Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "They Ask Me Why I took the Crimea, Although I am not the President of Russia"

The following interview with the President of FIDE and the first President of Kalmykia, a businessman and a peacemaker Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was about the construction of the Chess Palace in Mongolia, the prophetic dreams about the dollar, the access to the sea, Poroshenko and Ukraine, the Mongolian children, the railway from Europe to Asia, and many other issues. Recently, Ilyumzhinov arrived at the chess World Youth Olympiad held in Ulan Bator this year. He was brotherly greeted in Mongolia, because Kirsan Nikolaevich visit this country quite frequently, representing Kalmykia that has many joint projects with this country. The newspaper ‘Mongolia Today’ has taken a very informative interview on these subjects.

Kirsan Nikolaevich, you were talking about the building of the Chess Palace in Mongolia. How would you comment on this?

I met with the Mayor and Governor of Ulaanbaatar Mr. E. Bat-Uul, and requested him for the land he promised for the construction of the Mongolian Chess Palace. The Mongolian Chess Association does not have a building or land, and I discussed this issue with the mayor. I hope this request will be resolved positively.
The Chess Palace will not be used for playing chess only but for the Chess Academy, and the Chess School. It will also serve as the hotel for the players and all the tournaments and championships will be held on the regular basis there.

How much money would be required for its construction?

– As of today, I cannot give you any specific figures. All will become clear with the start of the construction. It is a big project.

In 2013, you said that Mongolia is an attractive country for foreign investments. However, the number of the foreign investors decreased today, and our economy experience hard times. What can you say about this?

– The Mongolian economy, as well as the Russian economy is part of a larger world economy system. Therefore, if one part of the system were malfunctioning, it would influence the others.
Mongolia is a part of the Asian and the world markets, thus any changes of US dollars rates, same as the euro, the yuan, and the price of oil influence it. Mongolia's economy is inextricably linked with the neighbouring China. Many Chinese work in Mongolia, both countries have the broadly developed trade relations. Mongolia is affected by the fact that many Chinese companies are experience the economical crisis and limit the volume of their foreign investments.
Another neighbour of Mongolia is Russia. In recent years, Russia is also experience the economical crisis because of the sanctions imposed by the Western countries. These all factors have an impact on the Mongolian economy. Nevertheless, any crisis eventually ends. In September this year, Turkey will host a summit of G-20 to discuss the ways out of the economical crisis, how to increase the number of jobs and improve the living standards.
I believe that Mongolia has the great potential. Mongolia's two neighbours, Russia and China, are the countries with the large populations and economics. Mongolia must use the advantage of its geographical location and make a significant profit by using both the Chinese Dragon and the Russian Bear.
Of course, the problem is complicated by the lack of access to the sea and the poor infrastructure. However, the President Elbegdorj during his inauguration has stated the ten points of the socio-economic development of Mongolia, and stressed that one of the main task will be the modernisation of the transport infrastructure.
Most of Mongolia's natural resources are accumulated in the south. On the other hand, the proximity to China does not mean that everything has to be exported to the southern neighbour. It is necessary to develop a multi-vector economy to gain the independence. The natural resources could be exported to the southern neighbour, and the northern resources could be of use at home. You cannot consider the economical development without the broad railway network for transportation, for example, the coal from Tavan Tolgoi to the Yellow Sea, etc. That is the reason why the investors, including my partners, are trying to participate in this project.
It is a large project, so there are certain difficulties. The Government of Mongolia provides all the necessary guarantees to investors. However, Mongolia is a parliamentary country and that is why, as I noted, a lot of time is spent on discussing any specific project. Overly long discussion prevent the decisions making, some projects are idling and it is inacceptable. The economy must not stand still, it is important to make decisions very quickly. We must correctly perceive the circumstances.
When I was the President of the Republic of Kalmykia, I had another dream on August 12th, 1998. I dreamt that one US dollar was equal to five roubles.
Later, I, of course, made an investigation, but the main thing is that I felt instinctively and had a premonition of the imminent collapse of the rouble. I instructed the Government of Kalmykia, the Parliament and the Central Bank to provide the people with all of the securities in the form of wages by paying all the money that the state had in advance.
Just a few days later, on 17th of August, one dollar was equal to 50 roubles. Russia was in a difficult situation, the government announced a technical default, and among the 93 regions of the Russian Federation, only Kalmykia did not face a crisis. This case clearly shows how important it is to take timely measures by feeling and apprehending the situation.

