is it true that there is not a single representative of former nomenklatura in your offices?
My vice-president Valery Bogdanov started as a tractor operator and ended as a secretary of the regional party committee. Chairman of Parliament Maksimov long time worked as the vice-premier of the government. But I also promote the young ones. Twenty-four-year-old Lena Kulikova was appointed Deputy Minister of Justice.
I try to keep both professionals and the same nomenclature, if they took my ideology.
Leaders of the regions usually know the state of affairs in their own country or republic. But they hardly know the whole truth. Please, tell me, do you know all what is happening in your country?
I totally agree with you. Any official tries to hide certain information from his boss. But I solved this problem. I have a network of informants. Basically, these are my friends. Well, the most important informant is my mother. She still works as a veterinarian at the local market place, where you can hear all kinds of gossip.
I have an analytical centre. We regularly conduct surveys on various issues. In the end, I myself talk to the people. By the way, there is not a single settlement in the republic that I didn’t visit.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, thank you for the interview. By the way, were there any questions that you did not like?
There were no such questions.