Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "I supported Russia and Putin during the election campaign of the FIDE President”

The first President of the Republic of Kalmykia, the President of the International Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov gave an interview to the newspaper ‘Izvestia Kalmykia’ on April 7, 2012. The guest of honour received congratulations on the 50th anniversary and was awarded with the title of ‘The Hero of Kalmykia’ in Elista in those days.

We met with him three years later in Moscow on May 19. Again, the reason was the jubilee – 20 years ago, at the Congress in Paris, Ilyumzhinov was elected president of FIDE for the first time.

Since then, as we recall, he was re-elected five times having achieved the impressive results. He united the world of chess; FIDE has turned into a prosperous and the biggest international sports federation, which members are 187 countries.
More than 100 thousand official and unofficial tournaments are held in different parts of the world every year. 600 million people are the fans of this game.
The conversation about the current state of the chess federation and the peacekeeping projects inadvertently touched the events in the world politics. Especially when it came to the 2014 presidential elections of FIDE at the times of the sharp deterioration of the relations between Russia and the West, the introduction of economic and political sanctions after the return of Crimea back to Russia.
- 2014 became the test of strength for the statehood of our country and its leader Vladimir Putin, said Ilyumzhinov. – With the return of Crimea, as one might say, the Rubicon was passed. Russia, where many worshiped the ‘American-style democracy’ in the early 90-s of the last century, has opted for her own path, free of US hegemony.
And it was inevitable. In those years, when Russia just started to get up from its knees, the American ideological leader Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his book ‘The Grand Chessboard’: “It is vital for the United States that a rival challenging America would not appear in the political arena of Eurasia.” Moreover, pursuing the same ideology the President Barack Obama declares the exclusivity of the American nation and its special mission today.
At the same time, the strengthened and matured, owing to its leader, Russia is often accused of the lack of democracy just because of the fact that Russia, with its long history, great culture and the traditions that took shape for thousands of years, cannot fully accept the Western system of values with the acceptability of same-sex marriage, the freedom of the promotion of the homosexuality, et cetera.
As you remember, there were calls to boycott it under the pretext that Russia allegedly persecuted people with the non-traditional sexual orientation on the eve of the Sochi Olympics. By the way the same argument was declared by Garry Kasparov, who said that if he would be elected as the FIDE President he would not allow FIDE to hold match for the World Champion between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand in Sochi.
The columnist of ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ newspaper Daria Aslamova who has recently visited the ‘progressive NATO member’ Lithuania told us about the real nature of the Western democracy. Those who are well disposed towards Russia are declared the enemies of the people, fired from work and being listened to their private phone conversations. ‘The exceptional nation’ whose mission is to establish the universal order somehow admits such manifestations of the ‘democracy’.
- The campaign for the election of the president of FIDE, held in the conditions of the unprecedented pressure on Russia, was totally politicized. Your opponent Garry Kasparov even called it the political war...
– The International Chess Federation turned out to be at the forefront of the ideological struggle in 2014. Kasparov, who was sponsored by the American foundations, built his campaign on criticizing Russia and Putin, declaring me as a puppet of the Kremlin. In order to pay back the money he has launched an unprecedented propaganda. It was absolutely hysterical!
The elections, by the way, were also held in other international sports federations, which are more than 150, but nobody had ever heard of them. The election of the President of FIDE blew all the media. With its help, Kasparov became the mouthpiece of the anti-Russian, anti-Putin propaganda.
I felt the depth of the situation to the full. It is hard to resist and even harder to roll back when the authorities offend the ordinary citizen and the whole state system starts to illegally fire or imprison the people. However, when the whole army of the world capitalist system attack you to the full extend... You are nothing against it and no one would have noticed your disappearance.
Besides, look how propaganda works! Here I come to Costa Rica, talk about what I want to do with chess, and at the end usually I answer the questions. The first journalist raised his hand and said: "Why did you occupy Crimea?"
After I reminded him that I run for the President of FIDE and not the President of Russia or UN Secretary General, I asked in my turn: "Can you tell me where the Crimea is located?" He was confused: "Well, somewhere there!" "Where exactly?" "Wait a moment, I will check with the Google”...
I continued: “How, in your opinion, Russia has seized the Crimea? Had it send tanks, missiles, planes? ". The journalist replied: "Yes, yes, yes!" In addition, when we were talking about Ukraine, he asked me several times: "What is Ukraine?"