– Could it be that Mongolia needs a leader who is able to feel and apprehend?

Mongolia has a parliamentary form of the government and it is impossible to have one particular leader. The Mongols freely decided the kind of government they need by this elections. Kalmykia is a presidential republic. Only history will tell which the best is. However, the Mongolian history shows that it is a good idea to have one strong leader- Genghis Khan.

What are you doing in Kalmykia now?

– I do not live in Kalmykia for five years, and remained in the history of the Kalmyk people as the first and the last president of the country. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Kalmykia, the country is governed by the head of the republic, not the president.

You had a charity Fund. Does it still exist?

-I created the charitable foundation named after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in honour of my uncle, the brother of my father, who was the hero of the Civil War, in 1991. I built many temples in Kalmykia with the help of this Fund.
In 1993, when I became the president of Kalmykia, we did not have a single Buddhist temple, even though we are the Buddhists. There was not a single Orthodox Church or a mosque. Kalmykia is the multi-confessional Republic. Using the Fund money, and the financial support of my friends and partners, we had built about 50 Buddhist temples.
Amongst them is the largest Buddhist temple in Europe being 64 meters in height. To finish its construction, my partner sold his private jet ‘Falcon’. I had built an Orthodox church. I helped to restore the Moscow Church of St. Nikolay in the Rozhdestvenka Street. Before it was a dilapidated church. I was a friend of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II and he asked me to restore it. I had done it.
The Fund had helped many children with receiving treatments, because we had far from pure water in the country, that's why so many people suffered the gastrointestinal diseases. The Fund paid for the treatment of 44 thousand of Kalmyk children in the sanatoriums of the North Caucasus, Germany, France, etc.
The Fund has also paid much for the education of Kalmyk students, including those in Moscow. The Fund bought the equipment for the medical facilities and every school got its own bus.
Kalmykia was the only region in the Russian Federation, where in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War; each veteran received a free car. In total six thousand cars were given to our veterans.

– Has Your Fund organized the 1998 World Chess Olympiad in Elista?

The Fund helped in organizing various international events. We held the chess Olympiad in1998. On 19th of August this year, we have opened the International Chess Olympiad Championship in Ulan Bator. I have met with the Mongolian President Elbegdorj, the Ministers, and the Members of Parliament and explained them that they needed to hold such events as often as possible if, of course, they have the required assets. They supported this idea.
Why Kalmykia needed the Olympics? In 1998, nobody knew about Kalmykia, except for our Mongolian brothers. However, even in the neighbouring Russian regions they did not know us. It was a little, provincial, backward republic with no money.
When I became the President, the republic had collected taxes of $ 1.7 million in 1993. After 5 years, we transferred the taxes to the Russian budget amounting to $ 650 million. You can see for yourself the difference.
We had created an offshore zone, built roads, which did not exist before. How did we find the funds? We attracted investors, carried out an active campaign to make the Republic well known in the world.
One of the less expensive kind of sport is chess. Therefore, we had announced that the World Chess Championship to be held in 1998. Two thousand chess players from 129 countries came to Kalmykia. We killed two birds with one stone.
When the Japanese, Germans, Americans, Mongols, French, British, and others came to Kalmykia, they saw that there is a great little Asia in Russia. Everyone asked why all of us are so narrow-eyed. We told them that we came from Mongolia.
They saw that there are Asians and Buddhists in Russia. Naturally, they started to write articles. It was a sort of advertisement. The businessmen became interested in Kalmykia; visit us more frequently after those articles. Thus, we performed one task.
The second task was to show our children that there are other countries. Most of them did not even travelled to the neighbouring provinces, not to mention Moscow. After meeting the foreigners, our children began to learn foreign languages and did it very successfully. Thus, chess helped Kalmykia to open the world.

– Do you think that the Olympics in Ulaanbaatar also served as a window to the world for Mongolian children?

I do really hope. I am glad I came to the opening of the Olympics, and doubly pleased that we have given the right to Mongolia for its organization. Mongolian Chess Association is active, increasing the skill of the players and that is why Mongolia won the right to assemble the young talented players.
Last year I was in Zavkhan aimag, where they held the Chess Tournament with the participation of 10 thousand children. I was pleasantly surprised by this event. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I saw with my own eyes how Mongolia actively develops chess. After Mongolia, I was in London, where I spoke about such an event in this country, and discussed the possibility of including chess in the Guinness Book of Records.
Last year's tournament in Zavkhan was a major event for the promotion and development of chess. Moreover, today's Young Chess Players Olympic Games are exclusive because they brought together the best of the best players to compete for the right to become champions. Of course, in the future we will actively cooperate with Mongolia in the organization of the Asian regional and international tournaments.

