Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: «A leader should never listen to the crowd»

Chatting with a man many years in power is not easy, but I decided to try.
The President of Kalmykia has erected temples and tumulus, built a chess city from scratch and defeated 12 grandmasters during the presidential elections of FIDE. He is a friend of the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad and warmly recalls his chat with Muammar Gaddafi. He is a man of peace.
Despite his station in life, he was always aware of what he wanted – to work hard. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has spent more than $100 million on the construction of Buddhist temples and Orthodox churches.


На строительство буддистских храмов и православных церквей Кирсан Илюмжинов потратил более $100 млн


– «What money did you use to build all the temples in your homeland?»
– «Only what I earned as a businessman. For example, to build the highest Buddhist temple in Europe, which has1200 gold components, I destroyed the old concrete plant in the centre of Elista and made a tumulus in its place. I sold my private jet and invested $25 million in its construction. I even drew an outline of the temple in a sketch. I'll leave it for you to guess within what time frame it was completed.»
«Did you use foreign workers?»
– «No, we did it all ourselves. Fifteen hundred people worked there ...»
– «At best, I would venture that it took about three years.» (I mention this figure to hide my embarrassment for the subject of capital construction is not my strong point).
– «We built this two-storey temple, which can hold 2,000 people, and gilded it within eight months.»
There is no pride in his words, he simply states the facts. Even the slightest smile would not encourage Ilyumzhinov to say what you want to hear. He will bombard you with numbers until you understand who is the boss.




 – «Have people appreciated your efforts? After all, you have built temples at their request, from what I understand.»
– «See for yourself. When I became the youngest president of Kalmykia, the province did not have a single church. I built an Orthodox one first, followed by a Buddhist temple in 1993. It was located in the desert outside the city, in the place where the Dalai Lama had specified. It could hold 100 people and cost me $5 million.
Money was collected from every possible source; the people alone donated 100,000 roubles for its construction. After a while we had a lot of complaints saying that it was located too far away, the transport was irregular, there was no infrastructure in the desert ... Well, I found the strength and the means to build this miracle of gold here in the city centre – on the street named after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
All year everyone praised me and then a relative told me about the Kalmyk New Year celebrations: the temple was packed to overflowing and there were two women on the steps who were overheard criticizing me: «That crooked millionaire speculator Ilyumzhinov. Couldn’t he build a larger temple? This one isn't big enough for everyone ... «.
I was not really offended, but clearly understood that there are always those who give and those who are only willing to take, and the more the better. A leader should never listen to the crowd; he needs to be above that. Have I answered your question?»
– «Absolutely.»
Ilyumzhinov is bright eyed and cheerful. He is toned, in great shape, unstoppable. I notice that there are only papers and an old phone on the table.
– «Don’t you use a computer?»
– «No.»
– «Seriously?»
– «Well, I wouldn't have it especially removed from the table before you came?!»
– «So how do you communicate with people and business partners?»
– «Exclusively by means of this phone, which has seen better days. Here are the numbers of everyone – from the driver to presidents (I will not mention whom). And by the way, if I call, and a secretary answers, I never call back.»
– «Tough. Why is that?»
– «It’s clear that this person does not value my time.»
 After that, I understood that former presidents do not exist. Time, for this man, is really something that needs to be saved.»



– «Kirsan Nikolaevich, a family predetermines in everyone's life. What are your descendants? Who are your family?»
– «Look at the flag of FIDE, it's all in Latin, it says: «We all are one family. ‘Gens una sumus’. The Federation previously consisted of 14 countries and now we have 190.»
I guess that my interviewee is subtly trying to avoid answering, but I continue to probe further. After some time my efforts are rewarded.
– «My origin is Elista. My grandfather was a postman. When he returned from work, he used to catch me in the yard and forced me to play checkers. A week later, I began to beat him. Then he taught me chess. After one month, I was constantly defeating him and I lost interest. That is why I have become the president of FIDE mainly due to my stubborn grandfather who always made me sit at the board so that he could fight back with another game.
At school, by the second grade, I always got straight A's, if you're interested.
My mother was a veterinarian. She is 82 years old, I have just phoned her, she was at work. She has already got an official award for 60 years of uninterrupted service, and she still treats animals. Every dog in the city knows her.» (Laughs).




