Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: “The President's Crown of Thorns” is written about rotten Soviet ideology and Kalmyk emigration

Later, when in the West, meeting up with Kalmyk emigres, I would hear their terrible stories, feel their pain, and admire the purity of these people's hearts. It was they who, while still in the filtration zones after the war was over, came out against exiling the Kalmyks, collected signatures, wrote petitions and turned for support to the UNO, heads of state and prominent churchmen. It was they who first raised the issue of allowing Kalmyks to return to their native land; who rang the bells and cried out to the world public, thus forcing Khrushchev to allow them to come back home after thirteen years in exile.

The issue of the Kalmyk forced emigration is a special and tragic period in the history of my people, people who have managed to preserve their traditions and their national civilization while at the same time absorbing European Culture and the European world outlook. The greatest discoveries of the 20th century were made on the borderline between physics and biology, chemistry and mathematics; this is the law of our century, and it seems also to be true of nations which can accommodate two viewpoints and two cultures.   I firmly believe that in the very near future Kalmykia is to enjoy its own renaissance. And the Kalmyk emigre population is one of the cornerstones in the foundation of this future building.

Who knows what would have become of me had I not endured the school of proletarian life, and the dull and stupefying "apprenticeship" of an errand boy doing chores for the ever-tipsy foreman. That year I shook off the last traces of romantic delusions. I realized a great deal about life and felt a growing and maturing sense of protest in my heart. I think that everybody saw the idiocy of our life. At any rate, most of our people did. At the same time fear, socialism's greatest achievement, cemented society strongly together. Who is marching out of step? Who is breathing out of time? Look out, get him!

An English man once remarked to me that "in Russia drinking is a kind of inner protest, some sort of latent non- conformism." Well, I am inclined to agree. For the common man doing your work well meant nothing, but the impetus to steal or drink was a necessity in order to forget the impoverished hopelessness of your life. In this country we even had a special word for these thieving workers, we called them "carriers" (for they carried off everything they can lay their hands on) or more flatteringly, "go-getters"! And if someone succeeded in grabbing hold of some "big time booty" then he was the object of universal admiration, a hero, a doer in life.

The bosses of ordinary people were not averse to stealing either. They too drank too much at home, in restaurants and at one banquet or another. In this respect the people and the party were at one. A party worker in Kalmykia once instructed me: "Remember: drinking without toasting is simply a vulgar drinking bout, but when it is accompanied by toasts then it is ideological work."

And they never begrudged money for ideological work. Culture was always underfunded but there was an endless sea of money for ideological purposes; "whiskey galore!" as it were. Perhaps this explains why we have always had so many politicians, making up almost ha lf the population of the country. Especially if one downed one drink too many. The moment a gathering of more than one person took place then a bottle of vodka appeared and the session was accompanied by a lot of chin-wagging about sexual exploits or politics. What else was there to talk about anyway? About life? It was sickening. Everyone was fed up with life. About the future? What did we care for a future that would never transpire. All that was left was fear. So everybody tried to be content with their lot for fear of something worse. But what could be worse than living the way they lived?