Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: ‘President's Crown of Thorns’ - I wish to understand the world, its forces, laws and secret springs

On TV, Brezhnev kisses foreigners every day. The big shots openly steal and then  go on binges  at  their  Party dachas, and the entire population gets drunk year after year. The  level  of morality in the nation has dropped to zero.

Socialism has reached a pea k of idiocy. At night the whole of Elista sit glued to their short-wave radios listening  hard  to "The Voice of America'', "Radio Liberty", and the BBC through the KG B jamming signals and the static. We are a nation in search of spiritual and moral values. And  then suddenly...   The   unrest   in   Czechoslovakia.   To   the accompaniment of the song: "Do the Russians Want a War?" Soviet tanks squash the residents of Prague. Dubchek has been put under arrest. And in Moscow, people demonstrating against the invasion of Czechoslovakia are beaten-up.  Now it is an internecine scuffle.
Twenty-five years on and our citizens' blood will be  shed again, outside the walls of the White House. As yet  no  one knows about it. The country shudders  and  awakens  for  a moment. Quite a number of youngsters join the  hippie movement. They sedate themselves with drugs, and abandon society for the wilderness of the taiga where they set up communes. The intelligentsia crusades to rediscover  God  or goes  underground  and  begins  the   so-called   dissident movement. The men who will throw themselves in the path of tanks i n down town Moscow during the ill-named coup of 1991 have already been born.
My sensitive child's ears feed on  scraps  of  adult conversation . I can see and sense the discrepancy between how the grown-ups think and what they actually do. So I can't help asking myself a lot of questions. Nobody, however, wants to give me answers. "Ask your questions, boys, go on, ask your questions , and you fellows give straight answers," goes the
song by the famous singer Bulat Okudzhava . The husky voice of Vladimir Vysotsky is heard from the windows of every communal flat in our strangled, crippled Russia: "Will you heat up the steam-bath, dear. I've been out of touch with the wide world for quite some time." How ill-fated you are, Russia! "Where are you racing off to, Rus? Give me an answer! No answer".

No answer. The older generation keeps silent. The years in exile, and under KGB interrogation have taught them to stick tenaciously to the old refrain: I don't know, I saw nothing, I don't remember.

"I don't know". Just three words. At the same time  "I know" means so very much; that is what my grandmother used to say. Our father's generation, who endured exile, KGB questioning and a lot more besides, have trained themselves to remember nothing so as not to betray. No dates, no cases, no names!
This was how the history of the Kalmyk people became depleted and the chain of generations was broken. And this link of sorrow can never be fully restored ...
At school, I am put in charge of political information for my year. There is so much that I want to understand about life; a life at once simple and complicated. I ask questions and get no answers. I feel that there is a mystery behind that silence. Should one trust official newscasts or hearsay?
The older generation has betrayed us. They have cast us out into the turbulent sea of life, a life rent apart by contradictions, without teaching us first how to swim. We have found ourselves floundering like blind kittens. Only the strongest will reach the shore. Give us a hand, somebody! But no hand is offered.
Okay, who cares! We'll sort things out after a while. l become an avid reader, a veritable book-worm, devouring philosophy, history, psychology. Perhaps these books will give me an answer? I develop a passion for physics, chemistry, and mathematics. These disciplines are devoid of lies, they are logical and clear. I wish to understand the world, its forces, laws and secret springs.
Everything is a mystery, but I like mysteries, they arouse my interest. I read a textbook: "... the law-abiding nature of the history of social development ..." If there is such a thing as a law-abiding nature, there must also be a law. Why is there no such law in effect in, say, Japan or the USA? Why i n this country alone?  And what does "the role of an individual in history" mean? How can the law-abiding nature of social development co-exist with the cult of personality?
I study volumes from the "Lives  of  Outstanding Individuals" series thoroughly . What motivated these people? How did they feel? What did they long for? Why did they do what they did, regardless of what people around them thought? I compare myself with these heroes: could I replicate their courage? Could I imitate their actions? Could I resist all the pressure?

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
The President's Crown of Thorns 1995