At the end of July, Crimean chess players invited me to Evpatoria, where a grandiose celebration of Chess Day is traditionally held. Much happened in this city; I had many meetings with guests and hosts of the celebration. Of course, in conversing with Crimeans, I could not but pay tribute to the beauty and richness of the peninsula’s nature and the impressive power of the Black Sea. 

“Oh, but that’s nothing!” the welcoming hosts of the holiday answered.  “You should come to us in velvet season, when it is absolutely beautiful!” After which, they began to paint the delights of the autumn in Crimea. The weather is just right, neither hot nor cold, there are few tourists, but heaps of fruits and berries. “True, it’s not much fun in winter here,” added the most honest of my interlocutors.
They canvassed me in vain: in my travels around the world, I happened to be in different resorts in diverse climates. I saw Crimea and Greece, Tunisia and Nice. Yes, I have been there for a short time and I did not have time to rest but still I did not close my eyes. Indeed, the very same place that seemed like a true paradise on earth in velvet season looks rather dull at other times.
And velvet season as such, if you think about it, is nothing more than a farewell greeting to resort life. This is good for tourists: they come and go back home having enjoyed great rest and saved a lot of money (when compared with high prices in summer). But the locals know very well that there is a long, chilly winter ahead. They know that nothing will grow and blossom in the winter and that all the abundance of ripe fruits must be urgently sold to late tourists, otherwise they will just rot tomorrow.
Yet this relatively short period - a couple of weeks, a month? - is so attractive that some of our neighbours on Earth go to any tricks to delay it forever. Of course, this treat is not for everyone: it would be easier to relocate all of Russians to Crimea resorts than to arrange an earthly paradise for all humanity. But for a select few, it may seem possible. Remember how popular the idea of ​​the "golden billion" was until recently.

 But promoters of the "golden billion" have forgotten that orbiting of the Earth around our star cannot be stopped. The abundance of fruits and berries available in velvet season could be only possible if someone sweat over them in the spring and summer, cultivating and collecting them.

You can create a year-round velvet season for yourself if you convince others of your own exclusivity. It works for a while. Unfortunately, not for long. There are more and more applicants for heavenly life and fewer and fewer people ready to shed sweat. What this leads to, you can see just by looking around.

I dont like to repeat myself. I said at the very beginning of "self-isolation" that the world would no longer be the same after the pandemic.  We may hide from the coronavirus, lock ourselves in four walls, but the world would be different when we venture outside. Why? It has already shown us that it can survive without us. What will it become? The better or the worse? What will we become? Nevertheless, the world, albeit imperfect, to which we are accustomed, today is reeling and changing right before our eyes. Or is our perception of it just changing? 

For many, the usual values, which until recently seemed resolute, like freedom of movement and globalization, have collapsed. We, who were always hurrying, fussing, complaining about the lack of time in the day, sit in our homes and can neither fly away nor just leave it today. We have nowhere to rush and nowhere to be late. By the way, I want to note that this is how the vast majority of citizens of our country live, without going outside or travelling. Because there is nothing. It's just that now the number of people restricted to travel abroad will increase. The economic crisis has hit hard on already-skinny wallets of the majority of Russians.
The ease with which the pandemic knocked humanity down speaks only of how unreliable the old world was. As if we were witnessing an incredible experiment, caught between two worlds - the old and the new. And one more thing: today we do not know how the new world will work after the coronavirus.
There are plenty of theories and speculations about the post-coronavirus world. Some scare us of the horrors of a global "digital prison", universal chipping and total control over humankind. Others assume that after pandemic humanity will appear to be wiser, and people will finally discard the false idols and realize the true values. They will understand that the main things in life cannot be measured with money, that happiness lies in happy and healthy life and that the most important human right is the right to life.







Somewhere in the middle of the vast ocean, a lone bare rock rises above the water. Not a blade of grass grows on it, but Prometheus, the Titan, is chained to that rock. In the daytime, the sun scorches him, at night he is tormented by the cold. Every day a huge eagle flies in to peck his liver, which grows overnight, and the next morning, everything is repeated again.

