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. 

I was immediately expelled from the party and from the fifth year’s study of MGIMO. This meant more than just five years of hard work went down the drain. The black mark of suspected of treason was to remain on my biography for life, cutting off any opportunity to be engaged in any interesting activities.
It was not the awareness of the penal provision hanging over me but the collapse of all my plans and prospects that crushed and distressed me. I was crippled by the betrayal of those whom I considered to be, if not friends, then at least good pals. It was through the denunciation of one of them that the KGB brought a case against me. There were others whose testimonies were created out of thin air. And some of them, who until recently nearly swore eternal brotherhood, seeing me they fled as if from a plague.
The state security investigator dealt with my case as an experienced angler fishing for a large fish: pull it up, let it go and pull it up again. A few days in the cell, a short walk and then another interrogation. After few more days in the cell, they again brought me to the investigator's office. The case was falling apart, it was clear, and the tone of the investigator somewhat changed. He no longer asked me to confess anything.
This time he sympathetically said that I was a good person; I was just unlucky to get under the hammer... He told me that they rushed things a bit with my expulsion at MGIMO, and the same referred to expulsion from the party, but what has been done is done and cannot be undone. If only…
And then the KGB officer offered me an easy way out. Just one signature on the cooperation paper and all my problems are solved as if by magic.
The investigator was clearly not happy with my refusal, but he did not argue. His parting words were: “Well, it doesn’t change anything, you’ll be back. And pretty soon. ” The lieutenant knew what he was talking about. The fact that the provocation failed, that I was able to prove my innocence, did not mean yet that the ideological-bureaucratic system that had entangled the country would acknowledge its mistakes and restore the status quo.
Indeed, I subsequently had to upholster the thresholds of their offices many times, proving my case over and over before I was readmitted to the institute and finish my studies. But perestroika was already raging in the USSR, the notorious system was falling apart at the seams and was even afraid of itself. If this story had happened ten years earlier, its ending would probably not have been so good.
Why do I talk about it? If that happened a decade earlier, knowing that my struggle would be doomed to failure, I would still have acted the same way. You can resume your studies, you can improve your career but you can’t restore honour. I could never be what I am by choosing a different path.
A temptation is a tricky thing: it gradually and imperceptibly drags a person to the bottom with no way out. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: You were given the choice between problems and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have problems.
It is honour that helps us to make sometimes a very difficult choice between a simple solution and the right one at a time when I had no support whatsoever.
Of course, I could not imagine that thirty years later, I already heading FIDE, would get into a situation similar to what happened to me during perestroika. But, apparently, intelligence officers are the same everywhere: some thought of making Ilyumzhinov an Afghan spy, others a smuggler and almost an accomplice of terrorists. I know that many people are perplexed: how could I dare to oppose the US decision to include my name on sanctions list and decide to fight it!
Now, I think, there will be less of those perplexed. And something tells me that this story will have a good ending. Only because I act as my honour tells me.
And this is an indisputable guidance.