Ilyumzhinov: I am a small part of the nation

One winter evening, meeting in a tumbledown shack in Elista to the accompaniment of dogs' barking, we began negotiating the delivery of a large amount of Kalmyk wool to my company. My colleagues had just come back from the government ministry building where they had tried, to no avail, to have the necessary paperwork signed. Government officials kept dragging out the decision-making process. We were pressed for time because our deal was under threat of disruption and penalty payments were due imminently. The boys had been unable to gain access to the republic's big shots for several weeks already. It was then, all of a sudden and quite spontaneously, that the idea came to some of us to nominate me as a deputy-candidate.

-"You've got to become a deputy, Kirsan. After all, you are the one who understands our problems. Those White-House types are going to ruin the republic." I burst out laughing.

-"Me, a deputy? That's absurd!"
-"Why are you laughing? Are you not a Kalmyk? Don't you feel pity for the republic?"
-"Sure I do. But how could I help?"
-"What do you mean how could you help? If you are elected you will certainly do a lot. There are a great many problems to be solved. Just take a look around. We are the people, aren't we? We are the electors. What the hell! We will kick out the party brass. They are no good anyway. You have just been talking about how things should be done. Well, we’ll give you the authority to do something for the republic instead of talking endlessly and sulking in back alleys."
I would have to travel  around Elista and to lki­ Burulsky, Yashaltinsky, Gorodovikovsky and Priyutninsky districts as well as settlements, herders' points, local and Soviet collective farms: in short to more than half of the republic, and quickly too. I would have to give speeches explaining my program and persuading people to believe in me.
How well I remember those trips in that uncomfortable old Niva car, the bumpy roads, the piercing night cold, the car's dancing head-lights, the nights in unheated local hotels, the thin, tepid watery tea, the sound of cockroaches scurrying around, a brief sleep snatched until four in the morning, the semi-dark horse-milk colored dawns, the rusty  screeching of the car's springs, the melancholy howling of the icy wind penetrating the gaps in the car's metalwork , and the jolting on the uneven dirt roads!
Five in the morning. My first speech at a milk farm. Forty minutes later another speech followed, this one addressed to the members of an agricultural equipment repair shop and then it was on to a school and a herders' point. Six to seven meetings a day separated by great distances. From district to district, farm to farm. The innumerable questions and the wrinkled faces of old men and women. Their thoughtful quiet­ looking eyes and dignified words of their blessings.
-"May success attend you, son..."
-"Do you think there'll be another war?"
Great sadness and great patience. The austere life and the wisdom of steppe people honed and polished by generations of their forefathers.
All around I could see devastation, ruin and poverty, the miserable conditions in which the peasants of the steppe eked out their existence. Talking to people and trying to understand their everyday cares, problems and hopes, I could not help but be astonished by the truly great patience of those who make up the backbone of the count1y, republic and state. What biblical faces, what strength of character, what well­ wishing, kind eyes!
The new discovery of my republic and my people, and the understanding of my place in the nation, and the part, however small, which I could play in it, filled me with pride and happiness.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
The President's Crown of Thorns 1995