Since childhood, we remember this myth about the titan, sentenced by Zeus to eternal torment because he has stolen and given the divine fire to people. In the old days, teachers explained to us the meaning of this myth quite simply: the popular consciousness of the Greeks reflected the process of taming fire by cavemen. The tamed fire gave man so many new possibilities that it can only be compared with a divine miracle.
It sounds logical. In fact, animals use various improvised tools for their purposes, build nests and lairs, and sometimes are able to even erect impressive structures, but none of them tamed the fire: such a developed intellect is not observed in the animal kingdom.
But did Prometheus have to steal the divine fire so that the caveman could just fry the mammoth steak? It seems that a couple of suitable pebbles and a piece of dry brushwood are enough for this.
I'm afraid we all share a kind of teenage sense of our superiority over our ancestors. What did they know? Born in the forest, worshiped stumps. Someone once brought a branch on fire to the camp and therefore was immediately declared a shaman, who eventually may be considered a deity.


Every morning, billions of people wake up in their beds, still on autopilot proceed to the kitchen, put a kettle on and go to work in about an hour and a half. As a rule, the route is so familiar that they can do it even blindfolded. 

If you recognize yourself in the description above, there is a reason to congratulate you: according to some psychologists, you are in a comfort zone and, if nothing changes, you will be on this path until the end of your life. True, psychologists believe that this is not very good, because he who does not risk will never drink champagne (Russian Proverb, -Ed.). And you, in their opinion, doom yourself to a life of consuming low-fat kefir. However, everyone has a chance to leave a comfortable zone and rush into the raging sea of ​​life.
However, don’t you think that Internet psychologists have completely forgotten that all men are created unequal? Coco Chanel, for example, was so afraid of comfort zone that she almost perceived her early orphanhood as luck. Otherwise, she writes in her memoirs, “she would hardly have avoided the fate of being married “and having children and dreaming of freedom all her life.”
Henry Ford tried more than one path, which, despite initial rejection, were welcomed by his business colleagues. He said that many of the entrepreneurs he knew would be much happier and healthier, if they had followed the path of comfort zone of hired managers or accountants.
But it’s not simple to be on this path! Sometimes it could be a synonym for pure, unalloyed evil, and at times is you cannot avoid it. According to military historians, the width of the Soviet, or rather, the Russian railway track played considerable role in the outcome of the Great Patriotic War. In the heat of the offensive, the Wehrmacht did not take care in time to change the tracks (The Russian ones were traditionally made wider than the European) and when they realized it, it was too late. As a result, Army Group Centre, the main striking force of the invasion, on better days received half the trains with weapons, ammunition and troops than was required for success.


Among those interested in Buddhism, there is an opinion that a true enlightened Buddhist is free from desires. This is the huge mistake. A person completely free from desires is if not a soulless corpse, then at least a poor fellow devoid of emotions and empathy and in urgent need of serious psychiatric help. Moreover, Buddhists believe that the mere contemplation of the Dalai Lama helps fulfil your desires. By the way, the current 14th Dalai Lama was given the name Lhamo Thondup at birth. Palden Lhamo is the female guardian spirit that protects us from evil forces and fulfils our desires. From my own experience, I could confirm that communication with the Dalai Lama really accelerates the fulfilment of desires.
One of my colleagues could not start a large project in the centre of Moscow. Upon learning that I was going to India for a common prayer with the Dalai Lama, he begged me to take him with me. Believe it or not, this pilgrimage was one of the most difficult for me: either it was inclement weather, or there was something wrong with the plane. Still we got there in time. However, as soon as we returned to Moscow, my colleague’s mobile rang: the high metropolitan authorities invited him to the last negotiations before agreeing on the project.
“Hold on!” the broad-minded reader would probably exclaim here. “Chatvaryaryasatyani (The Four Noble Truths, the Basic Teaching of Buddhism) clearly say that desire is the cause of suffering, which every Buddhist aims to put an end to. Even Wikipedia says so! ”


On an autumn day in 1492, one of the native inhabitants of an island in the Bahamas archipelago ran to his tribe with shocking news: the water near the horizon was seething and foaming, as if it were being cut by a giant oar apart from there was no oar! People believed the witness of an unprecedented phenomenon. The whole tribe rushed to the seashore to see the miracle.