In recent years, the Mongolian chess players show great results. Naturally, the question arises whether there is an opportunity for them to be included into the top five-world ranking.

Of course, there are possibilities. They say that the twenty-first century is the century of the yellow race. The Chinese believe that it is their age, but I think this is the age of the Mongols.
Scientists have told me that the size of the brains was measured of different nations, and the Mongols have the biggest ones. Mongols have very high IQ. Mongolia has the only museum of intelligent puzzles. This unique museum is the only one in the world! Mongolian herders invented Rubik's cubes to train their mind in the spare time. The children should be developed by chess, because the potential of the Mongols is very large.
I am grateful to previous President of Mongolia Enkhbayar as well as the current President Elbegdorj, who visited our Republic when I was the President of Kalmykia. It was the first President of Mongolia who arrived in Kalmykia. Previously, Tsedenbal promised to come, but it did not happen.
The Presidents stayed in the Chess City, which was built for the World Chess Olympiad. They saw the Chess Palace. Elbegdorj and I visited the nursery school where small children play chess. That is when Elbegdorj asked me to support the young Mongolian chess players.
I, as the president of FIDE, have three quotas, which I managed at my own discretion. These quotas are used to enable players to take part in certain tournaments. I immediately included the Mongolian chess players in the final stage of the Grand Prix. Mongolian chess players began to increase their skills with every year.
Olympics in Ulaanbaatar will allow young Mongolian chess players to play with their peers, to evaluate their master ship. Last year, in December, I was in South Africa and presented the gold, silver and bronze medals to the chess players. Among them was a Mongolian boy, who won the second place in the world championship among children. I think that the Olympic Games in Ulaanbaatar would discover many talented players as well.
I am confident that the Mongolian children will be good in learning chess, taking the example of other players. Moreover, the chess is not just a sport. Children who start to play chess improve their school progress by 40 per cent Chess contribute to the children’s’ development of logic, thought, imagination, mathematics, literature.

You lead active political activities, meeting with the world leaders. You have been to Ukraine, met with the president Poroshenko. Please tell us about it.

Being 27 years old, I became the youngest Member of Parliament, and since then I have been involved in politics. I did not leave politics and continue to be involved in it. Every person who has attained the age of 18 is setting foot in politics: he participate in the elections, is selected or select someone he chooses. I am the president of FIDE, and the member of many other international organizations. In an average week, I meet with the heads of two or three states and the Prime Ministers. I visit different countries, from Latin America, Peru, and Mexico to Nicaragua.
I met with Petr Poroshenko as the citizen of Russia, which had very complicated relationship with Ukraine. I offered to organize a World Cup. The reason is that Maria Muzychuk, Grand Master of Lviv, became the World Champion. She will play with Chinese Hou Yifan. China offered to host the Championship and so did Lviv.
Lviv is the traditional chess city. On the one hand, championships would serve the popularization of chess, but on the other hand, I wanted to convince the leaders of the countries that they would rather pay more attention to the physical culture and sports, than the war, without spending money on the weapons. Perhaps these activities will distract them from the war. As they say, bad peace is better than a good war.

– What did Poroshenko reply?

– He positively took my suggestion. He appointed Boris Lozhkin who is the Chairman of the Organizing Committee as the head of the presidential Administration. One of these days, I am flying back to Kiev to carry out the consultations about the World Cup.
Of course, everyone was surprised, because I, the first and only Russian politician, who after one and a half year since the beginning of the conflict came to Ukraine. The President of Ukraine said that I was the first and only to visit Ukraine. Nobody goes there although everyone should go.
Recently I was in North Korea and met with the leadership of the country with a plan to organize a chess match between the North and South Korea at the 38th parallel that separates them.
In South Korea, I met with the former President, the head of the local FIDE, and we agreed that one hundred children from Seoul would take part in the match. The match will also be participated by one hundred children from Pyongyang. The similar match will be organized between Israel and Palestine soon.

– Besides discussion of the Olympics, have you had many other meetings in Ulaanbaatar?

