Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "Kalmykia awaits the Dalai Lama"

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov visited the Dalai Lama’s residence in the Himalayas, where they discussed the possibility of his pastoral visit to Russia. During a press conference in Moscow, Ilyumzhinov told reporters that he offered the Dalai Lama to make a stopover in Kalmykia on the way back from Germany to India on September 25.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, can you already talk about the results of your meeting with the Dalai Lama?

I met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala located in the Himalayas at an altitude of 3 thousand meters. Our meeting lasted for about two hours. Shadzhin Lama (Supreme Lama-Ed.) of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche as well as Bishop Zosima (Ostapenko) of Elista and Kalmykia joined me in my trip to Dharamsala. We conveyed to His Holiness the invitation to visit the Republic of Kalmykia this year.
- What is the probability of this visit?
His Holiness accepted the invitation. Now everything depends on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Last year, as you know, the Foreign Ministry took into account China's position and the Dalai Lama did not receive an entry visa.
Today, I see no reason why the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a man awarded the Order of Friendship of Peoples by the USSR government in 1990, cannot visit our country, as he has done it several times already.
- If the Dalai Lama does come, what will be the programme of his visit?
The Dalai Lama wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin, in which he points out that his visit will be of purely religious and pastoral nature. The programme of his visit includes the consecration of the main Khurul (Buddhist temple - Ed.) of Kalmykia, which was built in 1996 and has not been consecrated since. He must also conduct a number of other religious ceremonies.
- Speaking recently in Elista, you said that you had secured the Russian president’s support of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Russia. Do you have a personal agreement with Vladimir Putin on this issue?
In early December last year, Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Beijing. I was a member of the delegation. At the talks, he repeatedly stressed that the Russian Federation includes three Buddhist republics: Kalmykia, Buryatia and Tuva. Residents of these republics constantly appeal to the President for assistance in carrying out the pastoral visit of the Dalai Lama to our country.
The President, as a guarantor of the Constitution, which proclaims the freedom of religion, should render such assistance.
I am grateful to Vladimir Vladimirovich for having raised this issue at the talks in Beijing. His position is clear: he advocates that Russian Buddhists can meet with their spiritual leader. I felt that the president supports us.
- Are Buddhism and Christianity really declared in Kalmykia as state religions, and what is the meaning of this concept?
During the years of Soviet power, all churches were destroyed in Kalmykia. Over the past 10 years, we have built 25 Khuruls, 22 Orthodox churches and one mosque.
The term "state religions" means that the state renders assistance and support to religious organizations.