Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Kalmykia was equal to every other republic

I could not understand why anyone should dictate their own terms to my homeland when, by law, Kalmykia was equal to every other republic. Kalmykia did not violate any law, Kalmykia did not infringe any constitutional norms, so everything else was the republic's own business.

I remember how we once received instructions from Moscow to switch to standardized winter and summer time. Dairymaids rose with the new clock and tried to milk their cows, but the cows would not give milk however hard the women tried. The animals refused to switch to Moscow time. They did not care a hoot about instructions from Moscow, or the messengers of these instructions, even if they were officers from the KGB itself.


What could Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev know of a shepherds' life in the Kalmyk steppe? Indeed, what did the Chemozemelsky or Yashkulsky regions need more, tights or wells? What was more profitable: sowing or cattle­ breeding? But the big bosses in Moscow kept on commanding, pressuring and dictating. They were ordered to sow com in Yakutia and apply the Ipatov method in the Pamirs.

This is why I initiated the creation of the Council of the Federation's Subjects. The subjects of the Federation knew what the true state of affairs was in their own regions and consequently in the whole country. They knew how, when and where to start construction work, what to procure and secure. They were well aware of their people's general mood and needs. They were real politicians, who carried true political clout, which should not be toyed with. If the regions provided their share of the capital then they should be treated as equal partners. To regard them like an exploitable Cinderella-figure is an unreasonable and shortsighted policy. The covert and smouldering discontent will one-day tum into open opposition and another outburst of unrest.
In the halls of the Kremlin they would ask me:
- "What the hell do you Kalmyks keep running ahead of the engine for? Why do you always kick against the pricks? First you come up with a draft constitution for Russia, and next with the devil alone knows what! Take tip economics and avoid politics. That's none of your business."
Wrong! This is our business! There is no economics without politics. Is this not the reason why so many businesspersons become politicians?
Well, whatever the reason, our reforms aroused discontent among certain echelons of power, and pressure began to be exerted on Kalmykia. Moscow was tightening the screws. It was a warning: stay out of big-time politics and don't stick your neck out!
A financial knot began to be tightened around the republic's throat. The promised credits were not forthcoming Agreements were breached and delivery dates missed, and the republic's enterprises were rationed severely. Many flights from Elista airport were canceled due to lack of fuel. Non¬-payments accumulated. Construction stopped. People began showing their discontent. Rumors began to spread across the republic like cockroaches: "Kirsan is finished, Kirsan has breathed his last."
The opposition was exaggerating dramatically the mistakes of the president and his team. Days, weeks and months passed without any inflow of credit. Western investors started to come to me with offers of help, but their terms were enslaving. I .was surprised that they were so well informed about Kalmykia's economic situation. Their knowledge proved that informers must be operating in the highest ranks of power.
"Brotherly friendship, the united family of nations", all that is nothing but communist tall tales. Perhaps in the future, a hundred-odd years from now, mankind will become one happy family of blood brothers and sisters, without borders and countries, and an era of harn1ony and prosperity will open. But not now. Now the country is riven by turmoil and internecine strife; there are no friends in politics and economics. There are only partners bound by the same goal and bent on benefit alone.
I knew that Yeltsin approved of my reforms and was watching them closely. However, in those days I could not approach him or ask for a meeting with the president of Russia. Those determined to force Kalmykia to her knees blocked all my attempts to see him. But I could wait no longer. Every morning summaries of the economic situation in the republic's regions appeared in my office. It  was   deteriorating.   A catastrophe was brewing.
Every day I read the confusion in the eyes of my ministers and received telephone ca l ls from the heads of local administrations: what is to be done?
From the money I had earned in business I was able to bridge many gaps and to patch up holes.  But my resources were melting before my very eyes. But still, I had not gone in to the presidency with closed eyes.

We managed to avoid to a certain degree a sharp increase in prices. The price of bread and mi l k remained acceptable. In any case they were lower than those in other regions of Russia. In Elista we had no paupers begging for alms. Subsequently many asked us in bewilderment: "How did you manage to hold Kalmykia back from the edge of the precipice? We thought the republic was done for. Everything indicated that you were heading for ruin."
They "thought"... I remember the nervous tension and sleepless nights of that period, the vast numbers of interwoven problems, and I think to myself. "How was I able to withstand that gigantic avalanche and see everything through?"  I still can't believe it. It is due to nature's striking wisdom that man is endowed with enormous reserves of endurance and strength...

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

The President's Crown of Thorns, 1995