And at the end he shocked me by saying that that Russia is located in… America! I asked him: "Why are you so concerned about the fate of Crimea?”. He answered that before my appearance there was Kasparov who said that Ilyumzhinov with Putin seized Crimea."
And such situation repeated itself in various parts of the world – Malaysia, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago ... 90% of the questions were about Putin, Crimea and the sanctions. Quite often people were asking questions not knowing where what was and which events are actually being talked about. I had to play the role of a political informer.
What is the complexity of the FIDE elections? The organization includes 187 countries while recently there were 181 countries only. Each has one vote. Andorra with its 30 thousand people and China with one and a half billion. There is no difference. The Presidential elections are held by the secret ballot. At the same time, one vote has a small island state and a superpower.
At the beginning of the campaign, Garry Kasparov claimed that the countries with large populations should have 10 mandates, while the sparsely populated ones’ one only. However I am firmly defended the principles of FIDE, which were set up in the Charter, when 12 countries founded this organization in Paris in 1924.
Since then, all the national federations, the members of FIDE enjoy the equal rights. These rules are firm. Otherwise, we will come to what is the United States seek now -the hegemony. If you have more population, more money and the material resources, then you will dictate the rules. It is unacceptable. FIDE has been and remains the most democratic organization. The United States have the same rights as, say, Andorra, Liechtenstein or Monaco in our federation...
I, being the candidate for the presidency of FIDE, had to fight for every vote on various continents and in different parts of the world. I travelled all round the world for that purpose. They offered me to use TV to make it easier for me In Russia. I answered that in Morocco, Tunisia or Madagascar they do not watch the Russian Channel One News broadcasting in Russian. You could advocate Kirsan Ilyumzhinov 24 hours but still eventually get one vote from Russia.
In any country if you turn on the TV there immediately would appear CNN, if you switch the channel -BBC, then Bloomberg and Al Jazeera ... And on all these TV channels one can see the face of Garry Kasparov and listen to his speeches about Ilyumzhinov who is the friend of Putin who seized the Crimea or that Ilyumzhinov is the hand of the Kremlin and the KGB agent...
I watched the recordings of his shows. On the scale 9 out of 10 they are against Russia, against Putin and me. However, quite a few were about chess. He was criticized for it in some countries. We elect the President of FIDE and it has nothing to do with the politics.
For example, the Congress of the Chess Federation by an overwhelming majority decided to support my candidacy about two or three months before the elections In Canada. This decision was published on their website. In response, I sent a letter of thanks to colleagues promising to visit them after the election. Afterwards the hysteria began.
The head of the Ukrainian Chess Federation (there is the very large Ukrainian diaspora in Canada) together with Kasparov sent an open letter to Canadians expressing their indignation. They said that Ilyumzhinov seized the Crimea thus how can you support him? The letter, by the way, is still in the Internet. The Chess Federation of Canada was urged to reverse its decision and to hold a congress of the chess players with the participation of public leaders.
It is not hard to guess how this congress was held. The Representatives of the Ukrainian Federation and Kasparov accused me that I had worked with Mr Putin, and nearly was in tanks seizing the Crimea and I was present in the battlefields of Donetsk...
Then some grandfather, a lover of chess, an ordinary Canadian said: “I do not understand where I am. I have never left Toronto and do not know what is going on outside. However, I dedicated to chess all my life and want that the normal President of FIDE would be elected. I watched the activities of Ilyumzhinov and we are satisfied with what he was doing, so let's vote for him”.
Then they attacked the poor grandfather. However it was too much! The normal people could not stand this and we stood up for the grandfather. As a result, the vast majority of the Chess Congress delegates voted for me.
The Garry’s intolerance of the dissent served him a disservice in Puerto Rico, which is known as the 51-st US state. He arrived at the FIDE Congress, made speeches but still people vote for me. He jumped up, slammed the doors and abused the participants. Thereafter those who voted for him said let us make another vote, this time we will support Ilyumzhinov.
He used a variety of methods. The US ambassador visited my friend, Sheikh Nahyan Al Nahyan (he came to Elista in late '90s and paid for the studies of ten students from Kalmykia at the University of Abu Dhabi) and shamelessly offered that UAE should vote for Kasparov. Nahyan Al Nahyan said that he knew Ilyumzhinov, moreover he lived in the Chess City and he knew what he did for chess. However, he didn’t know what did Mr. Kasparov.
