Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on electoral contest

Taking the decision to run for president of Kalmykia, I realized clearly that people were fed up with continuous elections, political intrigues and playing at democracy. What Kalmykia needed was a drama tic change of structure and attitude which would take the needs of the people into consideration , and would awaken and instill in each citizen the belief that he could, and must, earn a real wage for real work, rather than the miserable pennies which he was paid now. The republic must quickly embrace a market economy before it was too late.

I was fully aware that if I were elected president my popularity would swiftly slide downhill. I would be held accountable for the misfortunes and problems that had already accumulated in Kalmykia and the people would demand urgent improvements. But all that was insignificant compared with the economic precipice the republic was dangling over.

At that time an extremely dangerous situation had developed in the Northern Caucasus and there was a risk that the flame of ethnic discord might spread as far as the Kalmyk steppe. Urgent measures had to be taken peacefully to quench the smoldering fire in order not to let it set off a blast in that highly explosive area.

I was beset by doubts not knowing whether it was worth my while taking on this additional burden. I was not sure I could cope with it.

I flew to Bulgaria to visit the famous clairvoyant Vanga.

- "Jesus, you are so young!" exclaimed the woman when she saw me. She shook her head and again said that I was surprisingly young. I asked her if I should run for presidency. Perhaps there was a more deserving candidate than myself? Someone who would make a better president than me? I also asked the prophetess what in her view the future might hold for Kalmykia.

- "Your people have suffered much," Vanga said. "But they have atoned for their guilt. Icon see the clouds disperse and the sky getting clearer. I see flowers. Go to your people. You are able to do much for them."

After my meeting with Vanga I visited India and His Holiness the Dalai Lama to ask for his blessings. And then in March 1993 I entered the pre-election campaign.

My main rivals were Major-General V.N. Ochirov, a Hero of the Soviet Union who had served in Afghanistan, and V.H Bambayev, chairman of the Association of Kalmyk Fanners.

On the day following the announcement of my decision somebody called me.

- "ls this Kirsan Nikolayevich?"

- "Yes."

- "Why ever should you campaign for presidency? There are too many others aspiring to office besides you. Stay out of it!"

- "Why should I?"

- "You go everywhere without bodyguards. It only takes two weeks to have a man killed today. Think about it."

My election campaign was underway. I informed people of my program which included among many other details: the liquidation of Soviet Government; the abolishment of the KGB; the promise to prioritize the interests of private citizens above those of the state, to abolish all but five of the forty active ministries and to reduce parliament from 130 to twenty-five deputies; private property was to be viewed as sacred and inviolable; and church and state would be reunited.

There were some people in my campaign team who tried to play down some of the more radical parts of my program.

- "Why announce the abolition of the KGB, Kirsan? Can you imagine what enemies you will make because of it? Strike it out. When you have become president you can do away with it, on the quiet. Otherwise the whole nomenclature, along with the deputies, will come out against you. They have tremendous power behind them, don't forget. It's an entire army, and a strong and influential one at that. They will easily gobble you up.

However, I decided not to succumb to such tricks. The people had the right to know what I was planning. My program was intended for the people and I believed that they would support me.

- "Enough of our hush-hush talks," l said. "The campaign must be fair and above-board. Let our programs compete openly. As for the people they'll decide for themselves what is best for them."

I was launching the first capitalist revolution in the country. lt was going to be Russia's first experience of the transition from socialism to capitalism. I intended to show the electorate promptly what you could achieve if you were willing and ready to work, and work very hard.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

he President's Crown of Thorns, 1995