I had many meetings with Ministers, MPs, and businessmen in Mongolia. I had a meeting with the Minister of Health and Sports Shiilegdamba on 19th of August. We discussed the issues relating to the development of chess. The Ministry expressed its readiness to support FIDE on the inclusion of chess into the Olympic programme.
We also agreed that I should allocate five schools for training of Mongolians every year. I managed to allocate only four his year. There are two universities, which train the chess managers in Moscow. They will study for 5 years free of charge and receive the scholarships. The first five student from Mongolia sponsored by FIDE will go to Moscow on the 1st of September.
FIDE holds the seminars here in Mongolia. The former world champion, Bulgarian GM Antoaneta Stefanova came in Ulan Bator on 20th of August. She lectures the adjudicators.

– What is your progress in the work to connect Asia and Europe by rail, which will run through Mongolia?

It is 1,850 km railway, which will start in the south of Mongolia from the Tavan Tolgoi mine to the Yellow Sea in China. This road will connect the mines, giving the impetus to the development of the cities and villages in the south of Russia and would let Mongolia to have the access to the sea. This is a big project for a few billion dollars. We started it a year ago and I hope that our work will continue.
In general, it is easier to build a meatpacking plant than the railway. The railways are the government projects and the large funds are needed. I hope that the development of the economy will help to build the road. Of course, it is necessary that the railroad should be profitable.

The Mongols were happy that you defeated Garry Kasparov in the presidential elections of FIDE in Norway last year. Were these the difficult elections?

-The elections were very complicated. Kasparov considers himself a member of the opposition to Putin and Russia. Therefore, the FIDE presidential elections were rather not about the sport but the politics. He was openly supported by the US Department of State. When I visited some countries, such as Malaysia or the United Arab Emirates, the ambassadors of the United States Chess Federation asked these states to vote for Kasparov. Not because he is a great player but due to the fact that he regularly opposed Putin, Russia's policy in Syria, the Middle East, Asia and Ukraine. The international situation was very tense last year. The Crimea re-joined the Russia in March and the West, including Kasparov, declared that this was an occupation. When I visited, as the President of FIDE, the foreign countries, everybody kept asking me why the Crimea was taken and why we were fighting with Ukraine, instead of discussing the development of chess, although, I am not the President of Russia, but the head of FIDE. If we analyse the speeches of Kasparov, the 99 per cent of those are about the political issues, criticizing Russia. Since I was involved in politics for 20 years and worked with Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, Kasparov was always accusing me of being a kind of the Russian politician. However, I kept saying that FIDE unites 186 countries in the world; the organization has its problems, and offered him to discuss them. Unfortunately, Kasparov did not agree. Yet, despite the sanctions against Russia, 110 countries voted for my programme and me. It was the undoubted victory. Votes for me were twice as many than those for Kasparov. On this occasion, I would like with the help of your newspaper to thank the Mongolian Chess Association for the support of the partnership and their measures taken to promote chess in the country.


PS Waiting for the interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, we had an opportunity to meet with his father - the famous Kalmyk writer Nikolai Dorzhinovichem Ilyumzhinov. He is 87 years old, but is still active. He is the Chairman of the National Fund for veterans of war and labour, the member of the Union of Russian Writers, the author of many works devoted to the fate of his generation, scorched by war and went through the tragic years of the deportation. The wide recognition of the readers received his stories and historical essays: ‘A hurricane in the desert’, ‘The flight to the sea’, ‘The volunteer Bambi, ‘At the Mazulskiy mine’, ‘The Sergeant’ and the novels ‘Abil’, ‘In the taiga region’, "’The bitter bread years’, a book about the war veterans of the Great Patriotic War; ‘The Soldiers of Destiny‘, an autobiographical novel ‘The ancestors. Facts. Time’ and many others. The distinctive writer's work is the spiritual and moral perception of the harsh lessons of the war and 13 years of the deportation. The books of N. Ilyumzhinov describe the living memory of kindness, courage and patience, passed from generation to generation. Nikolai Dorzhinovich said he was very pleased to visit Mongolia, which was his dream since student years, when he first read the book about Genghis Khan. "The flight to Ulan Bator took seven hours and during the flight I thought about the great Genghis Khan and his era. I thought how he was able to come across such huge distances to Europe and conquer half of the world. And I realized that there was not a greater man in the history of mankind ", stressed N. Ilyumzhinov.