The propaganda campaign was conducted so fierce that even the Russian ambassadors in the West countries no longer believed in my victory. They never met with the chess players or could not see them: some ambassadors left the country and some fell ill. We do not want to spoil the relations with our foreign counterparts. In such a situation, one member of the staff advised me to ignore Russia and Putin during the election campaign. He said that the main thing was that I should win.
After listening to these advices, I fundamentally changed the strategy and tactics of the election campaign to the opposite. While, before June, I tried to avoid issues of the sanctions, Ukraine and the European colour revolutions, stressing that chess was outside of the politics, afterwards I openly started to attack. I organized the press conference by saying that I was from Russia, a Russian who worked with Putin for 17 years knowing him as a person and as a leader. If you have questions about Putin of Russia, I am ready to respond immediately. Afterwards let us discuss chess.
Thus, I went on the offensive, giving frequent interviews. Earlier I emphasized that I am running for the President of FIDE and the political questions should be addressed to the ambassador, the UN Security Council and so on. I started to promote Russia and explain the foreign policy of the Russian president in a month or two before the election. I have become the herald-patriot, who travels around the world and talks about his country.
When I, if I may say so, ‘got out of the trench’ with the idea of either to sink or swim, the result was stunning to critics of Russia and Putin. 111 countries voted for md while for Kasparov 60 only. The double number! Kasparov’s face first turned black then white when the Commission including the representatives from the Western countries came out after the counting of the votes and announced the results. All the cameras were focused on him. He has almost lost consciousness. It was a shock for all 55 Americans who came with him.
I believe that this is not my personal victory; it is the victory of Russia, the victory of Putin's policy. It was due to the fact that I was the follower of Putin' and promoted Russia for one and a half months. It was a battle between two ideologies and the confrontation between the two outlooks.
The voting day, August 11, was the moment of truth. By the way, on this very day Norway, which hosted the election of the President of FIDE, has joined the sanctions against Russia. After the announcement of the results I reported to Vladimir Putin and the country's leadership that we will win, regardless of any sanctions. Our principles are inevitably leading to the success and to the winnings. It is because, as the President of Russia said, we are guided by the spiritual values coming from our past, our history, our faith. There was another victory for the new Russia on 11th of August.
- After such a stunning victory in Tromso you, apparently, are not resting on the laurels. Since August last year, you visited about 100 countries. What are your other achievements as the President of FIDE for almost 20 years that you could mention?
-I thought about a couple of weeks’ vacation after the elections. But with I am hopeless with the vacations. I made my mind to have a month of rest when I left Kalmykia in October 2010. Moreover, I have never been on vacation or sick leave since April 1993 for 17 years. This can be verified by the administration officials who had been worked with and still occupy the same positions. I visited many regions on weekends, holidays 7 days a week. The citizens of Elista possibly remember that the light in my office on the 5th floor was switched off at one or two in the morning.
Well the position was gained. Afterwards I wanted to relax. But it did not happen, there were many trips, including the worlds ‘hot spots: Libya, Syria...Until 2014 there were no days off. On the night before August 11, I thought, well, whatever happens tomorrow (although I believed in victory) I will switch off the phone, and be not available for a month. As a result, I could not relax for even a week because the amount of the work had doubled.
You asked what achievement I believe to be the most important. I once again showed that the chess world is united during the elections in Tromso. And the most outstanding achievement of mine I believe that Kasparov ran for the President of FIDE.
When I was in Norway since the election speech, I recalled the mandate to unite the world of chess, which was given to me at the FIDE Congress in Paris in 1995. Two years before that, as we know, the chess world was divided into the two camps after the 1993 Kasparov left FIDE and started to hold his matches and the World Championships. Then he created his own Professional Chess Association. By the time I headed FIDE there were two Chess Champions, two World Championship and two federations. Moreover, FIDE, holding three competitions annually, accumulated $ 1.5 million debt.
On the podium, I thanked Garry. Because after 20 years of is absence form FIDE, Kasparov was back and fighting for the right to lead the International Chess Federation. Thus, it is my victory, my greatest achievement. If FIDE were broken, shattered or bankrupt, the world chess champion, calculating 10-15 moves ahead, would not have come to such an organization. However, he came, fighting for the head position, investing the millions of dollars into the campaign. Thus, are we worth something?