– «So, you are a hereditary workaholic.»
– «My father worked as a manager in the government bakery. I've just phoned him too. He is an activist in the Veterans of Mongolia. He is 86 years old.
I, myself, am a hereditary Cossack. There was a collective farm in the Rostov region named after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov before the war. He was the brother of my grandfather, a Civil War hero, the Commissioner of the Second Cavalry. The main temple is located in Elista exactly on the street named after him, although many mistakenly think that I have immortalized myself.»




– «I thought so too at first, to be honest. Sorry. Now that you have explained it, I understand that this is not a personality cult.»
– «The Kalmyks are legendary, because it was they who entered Paris in 1814. The French were waiting for the Russians, instead the Kalmyk cavalry came in on camels. Balzac wrote essays entitled: «The Kalmyks in Paris.»
At this moment, the office door swings open and business partner, Kirill Kruglyanskiy enters the room.
He is the head of «Veta Grande» (the manufacturer of Photodithazine, the cancer drug, supported by Ilyumzhinov). A friendly handshake follows. I understand that my time limit has ended but encouraged by the atmosphere I feel a couple more questions would be allowed.



– «You met with Gaddafi. Was he loved by his people?»
– «We were friends. He was interested in Buddhism, wrote poetry, and believed in reincarnation. Muammar really loved Libya. He had no billions, he actually lived in a tent where we often played chess together. On my last visit they had already bombed Tripoli quite heavily, more than five thousand hits in a day. He told me then: «Do not trust the Americans. Do not believe Westerners. They deceived me, asking me to disarm» ...»
-– «Do you believe that America is the cause of many of today's conflicts?»
– We live in a world of the «Yellow Devil», where the means of production is privately owned. Any society that is satisfied with great ambitions will always give birth to another. Strength does not cease, it will impose the theory of controlled chaos. The U.S feel comfortable with the presence of the U.S missile defence system on the continent, while North Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine are in flames. War surrounds the US and they feel good. Same as in Rublyovka: those whose fence is higher, the better they live.




– «Will we overcome the sanctions? Will we be strong enough?»
– «Why us? You have to think personally and ask the question another way: Will I overcome? It is a time for individualists. I reason that if you are fine and working according to your capacity, then everything else will be fine. Now it is necessary to rely solely on ourselves. God is inside all of us so it is most important to live in harmony with ourselves. We do not own anybody from birth, including parents or children. It is a mistake to believe that we owe anything to anyone all our lives. Man is responsible only to himself; he must discover and be aware of himself.
Sanctions did not harm me as an individual in the least; I think they are even useful for a society: sometimes we need to shake ourselves up.»




«Are you a happy man?»
– «Yes, I am happy with my circumstances and that I have realized my potential in different areas. I visit around a hundred countries a year. Since my graduation from Moscow State Institute in 1989, I have never been on holiday and I usually work until 3am every night.
I remember once being fed up, I went to the mountains to visit the Dalai Lama in order to cleanse my aura: problems, competitors, family ... I sat at 3000m meditating. One day passed. On the second, he called to me and said, «Come down. Work! Someone will communicate with God on your behalf. You have a different Karma.»
And, you know, I have really only realized 10% of myself, so there is definitely potential ahead. I am ready to meet any challenge.»

Excellent point. I bowed. Kirsan Nikolayevich caught me at the door of his office with a booklet about flowers: «This is a souvenir for you. Enjoy our tulips!» Yes, there is a great force within a man who loves his homeland.

Elena Ishcheyeva