"What is power, brother?" How Alexei Balabanov's films become a symbol of the 90s

A film director Yuri Grymov talks about this with first President of Kalmykia, sixth President of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

- Kirsan Nikolaevich, you are a very famous political and public figure. In the 90s, you were one of the first persons of both the state and the media space. What is your opinion about the 90s? Perhaps you as Naina Yeltsina would call them blessed? Or was them the dashing 90s?
- Everyone perceives the 90s in their own way. I always remember the 90s with warmth. Because my formation happened in the 90s. In 1989, I graduated from MGIMO and went into business. There was an opportunity to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I preferred to go into business. I read an announcement in Moskovsky Komsomolets that a Japanese company from Mitsubishi Corporation was looking for a manager. I was interested in it because in the years 89-90, there was still the Soviet Union and the Communist Party (I was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). And I started working with the Japanese. Later, I worked in other enterprises and trade companies. I went through everything, and there were various showdowns. But I am grateful to the 90s, because it was interesting time. Now I remember the 90s with warmth and gratitude to the opportunities that our leadership and our party gave.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, in 1998, on your initiative, a Chess City was built in Elista.
- Yes. In 1995, we won the competition for the right to host the World Chess Olympiad.

- I remember everyone was sceptical. They were joking about New-Vasyuki and Ostap Bender. In general, such an idea could have come only in the 90s. To build a city dedicated to chess. How did this idea come about? I was amazed that Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal were invited to your opening ceremony. I doubt they were playing chess.
- No, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal played chess. Indeed, it was a crazy idea to host the World Chess Olympiad, to host 2,500 chess players from 129 countries in a small provincial town. We didn't even have a 3-star hotel in Elista. There was a hotel that could hardly accommodate 100 visitors. However, in 11 months we built the Chess City, the Chess Palace and Ostap Bender Avenue in the bare steppe. We also erected a monument to Ostap Bender.
- Yes, this could only be done in the 90s. Today, it seems to me, it is unrealistic to create such project.
- Yes, this was a risky move. Because there was no money. I came to Boris Yeltsin and Viktor Chernomyrdin and said: "We want to hold the Olympics…". Viktor Stepanovich agreed to give 9.5 million roubles. But we never got it, because in 1998 there was a default. And there was no money in the budget, but it was necessary to receive guests, etc. Well, then there were the 90s, and the wind of change.
And many managers and businessmen seemed to be flying in the air. Well, I was going to open Kalmykia for the whole world and the world for Kalmykia. Still, Kalmykia was then one of the 93 regions of Russia, and nobody knew us.
Well, we had no museums, nothing. The only visitors were from Mongolia. It was such a crazy idea. But, we had to do it. We found the money, used it, and opened Kalmykia to the whole world, and the world to Kalmykia, and outstanding people of our time came to visit us.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, given the world order that we have been observing for the last 10 years, are such bright, paradoxical ideas possible today?
- I think it is impossible if such an initiative comes from the regions. We now have a strong state, which is respected. When I was president of FIDE, I visited up to 100 countries, and I know that Russia and our president are respected.
Well, can you imagine some governor say these days: let's hold the Olympics? Today, everything needs to be coordinated with the federal inspector, the federal district and the presidential administration...
- It has become more difficult. Is this good or bad?
- Both. We have a single state, and the regions can come up with some ideas within their competence. And international events should be coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, what is the biggest difference between politicians of the 90s (and businesspersons of the 90s) and the present ones? Can you trust today's businesspersons?
- Thanks for the question. This is how I would describe the politicians and businesspersons of the 90s. Everyone thought of something on the political side, invented something in the region. Well, everyone - Potanins, Abramovichs, Deripaskas - are former Komsomol members. They came up with cooperatives, etc. They were reselling jeans. Everything was interesting then. In the 90s, you could come up with anything.
And now it is a little more complicated, but, on the other hand, we live in a quieter and more stable time. The Chinese said that if you wish something bad for you should live in an era of change.
In business, you can't earn a million dollars or a million roubles in a month, you need to do something to integrate into the system. Now this is a systemic business, a systemic policy, and we are now moving from national projects and programmes to global ones. Borders seem to be erased, and transnational corporations are interested in fewer barriers to overcome customs and other obstacles. Eventually we will come to a unified state, if I may say so, a world government.
- Are you not embarrassed by the fact that in universities, where civil servants are trained, entry competition is high today? Why do people dream of being officials? Agree, this is strange for young people.
-They just want to be closer to the government pie. If in the 90s, many of my friends, who have now become very big businessmen and oligarchs, preferred business, and not some kind of career ... When we graduated from MGIMO, many guys went not to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not to embassies to work but straight into the business, where you can earn much selling computers. Then, I know, many officials left the civil service and sold computers.
And now everything is structured. Everyone can see that in business everything has been distributed among large companies and tycoons today. They think that after the university one needs to become a minor official, an assistant to a deputy of the State Duma, Federation Council or regional administration. They seek to be involved in the distribution system. And if you are sitting at the state trough and distribute, it means that you can get a slice of a pie.
- It seems to me that today's politician has to work hard. I see how the government fights the corruption, etc. But do you think that people still think that there is something to get from the state trough?
- Snatching from the state trough does not mean to steal something, but to be closer to the state mechanism and to watch how everything is distributed and works. I communicate with many young people, speak in many educational institutions. There are wonderful students, guys who purposefully go there to understand how the cogs are spinning in this state mechanism, and then create their own small business, a small enterprise and leave, knowing certain weaknesses in the state mechanism. I would not say that you they are going to snatch anything. No, they just are willing to make money knowing how the distribution system works.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, please say parting words for a young businessperson or an official.
- Who if not you? When, if not now? The revolution continues.