Among the onlookers was a shaman of the tribe. He knew for sure that as there is no smoke without fire, so the water will not boil by itself. For a long time the shaman peered into the horizon, where the water behaved so wrongly, and little by little, he saw the sides and sails of the squadron of Christopher Columbus. He told his fellow citizens that the water was bubbling under unusually large pirogues and then everyone saw the Spaniards’ ships.
In the 19th century, commander Karl von Clausewitz realized that by using smoke as a hoax one can achieve his goals without sacrificing the lives of soldiers and officers, without forcing ones country into heavy expenses. He even claimed that using smoke and mirrors, one can achieve his goal even faster than in a bloody massacre against an armed enemy.
In the 20th century, newspapers, radio, and later television and the Internet took on the role that smoke and mirrors used to play earlier. However, the Soviet agitprop couldn’t compete with its Western colleagues. The USSR fell apart not because of economic or political problems (although they were in abundance), but because most of its citizens believed in the legend of a beautiful life in a market economy.
I recall with bitterness 1991, when we lost a huge country with great economic potential. We believed then that this was our own choice. Only a few knew that destroying a country for the sake of an economic amendment was like treating a headache with amputation.


Over the millennia of development, human civilization has established a whole body of moral principles, among which the concept of honour occupies a special place. In some cultures, losing honour is worse than dying. Being an orientalist and scholar of Japanese culture, I could tell you a lot about complicated Japanese principles and codes of honour.

But here lies a trap. The more terms we use to explain this or that concept, the more temptation to challenge it. Not so long ago by historical standards, there were people who regarded conscience as a chimera, a worthless invention and this cost humanity tens of millions of victims in two world wars.
And in everyday life, let’s be honest, it’s easier to cheat or just close ones eyes, ignore offensiveness, comforting yourself that “everyone does that” and “I’m no better than others”, which ends in succumbing to circumstances, sacrificing their honour for the sake of material well-being.
I happened to be under pressure from circumstances (and very outstanding!) when I was young. In 1988, the omnipotent State Security Committee of the USSR accused the fifth year student of MGIMO Ilyumzhinov of spying for one of the foreign intelligence services. On top of it, they tried to impute smuggling and forbidden currency transactions. At that time such accusations could well lead to the "highest measure of social protection" – execution.

 Now I may refer to that incident as a funny story: the very idea of declaring me to be either an Iranian or an Afghan spy (I had a good relationship with the son of Babrak Karmal, who had recently headed the Revolutionary Council of Afghanistan) was crazy. But at that time, I didn’t think it was amusing. Even though I knew that I was innocent and was sure that everything would be sorted out in the end, I understood that problems could not be avoided. 

If I only   had a chance! How often we hear something like that from our relatives and acquaintances! I heard it too. In this case, it is a priori assumed that the evil fate did not give the complainant – and such a good one! – a single chance, a single opportunity to prove himself, to achieve his cherished goal, to get what he wanted.
Even some popular manuals on psychology interpret chance as a “fortuitous accident”, without which, however, “it’s impossible to achieve happiness”. Well, in other words, you shall stay put and wait for a random gift of fate.
Of course, all this is complete nonsense. In such cases, I always remember the old joke about an American millionaire, who is asked how he has amassed his wealth. “Oh, well, I had a dime and bought five apples, washed them and sold them for twenty cents. With this money, I bought ten apples, washed them and sold for forty cents. ” “And then?” they asked him again. “And then my uncle died and left me a few canneries.”
It is usually assumed that this story only confirms the postulate that it is almost impossible to succeed without luck. But the question is, would a successful businessman just simply transfer the business of his life to someone whom he does not fully trust? Looks like this story is not telling us everything. However, then that’s what jokes are meant to be.
And here is an example from my own life: do you think there are many chances for a simple chess amateur, one of the millions, to head the International Chess Federation? As it turned out, there are plenty.
Yes, one may say that in 1995 I got a chance and used it. But was it really an accident? After all, that autumn I flew to Paris with a purpose to convince the venerable grandmasters to choose for the venue of the next chess Olympiad not the capital of any country, but Elista, the administrative centre of a Russian region.
This idea, in turn, came to me only because of my long-time love for chess, love to Kalmykia and my desire to open my homeland to the world. Of course, the fundamental education in one of the best diplomatic universities of the world, political experience and success in business are also essential factors. And what mattered was that I already had them all.