The current World Champion Magnus Carlsen is also the achievement of FIDE and I have a direct relations with him. I was the President of FIDE when Carlsen came to the chess world. I took the advantage of my right to choose the 15-year-old Norwegian boy out of turn from a dozen applicants for participation in the competition in Khanty-Mansiysk at the 2005 World Cup. 8 years later, he has become the World Champion in the Indian Chennai.
I also should mention that chess was recognized as the sport in 1999. The International Olympic Committee recognized FIDE as the international sports federation representing the interests of the chess players in the sports Olympic movement. Nobody was able to achieve it but me.
The World Cup between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand in Sochi was totally outstanding. It was nice to show the world how the Olympic village lived, as Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has once said. Tens of millions of chess fans watched the events in Sochi in those days.
At the same time, both the Champion and the contender acknowledged that the range of Sochi sport complex is the best of the sports facilities that they had ever seen. Magnus played football and basketball every day. Anand preferred walking along the embankment. During the closing ceremonies the Norwegian noted that it was the best Championship in terms of its organization. Furthermore, he said that he would like to come here again.
- Moreover, the awards ceremony was attended by the president of Russia. You have received the strong support from the leading persons of the state...
- I really do not know any other sport whose events the country's President attended within one year. On the 1st of June, Vladimir Putin visited the championship of Russia among the pupils ‘White rook’ in Sochi and said very nice words about the children chess. Moreover, in November, at the closing of the World Cup, he spent two and a half hours with the chess players. He took part not in the protocol only but visited the concert and joined GMs for a cup of tea.
By the way, Boris Spassky, appealed to the President to grant him an accommodation in Moscow while they were drinking tea. Vladimir Vladimirovich helped. Boris recently received an apartment from the mayor of Moscow. Sergei Sobyanin, by the way, is the member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation.
Its members also are the Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu; the President of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov; the Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and the well-known businessman Gennady Timchenko. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation is the president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov while the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is the honorary patron of the programme ‘Chess in Schools'.
During the Championship among men in Sochi, in response to the appreciation of the Vice President of FIDE Georgios Makropoulos for the excellent facilities, Putin said that in this case it was necessary to hold the championship among women. FIDE had no reason to refuse such an offer. Championship among women was held in the Olympic Village in March and April this year. The winner was the Ukrainian Maria Muzychuk. The chess competitions will be held in Sochi annually from now on.
We plan to hold the World Championship among robots in the innovation centre ‘Skolkovo’ in September. The ten leading companies in the world such as Samsung, Mitsubishi, General Electric, Siemens and others will compete for the title of the most intelligent robot. The Russian Prime Minister personally was able to assess the abilities of the robot named Vasya. I played chess with him twice. Dmitry Anatolyevich plays chess pretty well having an official chess grade.
- Do you think chess is able to smoothen the inter-ethnic conflicts and contribute to the normalization of relations between Russia and Ukraine?
- In a few days, by the way, I'm flying to Kiev and Lviv. The subject of the talks will be the upcoming match for the Chess Crown between the current champion Maria Muzychuk from Lviv and the ex-champion Chinese Hou Yifan who won a series of Grand Prix. China proposes to hold the competition in Beijing while Ukraine insisted on Lviv. In terms of the normalization of the relations a good example was set by the Women Championship in Sochi, where the Russian Natalia Pogonina and the Ukrainian Maria Muzychuk played in the finale. If our chess player had won, then it would probably arouse the attacks by the Ukrainian media. Before the day of the match Maria was advised by the newspapers not eat and drink to avoid the poisoning ... Some see politics everywhere. In summary, we have shown that if you are stronger and more talented, then you will win. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich presented the Crown to Muzichuk. I would go with great pleasure to Lviv, the city with the deep tradition of chess. In the future, under the auspices of the UN and the IOC, we are planning to hold a match between children of Israel and Palestine. We will put the thousand chess boards in the course of the wall being built between Israel and the West Bank of the Jordan River. I arranged the match between the children of North and South Korea in the same year. We will put 100 chess boards on the 38th parallel at the bridge, where the UN troops are located. I want to hold a match between children of Yerevan and Baku in Nagorno-Karabakh. The World Cup will be held in Baku in September, which I hope will be attended by six Armenian chess players. Such are my immediate plans: from the robot Vasya to the match between Israel and Palestine.