In my early years, I was confused by the contradiction expressed in famous Russian saying “the free belong to freedom and the saved belong to paradise”. It is some nonsense, I thought. Does it really mean that only slaves deserve a worthy future? But how then to be with freedom as one of the highest values?  

It is perhaps difficult to find a term that has so many definitions as “will”. It could be a feature of the human mind, another name for freedom, synonymous with space, and a legal act.  Perhaps few of the human properties caused so much philosophical and theological disputes from Aristotle to the present day.
"Free will", "iron will", "will power", "willy-nilly". Judging by the number of epithets and the maxims that people applied to this term, it always attracted attention. And one should note that it does not necessary have a positive connotation like in case of bad will or ill will. So, there’s a lot to talk about. 
In my early childhood, I was a very freedom-loving boy. It seems that I have already told the readers of the "Russian Pioneer" about my first and the only kindergarten’s experience that upset my parents very much. The thing is that I could stand being there for half a day only. When it was time for a nap, I thought it was silly to spend the daytime sleeping, so I got out through the window opened on the occasion of the summer and ran to the pond, to my street friends. It was there they had found me late in the evening. The next day, the head of the preschool institution declared that she could not take such a child under her responsibility. 

I cannot say that I began to understand the relationship between “Want” and “Must” from the first day in school. But over time, I realized that it would take much more willpower to do my homework than to put books and manuals aside and kick the ball with my friends. Does it mean that will is still not equivalent to freedom? I am free to play football instead of doing my homework (luckily the parents are at work) but I have the will to refuse it. 
It was weird, but I learned how to find a pleasure in it. This knowledge helped me when my younger brother was born, which meant more worries, or when I was busy at school with lesser time for entertainment. I had to learn to prioritize. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Solving chess problems and analysing games is perfectly possible in my mind while scrubbing the floor or running for bread. So you can combine anything. All you need is will. A bit of freedom to decide for yourself what you really need.


We all like to receive gifts: the expensive ones and not so expensive ones; brought by friends from faraway countries or made by our children at shop class. However, the donor must try hard to make sure you enjoy the gift as long as possible. Mostly, it refers to those gifts that we receive from life.  

There is a tale about a fisherman who caught a Golden Fish. The fish pleads for its life, promising any wish in return. The fisherman went mad with greed and blurted out: "Make it so that I had everything!" "All right," Fish said.  "Now you HAD everything!"   
It is believed that this tale teaches us to formulate our wishes more carefully. But is that all? I think it also tells us that the most valuable gift is useless if we are not ready to take it.  
“Vain gift, random gift, | Life, why have you been given to me?” wrote Pushkin in moment of melancholy. Scary words, if you think about it. Can there be a more priceless and perfect gift than life? But you have to admit that many of us were tormented by the same question more than once.  
Unfortunately, we are inclined to believe that fate “does not give us” what we deserve. We do not win millions in lottery, pretty girls marry others and children are not happy with their school marks.  There are too many reasons to grieve! And meanwhile we absolutely do not want to notice those gifts that fate presents to us daily and hourly.  
Perhaps it is from such a misunderstanding that we “cast pearls before swine” and "Bury our talents in the ground." Too many people idly go with the flow or, much more offensively, simply destroy the received gifts by drugs and alcohol. By the way, I saw it too many times that those people more likely than others to complain about the evil fate.


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